Losing Your Virginity: Signing up first customers

Friend’s startup asked “how can we speed publisher adoption of our free product” (they’re about to beta some code that will help websites provide editorial value and make money from connecting visitors with relevant social media – contact me if you want to talk with them). Outside of the obvious “build a great product,” here are some tips on getting those first large publishers to implement. It all comes down to reducing barriers, creating a sense of urgency and maybe indulging in some of the seven deadly sins (greed? vanity? envy?).

A. Find a champion at the target company
– without a clear sponsor, you’ll get delayed
– look for someone who has the ability to sign/implement themselves or the authority to assign someone else

B. Build an advisory board comprised of potential champions from target companies
– identify important potential champions within your target companies and ask them to join an advisory board
– best if they have a real interest in what you’re doing
– commitment theory suggests that these folks will now want to help you

C. Do ANYTHING to get a reference customer
– No one wants to be first but if there’s perceived marketplace momentum you go from “maybe” to “must have”
– if you have to be very aggressive (rev share, implementation customization, etc) to acquire the reference customer, structure the deal in a way that won’t lock you into these crappy terms w/ (a) other customer [they talk] and (b) the reference customer in perpetuity
– you can do this by preserving your standard terms but adding subsequent clauses which exchange some value (eg in return they agree to participate in a case study or whitepaper w/ you) or are specifically timebound
– you can also structure as a payment to help them accelerate implementation – ie $25k payable on first impressions to defray implementation costs (for which they might need to hire a contractor or defer some other revenue generating projects)
– or even do the install yourself if they’ll let you into their code

D. Build affiliate hooks into the first version of product
– If your first partners are able to derive additional value from their implementation, it may create a sense of urgency over later when the market has been penetrated
– For example, including a ‘want this on your site’ link that will pay a bounty to the originator of the lead might be a good short-term catalyst even if longterm you won’t rely upon this sort of acquisition

E. Use a launch event to create a deadline
– “We’re launching X date and would like to include you in announcement if you’re live w/ product”
– Similar to the attractiveness of the advisory board, this can be directed at your champion as a way to get them some press – indulge their desire to see their name in print and portrayed as a connected in-the-know innovator

F. Make your data match their KPIs
– Present your opportunity matched to the driving the key metrics of their business – every exec has some set of results he needs to drive that quarter – if you can prove you’re the best way to impact those results, you get attention, otherwise you’re speculative

Any other ideas? Post them here or tweet to me http://twitter.com/hunterwalk

One thought on “Losing Your Virginity: Signing up first customers

  1. D. …
    – For the publishing case. Build-in systems which hook consumers to the product and make them want to do more or return later. Find a need to consume more, satisfy it.

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