Choosing your first customers – Customer Acquisition Lessons from building a SaaS Product
- Mar 25, 2016
- By Ashwin
- In BUSINESS
- Share on
“What? I’ll take anyone who is willing to buy our product” says every entrepreneur.
Having customers in the early stage is a luxury. Some startups die without ever crossing that first important business milestone. But, it’s important that you choose your customers. I am not saying this in a smug manner after having won a couple of hundred customers.
While ContractIQ has gone past that milestone for me, PipeCandy is still new and yet to have an official paying customer. We have a handful of pilots but we are going through a very deliberate exercise to pick the customers for these pilots.
How to choose the first customers?
At this point, you need to understand what PipeCandy is.
We are an outbound prospecting product that smartly automates several mundane tasks related to sending email campaigns. We automate list building, intelligently find target people and their contacts, run campaigns, infer responses and help our users prioritize their follow-ups. In short, we put our users in touch with their most ‘prospective’ prospects, so that the conversations are really the equivalents of warm handshakes than cold emails.
The following are the criteria we use to pick our first 10 customers:
Criterion 1: No systemic or extraneous problems will affect your product performance
In our case, no campaign can successfully sell a dud product or service or a commodity. To elaborate further, we would not take yet another website developer or a voice BPO company as a pilot customer. It’s not that we don’t like them to be our customers but we just cannot meaningfully decipher the impact of our product or the lack of it. We simply can’t say whether our product did not do its job or their service just won’t excite, in case we did not generate value.
Criterion 2: Familiarity with the industry / problem space that the customer is hiring the product for
In PipeCandy’s case, for the first few customers we are offering professional services. This is just so we leave nothing to chance when it comes to product usage. Since we are rolling up our sleeves for our customers and are even running their campaigns along with them, we should be able to understand the space enough to craft a compelling message. We won’t be able to write a compelling message about why a derivatives trading company A is better than the rest.
Criterion 3: The effort required for a pilot should not be disproportionately higher than the average
For PipeCandy, this boiled down to one key variable that we isolated to be time consuming – the time it takes to find the target market and the decision makers within them. For us to be efficiently utilizing our resources, it has to be operationally easy to assemble the target contacts and the targets have to be at a reasonable scale (10s of 1000s of contacts)