(Part 2 of 2)
In my last post I wrote about the importance of First Customers and the 5 things you can do to find these early adopters. But not all early adopters are created equal and you should limit what you are willing to do to earn a customer. If you don’t establish these parameters, some first customers will take advantage of you. Giving in to your excitement too early can poison your organization.
So here are three important rules for you to follow when pursuing First Customers:
1. Never give your product away for free.
It seems obvious, but this can actually be very tempting. You desperately need First Customers. You think your product can eventually sell for $100 per use or unit if you could just land those first users. You just know the great testimonials or referrals will follow. Or maybe you want feedback on your product that only customers can provide. Believe me, you’ll find a million ways to rationalize giving your product away for free, including the naïve assumption that you will one day convert the account to a paying customer.
Here’s the problem: You need First Customers to figure out if you have a product/market fit, i.e., if the marketplace has a need for your company, and unfortunately free customers aren’t going to help you figure that out. Just because someone takes your product or service for free doesn’t mean they would be willing to pay for it later. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Think about how many Facebook or Twitter users would stop cold turkey if they had to pay even a nominal fee on a monthly basis.
Giving away your product or service for free will only delay the time it will take you to figure out if you have achieved a product/market fit and extend the time and money it will take to find a successful business model.
2. Never perform tasks outside your expertise.
Some of your early prospects will say, “I really like what you are trying to do with your company, but I would love it if your company did x or y”. One of these prospects might even be a really big fish. But getting distracted will only cause damage to your company.
If you start performing tasks outside your initial business scope or try to make your product fit a very particular set of requirements for a single customer, you will likely a.) Do a bad job because now you are operating outside your area of expertise and b.) Waste valuable time and resources for a side project while taking your eye off the ball of finding your First Customers and building a successful business model.
First customers should help you find a product/market fit and build your company. Anything else is a distraction to be avoided.
3. Never put up with overly demanding clients.
No paying customer is so invaluable as to justify a never-ending string of requests that hinder your ability to serve other clients. A very small percentage of your First Customers are going to be emotional vampires. They will have complaints and suggestions and demands that far outstrip the amount they are willing to pay.
You must be willing to fire these customers. Your emotional well-being is a valuable commodity to your company and it is simply too important to spend on the demands of problem customers. Instead, use the same valuable time and resources to find bigger and better customers.
Finding a product/market fit is the single most important step in proving your business model. The best way to confirm a product/market fit is to have First Paying Customers with reasonable expectations and a need for your expertise.