People often jump right into all sorts of tactics when they start an online business. These are common things a new entrepreneur often does:
- Brainstorming branding ideas
- Starting a website
- Increasing followers on social media
- Creating a logo
There are so many tools for entrepreneurs nowadays that choosing the right platform already requires work.
These things are important, but they’re not what you want to focus on first.
Instead, focus on finding your first three paying customers. And preferably, these customers shouldn’t be close friends or family who only bought to support you.
Why three? Three is a good number because it’s not too many that you need to overthink things – which causes its own problems when you’re starting out. But it’s also not too little that you didn’t get enough real-world validation.
The keyword there is “paying customer.”
You can ask people, “will you buy X?” all the time. And they can tell you, “Yeah, sure, I’d buy that.” But you won’t know for sure until they actually do.
The best indicator of real-world demand is when people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on your product or service. When people are happy to pay you money for something; that’s how you know you’re doing something they truly want.
As the management author, Peter Drucker puts it:
“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer”
A paying customer signals that your offer holds real value that people want. Everything else:
- Social media followers
- a nicely-designed website
- a lucrative business idea
These things won’t matter if no one is willing to pay in the first place.
So, how do you get your first three paying customers?
Find a similar business
See if someone else is already offering your product/service. If there are none, it can only mean two things:
- You’re creating the next Facebook
- Or your business idea isn’t profitable
Let’s take one of my online courses, digitalbusiness.school, for example. When I started it, I looked at other profitable business courses. This process gave me a lot of insight. I learned the real concerns potential students have. And the kind of content/lessons that customers are looking for.
Imagine if I started creating a lesson plan without checking successful courses first. I’d probably end up with a course that people aren’t interested in learning.
That doesn’t mean you just follow what everyone else is doing. But it’s exactly why studying similar businesses helps: These businesses can show you opportunities you can explore.
You can see what problems these businesses are not solving. And you can offer a solution as an alternative.
Get your first signups
Once you’ve validated the potential of your business idea; what do you do next? Do you start building your product/service? Not quite yet.
Instead, the best next step would be to test whether people will sign up for your customer list. This can come in the form of a product pre-order or a service waiting list.
Always think about the process of getting your customers first before building your online presence, like your website or social media pages. When you know exactly who you’re appealing to, you have a better edge at creating content that targets your niche market.
Here are some questions to get the mindset you can adopt:
- Who exactly are you marketing to? Use the words and expressions they use. And talk about the concerns they have.
- How do you offer your product/service to be the exact solution they need?
When you have clear answers to these questions, you can start building your landing page – the page that will convince people to sign up.
If your landing page sends the right message and shows your product/service in the best light possible – then you’ll soon get the result you need. (As long as you did your landing page right).
When no one signs up, even when your landing page is done well and there’s considerable traffic to your page, then you’ll know it’s a dud.
But if even 10% of visitors sign up – that’s a good sign you’re heading in the right direction.
Start, start, start
Fear of failure is common among people who want to start an online business. That’s only natural. If making money from an online business is easy, everyone would be doing it!
If you’ve been reading various articles or books or videos about starting an online business – then I highly encourage you to start one today.
At some point, people reach a level of research and planning that’s more than enough. When that happens, it’s all about execution. So go for it!