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30 Ways to Find Your First 100 Customers for Your Startup

by Gigi Rodgers

· ecommerce,Marketing,Entrepreneurship

30 Ways to Find Your First 100 Customers

You did it. You finally f***ing did it!

You’ve come up with your business idea and now you’re going to execute, damnit.

You’ve gotten over the doubts and the procrastination!
You launched no matter what your friends, your family, or your dog thought - and now it’s time.

You built your website, posted your product pictures, spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME tweaking your “About Us” page, and you hit “Publish”.

Then you wait for the droves of people to come to your website, and just throw money at you!

I’m here people!
I know you’ve been waiting for this for so long, and now it’s here! Come on and get yours!
Don’t be shy!

An hour passes…then 2 hours…you hit refresh a few times…go to sleep and check FIRST thing in the morning…you text your friend to make a purchase, which you’ll pay them back for, to make sure the cart is running okay.

It went through? Okay...

Refresh.

And this cycle continues for a few days.

After about a week, you realize no one’s coming.

Damnit...

So you jump on Google and do a quick search and see that YOU are supposed to go to YOUR customers. Not vice versa.

"But how do I find my customers?", you ask.

And THAT’S what we’re going to talk about in this post.

Use these successful entrepreneur's stories as a guide to inspire you to take action.

We reached out to 30 successful entrepreneurs that range from Christopher Walken impersonators on Fiverr to full fledged organizations that are making 5-6 figures monthly, and asked them: “How Did You Find Your First 100 Customers”?

1. HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT

Matt Lombardi
Founder of Slate Wood Club

(Instagram/Twitter: @Slatewoodclub)

Matt went to where his target customer and influencers were hanging out and met with them face-to-face.

"That led me", states Matt, "to find conferences (specifically smaller ones) that were laser focused on the niche of customers who might be interested in my services. I didn’t have the money to buy a booth so I just took a pocket full of business cards and a whole lot of passion and talked to anyone who seemed remotely friendly".

This is the essence of market research.

He didn't pitch his product.

He asked questions to 10-15 people, had a natural conversation, and listened to what his customers were looking for. He then framed his business around those needs.

2. DO “FREE” SPEC WORK Josef

Digital Typographer of The Guy Behind the Letters

(Instagram: @YourNameHereOrWhat)

In the beginning, states Josef, he I was giving away free logos and names for personal accounts.

He sent the free logos to them via Instagram's Direct Message. The users knew that they shouldn’t print them or use them commercially.

At one point I was getting so many requests on Instagram, that I had to stop giving away free logos because I wasn’t doing anything else the whole day. My reach, and following, increased exponentially on Instagram – buuuuut it didn’t make me any money.

[Many] of the personal accounts posted my [work]. Brands and companies would see [it] and [approached me] for cooperations and/or logos. [Then] I created my Strikingly website and created a shop (thanks for that plug) where people [could] order logos from me.

3. THE DIRECT APPROACH 

Josh Nielsen
The Founder of
Zencastr

(Twitter: @zencastr)

Josh found his first few hundred users by searching Twitter for people complaining about the problem he was solving for. 

He searched for people complaining about podcast recording with Skype.

"People love to complain on Twitter," states Nielsen. "[They use Twitter] as a way to publicly call out companies, so it’s a great way to find pain points".

From there he DM'd them his services and it's all been organic growth from there.

4.CREATE THE DEMAND 

Daniel Kingsley
Founder of Inbound Ascension

(Twitter: @InboundAscend)

Daniel built a clothing company, which lead into a boutique marketing service.

He was a UK guy living in New Zealand and wanted to get a visa but was too old, so applied for an Entrepreneurship visa (yup, that’s a thing. we googled it).

So he set up a clothing company, overnight. He watched 3 photoshop training videos and spent around 8 hours making a few t-shirt designs.

He [posted] those designs on Facebook and set up a quick ecommerce website and left them a link to check out the [tees].

He woke up to 5 sales overnight.

He had them printed and sold them at a loss. But he knew there was demand, so he printed a bulk run.

The market started to stall by Week 3 and he knew he needed to get into retail stores for legitimacy and to automate some of his efforts.

“I started running paid Facebook ads to local targets in specific areas about the brand, and told them to go ask their local store for our products (even though the tees weren’t in ANY stores at the time)”, says Kingsley

[The stores] got so many requests, the stores CAME TO KINGSLEY and asked if they could stock his product, which then gave him better bargaining and sales prices.

5. GO GLOBAL

Chris Schmidt
Owner of
Geofilter Studio

(Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat: @geofilterstudio)

Schmidt's Geofilter Studio was the world’s first Snapchat geofilter design agency.

Their first client was for a local wedding social they found on a listing called Kijiji.

Him and his team called them up and asked if they would like a Snapchat geofilter. They were intrigued and placed an order. 

"Our approach to acquiring business", states Schmidt, "paid advertising using Google Ads and Facebook Ads".

On Facebook they would search for events all over North America and the UK. They would post (in a non-spammy way) on the event page or directly message event coordinators.

They bought Skype dollars and were making phone calls to clubs and event planners all over the world.

They would spend the morning reaching out to people in the UK and in the afternoon they reached out to people in North America.

6. EXPLOIT YOUR TALENTS

Chris “Jersey” Ferretti
Celebrity Impersonations & Prank Call Master on
Fiverr

(Twitter/Instagram: @jerseyferretti)

Ferretti always had a knack for doing impersonations…especially Christopher Walken. So as a joke he put up a gig saying he would call whoever you want and say whatever you wanted, as Christopher Walken, for $5.

He sent the link out to his friends saying if they wanted to hear my Walken from now on it was going to cost them $5.

Then, out of the blue, he started getting orders.

The first order - this guy wanted Ferretti to call his roommate as Christopher Walken and yell at him for eating all his coco-puffs the other day. So he did the prank and after a 5 minute completely ad-libbed phone call, the customer loved it.

All his clients have come to him through word of mouth.

My all time favorites, "the pick me ups". The calls to the downtrodden and unsung heroes who seem to have been forgotten by the world. They [desperately] need a laugh, and I love giving them one. But through the laughs, I also love giving them a combo of kind words and a motivating kick in the ass to get up and make it happen. -Chris Ferretti

He added an upsell option where people could pay extra for an EXACT DATE or MP3 recording of the prank.

And you guessed it - it brought in more business. 

More orders started pouring in and I started adding more celebrity impersonations.

And after that it wasn’t long before I got my 100.

7. FIND A NEW MARKET 

Ryan Heenan
Animator/Voiceover Actor/Ukulele Jingle Writer

(Twitter: @ryanheenan)

When Heenan first started out he needed to find enough clients to build up both a good portfolio and solid reviews.

He found that going after people who needed work done quickly was the ideal way to land those first 100 clients and create a snowball effect with landing other clients.

He got his foot in the door in certain industries like the dental and real estate industry. They became a GREAT referral source!

He focused on fast turnaround times, keeping the customer happy, [and turned] projects around in 24 hours or less.

8. GO ALL-IN 

ChrisData
A Digital Vector Artist on Fiverr

(Twitter: @chrisdata)

Chris provided vector portrait services in 2011 for $5, when Fiverr was still new. There was far less competition back then.

NOTE:It pays to go all-in, and hyper focus on building that leverage on a new social media platform)

Within 1 month of joining Fiverr, he got his Level 1 Sellers Badge. Within 6 months he got his Level 2 badge (>200 happy 5 stars rated customers). And in 2015 he was awarded the TRS badge (Top Rated Seller’s Badge) and Fiverr featured him on their Facebook page.

"Delivering the best original work", states Chris, "having fast turnaround, staying reasonably priced, and making a gargantuan effort in communicating with my customers were the keys to my [first 100]".

9. HOOK UP YOUR NETWORK 

Robert Goldsmith
VIP Bachelor[ette] Party Coordinator of
BachWeekend

(Instagram: @bachweekend)

Goldsmith organized their first party planning for a friend for free, and everyone that attended told a couple of friends.

[On top of that], they had a great blog article written about them in a local business journal. And that lead to the first 100 customers. It was a combination of word of mouth [from the free party] and great PR.

NOTE: It never hurts to reach out and pitch your local publications and blogs on what you're doing and the services you're providing.

10. A COOL BRIBE Adam & Emma

The Founders of Spoonhunt

(Twitter: @Spoonhunt)

"When we started Spoonhunt", says Emma, "we had our WeChat account ready for people to test. We went to the nearest University (Fudan University in Yangpu) on a really hot summer day.

There was an international students food festival going on to welcome new international students to the school for the semester. Since Spoonhunt is designed for people that are new to China we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk to people about our idea. We bought hundreds of popsicles and went to the event with our WeChat QR code posted on the box.

We gave out popsicles to any international student that scanned our QR code and followed us. We got a chance to ask people about our idea because we found a fun way to attract attention to ourselves.

We got over 100 users on that first day. People really wanted popsicles".

11. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER 

Laura Axelson
Dinner Belle Nashville – Wholesome Food Delivery Service

Instagram: @dinnerbellenashville

Axelson started an Instagram account before her business launched, as a way to have something for folks to follow after a promotional event. It gave her a gauge of what her followers found interesting. 

NOTE: HERE are some tips on how we grew our Instagram following by 1100 in less than 2 months.

Other than using Mail Chimp to send an email when she posted a new menu and again, most of her customers came from word of mouth or Instagram.

The word of mouth started around her community of friends, through some of the farmers she did business with, and also through the charity that she donates meals to - The Hope Clinic.

12. RECRUIT YOUR FRIENDS

Sam Smith
Director of
Deducation

(Twitter: @samsmith453)

When Smith first started out he was embarrassed to tell his friends about his business projects, worried that they wouldn’t take him seriously.

But, when he finally told a few of them they were nothing but supportive and (good for the ego) impressed. They were amazing in giving him endless feedback, support, and helping with promotion.

He made sure to make them feel involved with this project – which gave them a sense of ownership.

This in turn made them want to help more – without asking.

In fact, when he launched his new website – kicking off a new eBook – Smith's friends helped him proofread, design and promote the book, so that it eventually became a bestseller – just through word of mouth.

Once they read the book, he simply asked them to leave an Amazon review. After he announced the release of his book, Smith did a ‘Post of Gratitude’ where he thanked each person who downloaded the book and left a review, publicly on social. 

And without any kind of nudge on Smith's end, everyone he thanked shared the post.

13. WORD OF MOUTH 

Danilo Jovanovic
Voice Acting Impersonator on Fiverr

(Twitter: @thedanjovanovic)

Jovanovic goes for that “wow” factor and looks to impress the client - going above and beyond every time.

And this mindset is what catapulted him to find his first 100 clients.

His first order was to do a Tony Soprano impersonation and tell a story about a person running for local politics in NJ.

He wanted to impress the client, so he spent a lot of time on this piece, more than $5 worth of work, making sure to over deliver the final product to the client.

His clients loved it and gave him a 5-star review.

Through word of mouth, Jovanovic began to get more orders.

No ads, no cold emails. All the traffic coming in by word of mouth.

And as an upsell, he would give people the option to expand on their scripts and bring more life into it. It has been a lucrative bonus.

14. POSITIONING 

Christine C. Renee
Professional Personal Finance Writer

(Twitter: @christinecrenee)

When started freelancing, in 2015, she implemented the strategy of leaving positive comments on her favorite articles and worked at maintaining consistency on her social profiles.  

As a one-woman show, she focused on two social media platforms - one being Twitter. 
She would post and re-tweet only helpful articles and responded to people who interacted with her as soon possible - starting that dialogue.

Though the main driver of new clients was her making sure her website was ranking for the right keywords. Though it took her time to learn, once she made the changes, she started getting emails every day, instead of once every month or so.


Since doing these tasks, she's increased her clientele to the point where she's booked out for two months.

15. SHOWCASE YOUR EXPERTISE 

Clement Lim
Freelance B2B Copywriter

(Twitter: @limwrites)

The first thing Clement did, after creating his copywriting website, was to define his brand. He has a background in economics and law, and is comfortable with constructing a persuasive argument woven around facts and figures.
 

He incorporated his branding on all his online profiles.
Where appropriate, he also added that he had previously worked both as a lawyer and a freelance journalist. This helped him stand out as someone who was more than “just” a copywriter.

To showcase his expertise he wrote detailed, informative blog posts aimed at his target audience of B2B marketers. He wrote posts designed to build authority and generate leads for his brand.

It’s one thing to create great content, but it’s another thing to get people to read it.
So he raised his profile by actively building relationships with key influencers in his niche.

This was done initially through social media posting and blog commenting, as we saw above with Christine Renee.
The relationships he built drew traffic to his website, which lead to opportunities to publishi on blogs like Search Engine Journal, Kissimetrics, and more.
 

As his profile grew, his clients started to come.

He tends to work with a select few customers on a long-term basis.
To be honest, he hasn't got to 100 customers yet.
And he hopes he'll never need to.

16. BRAVE REDDIT 

Mark Norman
Owner of Just Saiyan Apparel

(Twitter/Instagram: @Justsaiyan_gear)

Mark had this concept in his head of workout apparel he wanted for his birthday. B"ut after doing research and not being able to find what he needed online, he reached out to a buddy who is a great artist and designer.

The inspired workout gear, of anime characters Goku and Vegeta, had all been for personal use. Then a friend suggested that these t-designs should be posted on DBZ Reddit, to get some feedback.

"I posted “I stole Trunk’s Time Machine. Look what I came back with – not your usual” on Reddit, states Mark, "I wasn’t expecting THAT MUCH feedback so quickly".

In the beginning he had nothing.
No website.

No social media.

No shipping.

NOTHING.

In hours, he built a website using Strikingly to capture demand and questions. Within 30 minutes of launching his website he had hundreds of pre orders.

17. USE YOUR EXISTING AUDIENCE 

Yuval Maoz

Co-Founder of Klear

(Twitter: @yuvmaoz)

"Back in the early days of Klear", states Yuval, "when we were known as Twtrland, we were fortunate to have loads of users. The thing is, they were using the service for free. Our thousands of active users were paying NOTHING and getting a full-service of social analytics for free".

What seemed like a bad bargain for Klear was quite the opposite. 
In return, of their users using the service for free, they were able to get invaluable feedback from their Super Users.

Because of this customer research they knew exactly what the users from digital agencies and enterprises needed and what they were willing to pay for.

After a few months of building their social analytics platform, they added a green button – “Go Pro”.

This green button converted them from a Free service to a Premium service.
The users that told them what they needed as a premium service had finally received a quick option to get it.

18. THE COLD APPROACH 

Marcelo Acosta
Owner of Cuatro Corners

Marcelo gained his first 100 by sending out of personalized private messages to people.

He was starting a new business, in a new country – that he wasn’t living in. 
Hence he couldn’t start with friends or family.

"But overall", states Acosta, "the process was simple". 

He figured out who his ideal customer was - which he found using Facebook.

He private messaged a picture of his product, a bracelet, and asked if they would be interested to know when it was going to be available. 
 

With nothing more than a picture and pitching people via DM - he made a list manually, created a very targeted FB page, and went from there.

The first dozen sales were manual. 

Afterwards he moved to a FB shopping cart app. And it's been rolling every since.

19. THE COLLABO & THE AGGRESSOR * 

Tim Brown
Owner of Tim B. Designs

(Twitter: @timbdesignmpls)

Brown found his first 100 customers by first publicizing the fact that he was now offering his services all over social media.

On top of that, he collaborated with a local magazine and traded his design services for advertising.

From there, he started building up his website as an asset to attract clients - focusing heavily on referrals and positive testimonials.

By being aggressive in getting links through guest posting to his website, he attracted natural links from outside sources to give him a leg up with search traffic.

20. TEACH A CLASS 

Jonathan Levi
Founder of Lucid Path Consulting & Top Udemy Instructor

(Twitter: @entreprenewer)

"Our first 100 students", says Levi, "came from mostly friends, family, and former colleagues (school and work). I made sure that I promoted it well to my social networks, getting them to enroll (with a discount – but not free), leave reviews, and actively take the course. I tweeted, posted on Facebook a lot, tagged friends, did a massive group message, and went around the web posting on sites like Quora".

From there, Udemy’s ranking algorithm saw that his course was performing. So they put it up on the front page in a matter of days.
From there, it was easy to get 1,000, 10,000, and even 50,000 new students.

21. THE HYPER TARGETED METHOD 

Brittany Berger
Professional Blogger

(Twitter: @bberg1010)

"My background is in content marketing", states Berger, "so for almost a year while I was planning and creating my first product, I was also publishing and distributing content about the same topic – building a hyper-targeted audience".

She distributed her content in community-based social media platforms like Facebook groups and Pinterest boards.

Guest posts weren’t even a priority yet.

Brittany put in a ton of time creating content that would attract the right people, making sure each piece of content:

  • identified a problem her audience faced
  • explained why they needed to fix it
  • and provided a complete solution

In 9 months, she only published 10-12 posts.

Though between the amount of info packed in each article, the trust she had built with her audience over time, and her strategic promotion (links inside the posts that lead back to her website and a downloadable) - she was able to do a small, low-key launch of a product to her existing audience that lead to her first 100 customers.

22. OFFER TO CUT THE LINE 

Shanika
The Creator and Director of Broke2Dope

(Twitter: @Broke2dope)

When Shanika first began blogging in 2012, she wanted to feature entrepreneurs and college business owners to highlight their journey of going from “broke” to “dope”.

"I featured my first musician who was a friend", says Shanika, "and that changed everything".

Other artists wanted to be featured on my site and started to email me their music (there’s the pivot).

Through word of mouth, attending events weekly, and meeting new artists everyday, she started to receive 2-3 emails a day from independent hip hop artists.

Then, practically overnight, she received over 100 emails in a day.

Because she was getting overwhelmed with requests, she decided that she needed to put a system in place and charge for her time.

She found Fiverr through a friend and charged $5 for an expedited review.

She hated the idea of charging for a post, but this allowed the artist the chance to get a head of the crowd of emails.

The traffic to Fiverr grew because of her posting about it on Twitter.

She also included an auto-response, with the email submissions, that included a link to Fiverr so that artists have the option to go thru Fiverr if they’d like.

She now offers a range of services including social media promotion, CD duplication, and advertising through Fiverr as well.

Because of her fast response and positive reviews, her customer base on Fiverr grew so that now she has an average of 10 new orders per week.

23. OFFER A DEAL 

Rahil Jain
The Creator and Founder of Hook (not the movie)

(Twitter: @gethookio)

Rahul posted about Hook on a deal listings outlet, that they had long participated in, called Slick Deals.

Because they spent time in the community and they were well known, they uprooted their product and gave them amazing feedback.

It lead to them getting featured on the front page of Slick Deals.

Their deal had received over 74K views and over 130 comments in just a few days.

They received over 200 pre-orders that day.

24. CROWDFUND IT 

Maelle Chassard
Founder and Director of Lunii

(Twitter: @luniimagianire)

Chassard and her partners found their first 100 customers by testing the prototype with their audience.

Audience members would test it and start to follow them on social media.

And after winning a few contests (The Family Award, Innovation and Public Award @ Futur en Seine in 2014 and 2016), with that recognition still fresh, they decided to run a crowdfunding campaign on the french platform, Ulule.

They received 450 pre-orders and then 200 more on their website after the campaign ended.

Then, through word of mouth and the attention they received from the crowdfunding campaign, a lot of people were waiting for the product when they commercialized it on August 2016.

To date, they've sold 10k products (2k which are already in children’s hands and 8k in local and online shops).

25. THE INTERNET LOVES CATS 

Elvisinstacute
Thee Fiverr Cat

(Instagram: @elvisinstacute)

For the managers of Elvis the Cat, the question never was ”How to get the first 100 customers?”, but instead it was ”How to get the first customer"?

They wanted to try something new with him.

He already had a small following on Instagram so they thought he could be a popular cat model.

They wrote a message on a piece of paper and tried different ways for him to interact with it.

They figured, all cats love boxes. So they put him in a box, taped the paper above the box and he poked his head through.

That’s it.

They started printing out logos on the piece of paper and had Elvis do the same thing.

People saw this on Instagram, and through word of mouth, they started recording videos for people’s companies, birthdays, brands, and more.

26. CREATE SUPERFANS 

Gary Sheng
Co-Founder of The Dancing Pineapple

(Twitter: @dancing_pina)

"Our first 100 customers were a collection of our superfans who took the step to buy tickets to our first live concert this past June – which amazingly sold out", says Sheng.

They promoted themselves heavily on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Instagram – creating mixes and playlists.

By diving in head first into the industry, making connections, going all-in on whatever live events they were apart of - they're becoming a company to take seriously within their music genre.

27. BE THE EXTROVERT 

Amy Peloso
Owner of The Queen Bee NYC

(Twitter: @queenbeesbuzz)

Peloso found her first 100 by going to conferences and meetups to continue her education, and find like minded people.

She walked up to individuals and made sure she talked to them about who she was and what she did, naturally, and in conversation.

Once she did that a few times, her confidence built up and she started to make even more connections.

Next thing you know, word of mouth through her circles caught wind and she had her first 100 clients.

28. FRIEND POWER 

Mike Mak
The Creator of Bookniture

(Instagram: @bookniture)

Mak believes that the word of mouth is essential in building a business. He also reminds himself to design something that is suitable for friends and close to his living style - which has a tendency to lean towards the multifunctional and minimalist side.

When it comes down to it, he treats his customers like his friends. And it just so happened that his first 100 customers were, by majority, his friends.

29. LET’S DO EACH OTHER A FAVOR

Margaret Calvert
Margaret Lynn Health Coach

(Twitter: @Mar_Mar421)

Calvert joined a SkillShare challenge group, that was promoted through her Facebook page and Instagram accounts.

The community of people helped each other out by joining each other’s classes.

Boom. First 100.

30. SHAREWARE IS THE SH*T 

Chris Strode
Founder of Invoice2Go

(Twitter: @Invoice2go)

When Strode first launched Invoice2go in 2002, it was nothing more than a simple Windows application that could be locally downloaded onto desktop.

He took advantage of the shareware technology at that time to release his first version, and made his first sale on day one.

As Strode states, "the first 100 customers was all about taking my time, listening closely to what each customer needed, and iterating the product. And that’s it".

CONCLUSION

This is 30 ways in which entrepreneurs got their start and found their first customers. 31

Want to go all-in on a social media platform?

Spearhead an Instagram strategy. 

Do Twitter customer research. 

Utilize YouTube videos for branding and redirection to your main platform.

Don’t fear rejection?

Cold call or email companies and offer your services. 

Go to meet ups and conferences and shake a lot of hands, start conversations, find their pain points and figure out a way that you can alleviate it.

Ready to get your friends to work?
Get them in formation.

 

Pick your flavor, get pumped, and go run through a brick wall!

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