Why Your First Generation of Customers Are the Most Important
Every entrepreneur’s dream is to build a business and scale it to ridiculous heights. Google now sees more than 3.5 billion searches every day, but it started with almost zero. And while the idea of having billions of customers is appealing, most of us also realize it’s unrealistic. With luck, you can reasonably aim for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of customers, depending on what it is you’re actually selling. When most businesses think of customer service or customer retention, they think of these potential thousands or millions of customers.
However, there’s a flaw in this approach that leads many startups down a dangerous path. In reality, these thousands or millions of customers aren’t nearly as important as the handful you’ll start out with. Though they pale in comparison when it comes to sheer numbers, your first generation of customers are by far the most important you’ll have, and you need to treat them right if you want to succeed.
Proof of the Model
Despite all the great resources available for writing an effective business plan, everything you’ve researched, brainstormed, and hashed out is still just on paper. Your market research might suggest that you’ll kick up sufficient demand and that users will have a use for your product or service for years, but what real evidence do you have? Your first generation of customers will be putting your model to the test, while you still have the flexibility to make changes if necessary. If you find it nearly impossible to bring on or retain customers with your current plan, you know you need to go back to the drawing board.
Working Out the Kinks
Let’s assume your model is solid and you manage to attract a small group of clients to serve as your first generation. Again, no matter how extensively you’ve planned this, there are going to be flaws in your products and services. These customers will be pivotal in helping you uncover and address these flaws. Observe them closely; see how they use your products and services, and gather as much feedback as possible. This “beta test” of your business will help you learn which processes need further development or refinement, and allow you to build a more stable enterprise.