Sign Your Startup's First Customers Without a Marketing Team

Greg Snow-Wasserman
Greg Snow-Wasserman
January 4, 2021
7 minute read

When you first bring your new startup to market, that means actively seeking out and recruiting those new customers. These new customers are some of the most important your business will ever have; they’ll help you refine your product as well as your company’s strategic positioning and function as social proof for your future audience. 

The problem is, as a new startup, you’re extremely lean. Maybe it’s even just you on your own. Early stage businesses simply don’t have the parts in place to start attracting customers from day one.

The good news is that you don’t need to build out an entire marketing to sales department to start attracting customers for your startup. You can, in a few steps and with a bit of hard work, start closing valuable deals almost right away.

Craft Your Messaging

Research has shown that the average adult has an attention span of about six to eight seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab their attention. 

And once you’ve managed to do that, you really only have a minute or so to tell them who you are, what you do and why that should matter to them.

In short, in order to get your startup’s first customer, you need to perfect your elevator pitch.

And while this may sound simple, easy and straightforward, it’s a much more involved process that simply coming up with a slogan or tagline for your brand.

To create effective messaging you need to:

  1. List your product’s features and the truly unique value they bring a user
  2. Identify the alternatives to your product and identify what sets your solution apart.
  3. Identify who would care about these features and why they need them.
  4. Group your features by value “theme” and map them to the people who would care about them.

By going through this process, you will be able to boil down your product’s messaging to a simple, straightforward statement that clearly defines what you do and who you do it for.

Provide Value for Free

Once you’ve got your product ready to go and your messaging crafted, you’re almost certainly anxious to start making some money for your business. However, in order to make money, you have to demonstrate that you can create value for your potential customers.

And when you’re just starting out, there’s a good chance that value will have to be created for free.

One way to prove the value of your business is through content marketing via helpful guides, videos, podcasts, ebooks or blog posts.

This approach will create value for your potential customers while showcasing the expertise, trustworthiness and credibility of your business. 

A second approach is to work with other startup businesses in the same situation as you: just getting started. 

Find a business that offers and product or service that’s adjacent to your own and offers clear opportunities for collaboration and synergies. A business that offers a fitness app could team with an ecommerce company that sells equipment to cross-promote each others’ businesses. 

You should also come to agreements to refer potential customers, offer discounts and co-create new content.

Creating these relationships will potentially grow into highly valuable partnerships in the future.

Focus on Just a Few Channels

After just launching a new business and product, you’ll be faced with a wide range of channels through which to reach your customers, such as social media, content, SEO, affiliate networks potentially even non-digital channels (depending on the nature of your industry, of course).

In this situation, it’s all too easy to think that you can launch campaigns across all of these channels at once, maximizing your reach.

This, however, is often a mistake for a new business just getting started. The reasons are pretty simple:

  • Your team, if you’ve managed to start building one, is still small. Words like “lean” and “nimble” are generous descriptors of your company’s size. And no matter how productive or efficient you think you can be, there’s only so much one person can do effectively. Trying to grow all possible sales channels at once will result in poor execution and lack of insight, stymying future opportunities for real growth.
  • Your budget is still quite limited and each channel requires some sort of investment. The fact is, with your team’s limited resources and bandwidth, it’s highly likely you’ll spend precious dollars on channels and campaigns that will run into the issue described above. You might pick up a few sales here and there, but you won’t be able to generate the types of insights that allow solid strategic decision making.

The solution, then, is to instead choose only one or two channels that are most appropriate for industry and focus your time, budget and efforts on growing those limited channels. The end result will be clear, data-backed insights based on performance that will drive your new startup’s future growth strategy.

Don't Worry About Scaling Yet

Now that you’ve identified your ideal customer profiles and determined the positioning, messaging, content and channels with which to reach them, you can now start working on finding and contacting specific people to start the sales process. 

The important thing here is that you don’t limit yourself to efforts that scale.

Because your business is just getting started and you don’t have a marketing or sales team yet, you might be tempted to automate prospect identification and outreach at this point in an attempt to sign as many customers and deals as possible.

Your main strength as a new startup is on the personal touch you can offer your customers, so it’s essential you highlight this when identifying cold contacting your prospects.

Spend time doing homework for every message you send so you can use your prospect’s preferred name (ie, “Tom” vs. “Thomas”) as well as include a detail from their background that shows you know and understand at least something about them.

Note: A small warning here about being overly friendly. It’s probably best you don’t rely on a prospect’s personal life unless you actually know them. Imagine getting an email or LinkedIn message out of nowhere that uses the names of family members or pets. A bit creepy, right?

Once you’ve shown that you’re human and have an understanding of who your prospect is, give them one or two easy takeaways from your conversation that tells them what your business does for its customers. You should also offer up a bit of free value here yet again.

A good way to do this is by either linking to content you’ve created or coming up with a few initial ideas and offering to go through them on a call. 

The key here is to use specifics.

So, for example, if your SaaS startup sells an ecommerce inventory management platform, mention that you’ve found out of stock products listed as for sale and that your platform would solve this problem for them. 

End your outreach not with a final sales pitch but with a much smaller ask: a phone call. 

Propose a date and time for the call but don’t get bogged down in trying to overcome objections that haven’t even been made yet. You can address them if/when they’re made.

Finally, be clear and up front that you’ll be trying to sell your business during this call. Few things will turn people off from working with you than a surprise sales pitch.

Use Marketing-as-a-Service

As a busy entrepreneur, it’s a daunting task to take on all the roles and responsibilities of marketing and selling on top of what’s required for setting up a business, creating your product and securing funding.

A great solution for a startup entrepreneur such as yourself is to take on a strategic partner with a marketing-as-a-service solution. 

Marketing-as-a-Service essentially bolts on a pre-made marketing department all at once, without you having to go through the process of finding a single new full-time employee or contractor. Your business starts to bring in new customers and sign new deals while you focus your time and effort on more high level decision-making.

At TwoEars, we work with new startups to sign new customers so they can start growing right away. We provide strategic advice, tactical implementation along with analysis and insights, taking on every role of a traditional marketing and sales team. 

And at a lower cost than a single full-time marketer. 

Want to learn more? We’re always interested in talking about startup marketing, so just drop us a line at

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