First Contact With Customers

“A business exists because the consumer is willing to pay you his money. You run a business to satisfy the consumer.” – Peter Drucker

It’s about your customers. It’s not about you. Never forget that. Who cares if you want freedom. What does it matter that you like what you do. That’s about you. The question is whether there is someone who is willing to pay you money to satisfy their need.

I have watched people who think they are rock stars riding a wave of economic boom in an industry wake up one day without customers. The proverb, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is descriptive of many fortunes. Markets are much larger than our talent and desires. If the tide is up, a lot of people benefit. If it is down, many will lose. Think about the travel industry. We used to use travel agents. Expedia and Travelocity wiped them out. The same downfalls occurred for mortgage brokers, newspaper classifieds and home flippers in California. All the bubbles burst when innovation or markets changed.

Your systems don’t need to be perfect. They just need to be ready and at a point to service a first customer. When you are building something, the process should be:

  1. Observe what’s around you
  2. Get clear on solving a problem
  3. Get a customer
  4. Build your systems to deliver
  5. Scale your systems

Many people do it different. They build something thinking many people will buy. However, they already missed. They did not get real-time feedback from the customer about what is valuable and how they want to be serviced. Your market will shape your offering better than your imagination.

Observe What’s Around You

There are many opportunities that go unnoticed. Do me a favor and take a moment for a quick exercise. Stop and notice all the red things you see around you. Count them.

Next notice all the blue things in your vicinity.

The were always there. You just did not notice them until they were pointed out. Our brains work that way. We see what we focus on.

There is red in the room all the time for you. The complaints and problems you hear are opportunities. A person that has a solution has a new venture awaiting. The same is true for less than ideal processes, a gap in technology, and many other shortfalls in the world around you. It can always be better.

Get Clear On Solving A Problem

Now that you can see the problems, the question is whether you have a solution. You can use the “What if” line of questioning to see if there is value in a solution.

“What if you were notified of your order progress?”

“What if you could get this job done faster?”

“What if you didn’t have to retype your data?”

There are many scenarios. Using this line of questioning opens up a dialogue. You get the opportunity to solve a problem. Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame saw a solution to the problem of inefficient and expensive newspaper classifieds. What if there was a platform that was free and easy for local city residents to buy and sell? The rest is history. He changed the world by seeing a problem and getting clear on how to solve it with the internet.

Your opportunities are going to be closely linked to pain points people have. Asking what the possibilities are will open up your thinking for how to solve the problem in a creative and satisfying way.

Get A Customer

Now that you have an idea of an opportunity, the number one goal you have is to get a real customer. At this point, you may not have a lot of your system built out. That is fine. What is important is that you know the problem, know the solution and are aware of the systems to deliver your solution.

Nothing will motivate you or focus you on what you offer and how to build your business than getting a customer. They will help you build something quicker than your best guesses in isolation. It is the fast track in growing a new opportunity.

Getting a customer revolves around making a deal. The deal focuses on their pain and your solution. Your question is as follows:

“I hear your pain. What if I could provide a way to help you get what you want? Would you be interested in hiring me to make it happen?”

This is a framework. You should use it as a guideline to help frame your own discussion. Sales is a whole art in and of itself. If you are not a salesperson, then it is a lot less intuitive what to say and how to guide the discussion. My advice is get some training. Feel free to connect with me on to figure out your next steps.

If you can see an opportunity and get a deal done, then get your first customer committed. Also, set expectations that you will walk this with them and outline how you are going to deliver. Depending on what you are delivering, your first engagement may be more consulting than anything else. Or it may be custom software or content.

Build Your Systems To Deliver

Now that you have a commitment, it is your turn to deliver. You want to work on two levels: delivering on time for your current customer and masterminding the scalable systems for future customers. Your primary goal is to be able to replicate what you are offering for many more customers.

Thus, ensure that you set expectations from the beginning that you will collaborate heavily with your first customer. Get as much feedback as possible and tweak your solution to delight them. Capture their feedback and make your service or product offering meet their expectations.

In the process, create a checklist of the process you see emerging and that you will be using repeatedly. Imagine the multiple other customers you will be servicing. You want a framework for delivering and executing. Even if the details are different each time because of customizations or personalization, there needs to be a checklist for what you need to get done.

Keep your process stored inside your project management system. This will ensure you can delegate out the various tasks and deliver consistently. Also, you will need this for packaging your offering.

Scale Your Systems

After your first customer is delighted, you have more clarity than ever before. Be sure to get their testimonial about their experience. Capture it on video or, at minimum, via an online chat tool. You can connect with me at to learn more how to build a testimonial process.

Now you need to put the pieces together for scaling your system. You have a real-life case study. Use this to build your marketing and packaging your service offering or product offering.

Build out the description of how you work and what you offer in a clear way. Make this a product page on your new website. Use this as your talking piece to explain how you deliver.

Highlight your first case study and walk through the story. We are all tuned into story. Tell your next prospective customer their story using your process and help them see themselves through it.

Each iteration will allow you to continue refining. You will have a system that can now grow from a framework for execution and business process. Now making that process world class and transparent for your customer is what will help you build something that continues to grow.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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