What do you really need as a founder: A refined product? Generous investors? No. The only thing you really need is to find paying customers!
That’s why you should test as early as possible whether you can find buyers for your listing. How does this work? Best of all, you start sellingyour listing. Tim Ferris, founder and author of the world’s best-selling “The 4 Hours Week,” ran an ad for high-priced sports nutrition in a bodybuilder magazine. It was only when sufficient orders were received that he took the next steps and started production. Ferris’ example refers to the “trade” industry, but the key idea of this also helps you in the search to find paying customers.
We will show you even more ideas on how to find paying customers and thus test your business idea. But remember: it’s not about selling itself. Your goal is to learn as much as possible about your customers’ wishes. Selling only serves as an indication that your idea works so far that you can build a business model on it.
Strategies to find paying customers
Book a stand at the weekly market
Particularly suitable for: Products sold to private customers
For little money, you can book a stand at a weekly market to offer a small series of your product or to present a prototype. In the market, you can gather important insights for your foundation.
Alternatively, you can also set up a stand at a trade fair. There you can appeal to corporate customers or a specific professional audience.
Create your own homepage
Particularly suitable for: Products that are often purchased online
The Internet offers great ways to test your business idea. For example, you can set up a sales page. This is possible today for small money and without prior knowledge. Do it like Tim Ferris and pretend that your offer already exists. Ideally, your page has a “Buy Now” button. As soon as your customer clicks on it, you inform them that the offer does not yet exist, but can pre-order it.
With your own sales page, you’ll find out if there’s a demand for your offer, and you’ll collect first customers. The challenge is to be noticed and found on the Internet. Methods of search engine optimization help you with this.
Using online marketplaces
Particularly suitable for: products and services that can be marketed via the Internet
Online marketplaces such as Ebay or Amazon have the advantage that customers search for specific offers here and therefore they find you easier. Before you fill your stock, you can easily set up your product and accept pre-orders.
There are a variety of trading platforms for different products and customers. Special trading venues (crafts, IT services, etc.) have also been established for services. Inquire about the conditions beforehand and select the right platform for your offer.
Google & Facebook
Particularly suitable for: almost all business ideas
It doesn’t have to be an expensive ad in a glossy magazine. Also, running an ad via Google Ads (formerly AdWords) can be interesting to test demand. Users who enter the appropriate search words on Google will see your ad above their search results.
- The ad reaches those who are interested in your offer.
- You keep the costs under control because you set a budget that is not exceeded (for example, five euros a day).
- You only pay when users click on your ad.
- You can check the click rates and see if your ad is working.
Almost every marketing textbook gives you the same experience value. It says that if more than 1 percent of all users respond to your ad, that’s a good sign.
You can also place accurate ads on Facebook. Here, the audience can be narrowed down according to certain interests. The number of likes gives you an impression whether or not you are meeting your target group with your offer. Facebook is more suitable for offers aimed at private customers.
Open a pop-up store
Particularly suitable for: products sold to private customers and offers from the catering industry
Before you rent your own shop and invest huge sums in the equipment, try a pop-up store, i.e. a store on a temporary level. You may be in a good location to find a suitable store that you can use for a few days or weeks to sell your products. If you stir the advertising drum properly, you can also determine in a short time whether you are winning customers. New gastronomy concepts can also be tried out in this way with manageable risk.
By the way, there are various providers that specialize in renting or mediating pop-up stores.
Raise a crowdfunding campaign
Particularly suitable for: Business ideas that are already very mature
Crowdfunding allows you to test whether your business model meets customers. Anyone who misses the target amount in crowdfunding because no one is interested in the project should readjust as a matter of urgency.
However, this path is very expensive and therefore only recommended if your concept is already very mature. If you choose Crowdfundig, offer your crowd a selection of your products in return for their support. This way, you collect initial pre-orders and see if there is really a demand for your products. Thanks to crowdfunding, the founders of the craft beer brewery Berliner Berg knew even before the construction of their brewhouse that people wanted their beer.
So, let’s go! Choose a method to find paying customers that is best suited for your start-up project.
But don’t be sad if you don’t find paying customers yet. Then at least you know that you have to change something, and you can set the course anew.