Innovate to differentiate and win early customers
Shibu and I founded Cabot Technologies (www.cabotsolutions.com), in 2006 as a technology firm dealing with Java and Open Source Web technologies. The first source of leadgen and customer acquisition were through the online market places and through good customer interactions and sound technical advise, were able to retain our clients for long term and also get client referrals.
After reaching a threshold, we wanted to aim for large ticket deals and hi-tech engagements which meant that we had to use some outreach mechanisms to be able to connect with our prospects. We realized after a few conversations that these companies had some existing technology vendor relationships in place and were not necessarily looking to replace them. So, we thought that positioning for projects in technologies that would stretch our limits a bit and make us uncomfortable is the way we could win these deals.
Perhaps it was this nature that led us to the spotting of the rise of the mobile technology early in 2010. iPhones were already popular by that time and Apple had just released the ipad in early 2010 and we spotted an opportunity to start programming for applications to run on the iPads.
iOS programming skills were scarce in the market and as a startup we were also cost conscious of our resources. Our approach was to find a technology leader who could build a team from the ground up and we found the ideal candidate for that role. We spent six months working on learning the basics of iOS development and released couple of apps in the iTunes store to get things going. We were now ready for our first customer.
We also understood that one of the early sets of industries that would adopt mobile apps would be ISVs where they would want to build a mobile interface to their web interface and our first customer was a firm interested in developing a specific product for the dental industry. The firm already had a presence in the industry by way of creating web based applications and they were also keenly watching the iPad release and wanted an application to enable better doctor-patient interaction for dental surgeons. Our processes and communications helped us secure our first project as we won over a team of russian engineers.
Venkatesh advices to early stage startups, In summary, for securing your first client as a start up, be it a product or service, cast your net wide. Your customer may be coming from an industry vertical that you are not expecting. Be precise in explaining what you are offering and reach out through your entire network to spread the word.
Once you have the first customer. it is a good idea to set their expectations right and work with them in a more realistic manner. You need the project to be a success so that you can start showcasing that for further wins and also you need a customer testimonial for your services /product that is just beginning to take off.