In a simplistic form, I view the first one to two years of a startup as building a fairly basic product and constantly refining it until it uniquely meets the needs of a target group of customers. Once it’s providing real value to 10+ paying customers, then it’s time for phase two: building a customer acquisition machine. It’s hard enough making it from phase one to phase two that many entrepreneurs don’t even realize they need to shift their focus once they’ve found product/market fit to building a repeatable customer acquisition process. Working on the product, talking to existing customers, and refining what’s in place comes much more naturally to most entrepreneurs compared to obsessing over how to acquire substantially more customers every quarter.
Here are five quick steps to go from product / market fit focused to customer acquisition focused:
- Decide that at least 10+ paying customers represent a good cross section of the desired target market and that the product is providing real sustainable value (e.g. you’re ready to transition from phase one to phase two)
- Plan to go from spending 80% of your time and focus on the product to 80% of your time and focus on learning sales and marketing to build a customer acquisition machine
- Read 10 blog posts per day on sales and marketing and try out at least one new sales and marketing experiment each week
- Interview five entrepreneurs that have made the jump from phase one to phase two and have built both a great product and a great repeatable sales process
- Talk to the 10+ representative customers and find out what websites they visit, what trade shows they attend, and any other ideas on how to find similar people and organizations
Overall, the biggest takeaway is that there has to be a serious shift on the entrepreneur’s part going from product / market fit focused to customer acquisition focused. Lack of customers, and the resulting revenue, is the number one reason startups fail (no revenue = no business). Assuming there’s a good market out there, building a customer acquisition machine after finding product / market fit is the difference between success and failure.
What else? What are your thoughts on these five steps to go from focusing on product / market fit to focusing on building a customer acquisition machine?