How Startups Build a Strong Customer Base

Your perfect customers are out there, so let’s find them

Joe Procopio

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Let me ask you a quick hypothetical. If you could fire off an email to 1,000 people who might be interested in your product or service, how many of them would convert and buy?

You might not have a ready answer for this question, and that’s OK. Most of the time, I can’t put a hard number on it either, especially early in the life of the product. But it’s an important question to ask and answer.

What comes out of that answer is product-market fit, and that’s one of the most difficult concepts for any startup to nail down. But once you have a concrete idea of product-market fit, you can start to build a customer base. And once you know your customer base, you can scale your sales efforts and grow that base.

Product vs. Market vs. Fit

The problem is, a lot of startups tackle the answer from the wrong end of the question. They focus on the product side of product-market fit. They dive into the details of that hypothetical email, the selling points of their product, and the numbers behind the value proposition.

This is great data to have, and it’s critical that you’re able to communicate it properly — but that’s only if you’re sending that email to the right people in the first place.

The digital age has given us the gift of unlimited options for unfettered access to an almost infinite number of customer prospects at a relatively low cost.

In over 20 years releasing dozens of products and building over a dozen companies, I’ve done my share of walking through that question and forming the answer. I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter how good your pitch is when you’re pitching to the wrong prospects.

So before we talk about how valuable our product is, let’s first establish who we believe our market is.

How a handful of early adopters becomes a true customer base

Every time I launch a new product or start a new company, I reach a point where the engagement with the product and the feedback from the prospects starts to tell me who my customer is. I find a few…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com