Tuesday, November 10, 2015

B2B SaaS startup: How to get the first customers?


Every day dozens of new B2B SaaS products enter to global markets. Since I launched my first SaaS startup at 2008 the competition has gone wild. No matter are you self-funded startup or VC-backed enterprise, everyone faces the same question at the beginning: How to get your first customers.

After reading a collection of interesting articles about creating B2B startup sales from scratch (listed at the end of this post), I could summarise the most popular advises into these:
  • Makes sure that your product is unique, not necessarily perfect. Build the product that you really need (based on your own knowhow), not what you think that other people might need.
  • Charge from day one and don't trust your free users. In B2B business it’s easy to get friends and colleagues excited about new concepts. It’s also surprisingly easy to get free users to "kick the tires". But the real challenge is to get the first paying customers from companies that you have never heard before.
  • Keep noise across internet (blogs, tweets, comments), even if it feels slow at the beginning. Amount of Twitter followers doesn’t really matter, the popularity comes one step at the time and grows like a snowball.
  • It’s B2B: Outbound marketing is not dead. Create lead lists, send cold emails, make cold calls. You can also reach people directly via Twitter or LinkedIn. The first customers always take more time and effort than what they bring money - don’t be afraid to invest your time for sales at the beginning.
  • Do not pay for advertisement. The first row of customers is unpredictable and guides you to find the stronger value proposition. Paid ads are only for established products with existing customer base, steady sales pipeline and marketing that is based on experience.
  • Integrate to find partners. When new startup and established enterprise have mutual goals, startup can be pulled to the market very fast. Almost all established B2B products have partner programs for startups that wish to integrate with them.

Advises are based on following articles:

Idea to $5,000/mo in Recurring Revenue in 5 Months (Baremetrics)

How we grew from $0 to $25,000/month in 12 months (Baremetrics)

How a Startup Got Customers to Pay $6000 Each Before Launch (ConversionAid)

5 Early Wins That Got Our SaaS Startup 1,000 Beta Users (Groove)

7 Lessons We Learned Going from Zero to $30k/Month in Under a Year (Groove)

What are the typical top sources of customers for early-stage SaaS companies? (Quora)

How does a non-funded B2B SaaS startup go about reaching out and acquiring customers? (Reddit)

How do SaaS startups acquire their first customer? (Quora)

How do you sell SaaS products to enterprise customers? (Quora)

First enterprise customers – revenue or user engagement? (Beyond VC)

Why do companies buy anything from B2B startups? (Mukund Mohan)

The road to your first 20 B2B customers (SoundCloud, The SaaS Revolution Show)

B2B Startup’s 11 Steps To The First 1,000 Ideal Prospects (Pipetop Blog)