OtherHow To Get Your First Customers (and Make Them Your Best Customers)

You’ve developed a brilliant product or service and you’re ready for business. But how do you get buy-in from your early customers? How do you go up against the “big guys?’ How do you convince someone to go with something that is new and untested?

Of course, what you’re doing is totally unique, but no one else knows that yet. Here are stories and tips from four Oregon entrepreneurs on how to not just secure your first few customers, but also gain their undying enthusiasm and lifelong trust.


Ryan Kirkpatrick, CEO & Founder of SchwoodGet ahold of your customers early.” (Tweet this)

Ryan Kirkpatrick, CEO of Shwood:

“Getting that early customer feedback is really important for two reasons. Market validation is the obvious one. You want to make sure there’s enough market to support your efforts. But the second is, those early people in the marketplace, they become your believers. You will find people out there that believe in your product, who want to see it succeed, and who will do things on your behalf. So that when you have a product or service, they will not only be your first customers, they will also be your evangelists. They’ll go out and tell other people about your brand or your product. Those people are really, really crucial in starting a brand or a service.”

Learn more about Ryan’s entrepreneurial journey.


Eric Winquist, CEO & Founder of Jama SoftwarePay attention to your prospects and figure out unique, low-cost ways to stand out from the crowd.” (Tweet this)

Eric Winquist, Founder and CEO of Jama Software:

“We had this opportunity with a company called SpaceEx, which has now been in the news a lot. The technical folks there wanted our solution. So we got a video camera and we spent a day and we made this very personal video where we spoke directly to the team and we said, “This is who we are, this is why you should work with us. We understand your problem and we’re going to do whatever it takes to solve it.” That actually made the difference. We won that deal and they became one of our best customers over the years. Another example is we had a prospect who mentioned she had been to Portland and she loved Stumptown Coffee, so we immediately ran out and grabbed a pound of coffee, put it with some mugs and a handwritten note and sent it to her. And we won that deal. These little things we were doing, they took a while—the video took a day to create, it took a few hours to run to Stumptown—but it’s what helped us get our first couple of deals.”

Learn more about Eric’s entrepreneurial journey.


Matt Morse, Chief Campaigner at CrowdLeverImprove your business from the customer’s perspective, not your own dreaming perspective of how great your company is.” (Tweet this)

Matt Morse, Chief Campaigner at CrowdLever.com:

“At CrowdLever.com, our view is that the first customers are invaluable and worth at least 10x future customers. Treat your first customers exceedingly well so that you can get your second customer, get a recommendation, and get some data points so that you can point your company in the right direction. Seriously consider giving away your product for free or deeply discounted to your first customers. You can rationalize it this way: Without a sale you are the only one who thinks your product is worth paying for. If your first sale was worth, say $100, would you spend $100 on marketing to gain ten new customers? Yes you would! So why not do a great job with your first customer and leverage your experience/transaction/relationship into ten more customers? In my experience, businesses that think of themselves from their own perspective, and not from their customers’ perspective, don’t last very long. Without any customers or sales, you’ll have plenty of free time on your hands to think up your next great business idea!”


Get away from the features and benefits. What value are you offering your consumer?” (Tweet this)

Anna Martens, Former Director of Innovation at FreeRangePDX:

“Black Diamond is a hardcore company dedicated to mountaineers, climbers, and skiers. That’s their mission—to create gear to make sure you’re safe on the mountain and you have an excellent adventure. One day we’re working on a headlamp and one of my engineers comes running up to me and says, “Anna, Anna I figured out how to get eight light settings on this lamp for the price of the two you wanted.” At first I said, “Eight settings for the price of two, that’s awesome, let’s do it!” Then I had to stop and say, “Eight, who the heck wants eight different light settings?” That means you have to toggle through everything while you’re freezing cold and you have gloves on. No, no no! It’s not about number of features, it’s about our promise to this climber or skier that this headlamp has exactly what you need and nothing more.”

Learn more about Anna’s entrepreneurial journey.

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