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Growing A Startup: Finding Your First Customers

Posted by Jessica Mah to Business Advice

Blue mail box illustrates Q&A on growing your startup

This is the first of hopefully many reader mailbag posts to come. For the past few years, I've been receiving reader questions on growing a startup through my personal blog, but haven't typically published them for others to read. If you have any question about how to grow a startup, just send it my way at ceo@indinero.com and I'll answer them on the blog.

"I was reading Forbes (polish issue - January 2011) and found few words about you in article. My question is, how to gain these first people/audience to your service/website? In your case it is even harder because we are talking about small businesses."

- Jack from Poland

The first customers are hardest to find, so we just asked our friends to sign up. I remember the day we released our alpha product: I just knocked on the doors of a few of my entrepreneur-buddies and asked them to become our first users. Quantity of signups didn't matter back then, because I was most interested in getting feedback to improve the service.

Growing a Startup: Year 1

Fast forward a year later to our public launch in June 2011: We launched on a few technology blogs (TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat, WebWorkerDaily, ReadWriteWeb, etc...) just by sending reporters a few paragraphs describing our company. I only knew the Mashable writer, and I got in touch with the other writers via a cold email.

The key to getting a response was giving each reporter a unique angle to write about. Some choose to write about us as a "fresh Y Combinator" startup, others choose to talk about the young age of the founding team. Our favorite reporters talk about how our startup is solving an important problem that hasn't yet been tackled.

Continued Startup Growth

After our successful launch on July 2nd, marketing has been straightforward: We continue to do PR every week, customers refer more customers to us, and our user base is steadily increasing. For example, in December 2010, Inc Magazine did a feature about the company. Within two weeks, we were getting calls from other national publications that we'll be featured in come February. Press begets more press, and it's the cheapest method of targeted advertising!
We've been written up by most publications we've targeted, and we've been tracking the effectiveness of each. For example, we found that CNN Money 10X more effective in sending us qualified traffic VS other well-known technology blogs, so we're more likely to give them an exclusive feature.
Later-stage marketing is a whole new game that we haven't yet pursued at inDinero. For now, we're pretty focused on making our product better. I'm convinced that by just doing that, we'll get more of our users telling their friends about our service.

Knowing accounting basics is key for any entrepreneur. Grow your startup and your financial savvy with our Accounting ABCs!

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About the author
“Jessica

Jessica Mah

As Product Architect and CEO, Jessica loves helping entrepreneurs run better businesses. She studied Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley and has been running businesses since she was 13. Jessica has been featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and Inc’s 30 Under 30 lists.

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