Scaling From Idea To Your First 50 Customers, Interview With Franco Caporale, SaaSMQL

Caporale provides sage advice on how tech startups should acquire their first few customers using a focused approach.

PEOPLE

TAKEAWAYS

  1. Focus on niche first; e.g. I want to help a certain group of people.
  2. Find the first customer — this will be the hardest part. Sell to them; do whatever it takes (e.g. free or heavy discount in exchange for a case study). Then, find the second one, another case study…repeat and scale. 
  3. Map your lead flow, marketing and sales flow. Have a sales process on how to close leads.
  4. Find one or two good channels to match your business and then scale. You’ll have to invest in customer acquisition. Set a budget and goals. In the beginning, it might be bad till you can optimize.
  5. Be creative on the channel; don’t go where everyone else is going. You can also end up spending more money due to the competition.

TIMELINE

  • 01:12 – Overview of SaaSMQL: We help SaaS companies scale their pipeline/demand generation, including account based integrated marketing.
  • 02:25 – What is your typical client? Startups looking to scale, typically series A-E companies, from 10 to 300, employees. Focus budget of marketing on targeted accounts using workflows and campaigns.
  • 03:25 – How early/late stage are your customers typically in? We work from later stage startups (e.g. ones with many customers but looking to scale) to very early stage startups (e.g. 5-8 customers, look for patterns in these, define unique value proposition). Very early stage startups tend to broadcast a very broad message (i.e. no product-market fit yet).
  • 05:12 – Can you share any stories or lessons learned about getting first customers? Try to sell to the first customer before even starting your startup, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time and money or have to pivot multiple times, later. Founders start with the idea/technology and then try to figure out who to sell it to, instead of starting with the audience. Figure out what’s a must have versus nice to have. Interview a lot of customers.
  • 09:15 – Do you follow any methodology or process to discover what a startup needs? We are very targeted since we work with startups that already have a product-market fit and are trying to scale. Customer acquisition costs money, so we help them create a funnel that works (e.g. spend $1 to make $3) and a system.
  • 11:20 – What are some of the challenges you run into? The hardest is the first customer, through referral, discount, etc. Great case study from the first few customers. Then, start selling your case studies; they have to be good and exciting. Then, begin marketing your case studies. Keep adding more case studies. 
  • 13:00 – Repeatable Patterns – Come up with a hypothesis of the niche, find the solution and then work on how you’ll deliver the solution (it’ll change over time). Deliver on one or two things very well. Find one (maybe two) channel that works very well for you. Market your case studies. Start engaging them and create a funnel (e.g. lead, accounts), convert them and create a mapping system (e.g. database of prospects, marketing to sales workflow, sales process) — map the systems very early.
  • 14:45 – What techniques/channels do you use for you clients (e.g. inbound marketing, direct marketing)? We do enterprise marketing…account based marketing, start with target accounts to see how we can engage them, instead of starting with inbound marketing and converting them to leads. This works for high ticket products. We use LinkedIn digital ads, email campaigns but also integrated with things like sending gift boxes by mail. For more volume and transactional (small) sales, you can use inbound marketing. Marketing campaigns/tactics should match your business model.
  • 17:30 – Takeaways (see above)
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