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Simple Ways to Find Potential Customers Online (lukethomas.com)
116 points by lukethomas 1665 days ago | hide | past | web | 18 comments | favorite

"Customer Development [...] it's tough to get started" True!

A few helpful tips, such as how to speak the vocabulary of your customers, and monitor places they hang out at (author mentions Facebook, Twitter, but you could throw in specific forums, anywhere where your customers discuss and share advice, linkedin groups etc).

I think getting introductions is key too. Start with your friends/linked in contacts and ask them if they can refer to some people in <industry>. Then ask these people if they can refer other people too.

Otherwise, it's kind of difficult to cold call or cold email these people and have them agree to meet. I tried cold calling for a software product of mine (filesharing for small companies, in France) and it was quite difficult, especially considering I don't have a sales background. When you say "Mr X told me you could be interested" you get an almost-guaranteed meet.

Another way to do it if you picked an audience who's internet-savvy is to analyze conversations you find in forums, and find evidence of problems people have (that's the approach that Amy Hoy recommends in her online class 30x500), and create educational content for them: ebooks, screenscasts, podcasts, blog posts etc. as far as I understand, it's not exactly customer development though, as it doesn't get you in face of customers. Just a different approach to find potential customers :-)

Good advice - I wrote the article from the perspective of ways to reach out quickly. The inbound approach works, however it definitely takes time.

Some of the advice in here is the usual solid advice, but that leads credence to his ideas and tools that I hadn't heard of or used before. Nice post.

This doesn't have to just be about finding potential customers. If you've built an open source project that solves a problem, you can use similar ideas to find people with that problem and show them what you've built.

Surprisingly a lot of specific and useful information. Thanks for the share.

Once you've found potential customer's what is the best way form the message (whether by phone or email) for the initial direct contact? I've found it can be difficult to sound genuine and not spammy.

I'm planning to reach out to potential customers to test an idea and this is really helpful.

Thanks a lot!

Glad to hear it. Have fun!

Nailed it.

I'd add in "Use Rapportive Gmail plugin to determine email address of relevant contacts"

don't you have their email already if you got them in gmail?

Say you're looking for the email of James Smith, and you think it's one of jsmith@gmail.com, james.smith@gmail.com, jamesmith@gmail.com.

If you type all these when composing an email, one of them will pull up a bunch of their social networks attached to that email, while the others will do nothing. That's how you can quickly figure out someone's email by guessing + Rapportive.

Add LinkedIn InMail, I obtained more than 20% of conversions there.

If your recipients' experience with InMail is anything like mine, the other 80% are now your enemies. Might be an okay trade-off, depending on where you're coming from, I guess.

Not in my case. Can you explain a bit more why they are your enemies now? in my case the campaigns were very focused to people that, I think, valued our offerings.

InMail definitely makes life easier. I typically will engage (answer questions, be as helpful as possible) in conversation in a specific group, and then reach out to individuals who participated in the conversation.

My experience with groups was bad a few years ago, it seemed that nobody indeed was listening. I remember posting something to a hundred of thousands members Marketing group and nobody clicked... it would be interesting to hear your experiences.

LinkedIn groups (especially large ones) have the potential to be very spammy. I like finding small groups, where there's an opportunity to be of value. Answer questions, and develop relationships.


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