Growth September 4, 2020

How I Got My First 10 Paying Customers - Without Spending Any Money On Marketing

Iiro @Iiro

Like all of us, we develop a lot of cool business ideas in our heads on a day-to-day basis. Personally I collect my ideas to a Notion table. Then I let the ideas sit there and once the "heat of the moment" has passed and if I still like them, I start executing.

Building these ideas into a functioning product is often time consuming and hard. Getting customers to actually pay money for them is REALLY difficult. Getting customers to LOVE your service is next to impossible.

Here's a story of how I got my first 10 paying customers and customers sending me thank you letters after my service was delivered. One of them even wrote a blog post as a kind gesture of customer satisfaction! With a direct quote: "Wow, you should ask more for your service!".

I started www.honestfeedback.co to build the best possible service to get honest landing page feedback.

There are forums like Indie Hackers and some Reddit channels where quality feedback can be gained, but it's almost always in a text format and usually only length wise only a sentence or two. Testing out, UI, UX, copywriting and the conversion requires quite a bit of knowledge as well..

We have all have built a lot of services and products. And we know: feedback is crucial for improvement. People also have a tendency to sugar-coat feedback or give constructive criticism instead of just being honest. This is due to our subconscious psychological need of wanting everyone we interact with to have a positive mood. I wanted to change this.

Now, how did I get those DAMN paying customers?!

Well this is exactly what I did.

I scoured through this list: https://www.notion.so/Where-to-post-your-project-bc6ce54240884770b2467c3b0f7c1624

My strategy was not to blast to every single forum with: "BUY MY SERVICE!". Rather, I took an opposite direction. I figured, only a highly curated request to a highly qualified audience would create initial conversions.

TIP NUMBER: 1. Quality over the quantity!

I opened a posting on YC forums. This posting was simple:

"Post Your Website -> I will give you HONEST landing page feedback - AMA

Hi YC People!

It's Friday, and I would like to help fellow builders, by giving you honest website feedback FOR FREE.

If you are interested post your website below!

If you would like comprehensive feedback on your website please check out my company: www.honestfeedback.co"

Only about 15 minutes after:

I got a an email to my personal gmail account from a person who had seen my service, and telling me he was interested. As there was no posts I think he felt uncomfortable to ask the question using a forum post?

I immediately replied to him and gave him the best possible feedback, I could craft highlighting all the problems he had on his customer journey hurting his conversion.

I was slightly nervous, this was still kind of a nerve-racking situation even though I offered my service for free that night.

This is what happened next:

The person who I had helped emailed me back. The message went like this:
"Wow, I am speechless, this is such an awesome help for me. I will write a post to the YC forums stating how happy I was with the service, and if you are okey, I will as well share your work to the others? Thank you so
much once again!".

Well after that positive review went on the forum. The requests started flooding in. I received over 60 requests to help different people out within 24 hours of the initial post. After that I had to call it, and start asking people to actually pay for my product.

TIP NUMBER: 2. Do some free work in exchange for positive public reviews and recommendations!

Well that would have been fine, except I got an email from my client stating my Stripe checkout wasn't working! I had wrong format on my redirect page and my customers were actually not able to pay!
After I fixed it, I sent him a message thanking him and asking if he could try to pay again? That was such a humiliating feeling, but somehow he paid! First customer in the bag!

TIP NUMBER: 3. Make sure your payment gateway works!

I spent an insane amount of effort trying to make sure my service was the best feedback ever. I returned my work to the customer, again, nervous as hell. What happened next was unbelievable.

My client sends me an email: "Wow thank you, you should ask more for your service! I would definitely use this service again for my other websites. I will as well post a review to make sure others know how good your service is!".
Again this testimonial boosted my business, and I was able to gain the next two customers through this testimonial on a public forum.

As I had some early success with the forum posts. I started repeating my strategy, but learned from my mistakes. This time I asked people to "signup on my landing page and post a comment and I will review their website".

TIP NUMBER: 4. Collect those emails and send personal messages!

This allowed me to actually start collecting email addresses, which ignited my next strategy: customer retention.

After a person signed up, but did not purchase, my next step was to give them a bite, a seriously valuable, yet a fast service over the email, ending with a request for the customer to order the full service. This worked miracles! I actually started to gain customers and getting positive reviews!
This way I was able to reach first 10 customers. My pricing point for my service is low which helped, but I truly believe that if you repeat these steps, you can definitely get the first 10 paying customers in almost any vertical.

I hope this helps and if you are wondering how to improve your client acquisition checkout my service, sign up and I'll be happy to give you pointers!

  1. 3

    This is an awesome service that you are supplying. Clean site and fair price.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot!

  2. 2

    That's an awesome story, thanks for sharing. If I were creating an onboarding tool, I'd offer feedback on people's onboarding journeys. I've got a lot of CRO experience built up and could offer a tonne of advice on people's forms, so just might try this.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Yeah sounds like that could be a great use case, definitely worth giving it a try!

  3. 2

    Nice work Liro.

    Something I noticed, particularly on the "Why ask for feedback" page, is that you have quite a few typos on it ("undestand", "limitions", "Inlcudes", "Incase") . I'm counting 4 after spending 2 mins on the page. This might deter some people or at least distract from the value you're offering, so perhaps something to check.

    I think you're providing some really quality feedback which is valuable to people. Consider charging more than $50 - I think it might be hard for you to build a business from it, and the value you're delivering is so much greater than the $50.

    1. 1

      Hi, yeah I definitely have to get it proof read! I changed my on boarding pipeline just a bit this week, so that set page really needs tuning out regardless. I am running some A/B tests on it at the moment. Next step is to hire a person from Upwork to proofread everything out. 🤙
      Good looking out! Thanks!

  4. 2

    Motivation.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot! :)

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. 1

      No problem, thank you! :)

  6. 2

    You are smashing it. Great job 🙌

    What experiences lead you to such deep insight about building a great landing page?

    1. 1

      Perhaps just building something like 100 or so landing pages over the years and measuring conversions, seeing what worked and what didn't has influenced my thinking the most.

      There's also a lot of free resources which have influenced my thinking. Some UX/UI designers on Dribbble do really ground breaking work. As well, on YouTube there's really great channels, bigger ones like Flux and The Futur are awesome, but there's also smaller ones which are amazing.

      I also try to have more of a general point of view. I am interested in all of the technical aspects of digital services like writing the code, UI and UX, but also the business logic: the copywriting, customer acquisition and conversions. I also enjoy the process of thinking how to improve each aspect and then implementing the ideas.

      In future, if I am able to prove a large enough demand for the service, I hope to be able to find specialists in all of the sectors mentioned and have a task force of superstars to help our potential clients. Currently though every customer has been really happy, which is my primary metric of success.

  7. 2

    Good strategy, thanks for sharing!
    You should check the notion link.

    1. 2

      Thanks, I fixed it now! Good looking out! 🙂

  8. 2

    Thank you for your insight!

    1. 1

      No problem! I hope it gives inspiration and ideas 🙂👍

  9. 1

    very helpful ,
    thanks !

  10. 1

    Great job but everything you did IS Marketing :). So don't say "without marketing".

    1. 2

      Apologies, it definitely was not my intention to mislead! I thought the "without spending any money" was the key point there. Practically, my intention was to show my path to initial customer acquisition without building major content library or spending money on Google and Facebook ads. ✌️🙂

      1. 1

        No worries. What you are doing is very impressive. All the best!!