Helping Entreprenuers Find Their First Customers

Is there anyone in business who doesn’t remember his or her first customer?

First customers are special and unique. They are critically important. And, they are really hard to find, difficult to convince, and challenging to service—not because first customers are inherently tough folks, but because the entire “first customer” experience is such a learning curve for every new company.

First customers are the critical milestone to every startup.

  • Validation – First customers prove your market and your solution. They validate you and your team as people worthy of doing business with.
“Big companies are risk averse. But they are willing to take a risk on your startup if the problem you solve is big enough.”
Andy George
Co-founder MentorcliQ
  • Improvement – Early customers make startups do everything better. They teach you things that you will never learn in labs or with prototypes—especially when it comes to satisfying and delighting the people who are buying from you. First customers will challenge you because solving their problem is as important to their business as it is to yours.
  • Revenue and references – First customers help pay the bills. When the relationship is good, there’s nothing like a first customer to give other potential customers the confidence to believe that your startup can do what you say you can.

At Rev1, helping entrepreneurs find and sign up first customers is a top priority. Our scalable approach focuses on customer success in our own backyard.

And that’s where our network of decision-makers, influencers, and executives in Central Ohio can be a huge help.

It’s easy as easy as 1,2,3 to help speed a startup’s introduction to potential customers.

Here’s how the process works.

  1. Rev1 works with our portfolio companies to narrow their focus to the market segments that they can tackle in their company’s first 36 months.
  2. The portfolio company creates a crisp one-page overview of the company, its solution and why that solution matters to a potential customer. The company also provides information about target market segments, current customer base (pilot, beta, or revenue customers) and a list of regional companies that are likely to have the problem the startup is out to solve.
  3. The “ask” of our mentors and vetted service providers is to leverage their contacts and networks to provide “warm introductions” between a portfolio company and the appropriate individual(s) at regional companies in the startup’s target market segment.

Since inception, our process has produced 86 vetted and qualified leads and discover meetings for our portfolio companies.

Clarivoy, one of our portfolio companies, is currently focusing on the Great Lakes’ region’s automotive market. Clarivoy helps automobile companies prioritize what they spend on advertising by tying buyer behavior to TV advertising.

Clarivoy’s value proposition gets attention and results.

Germain Motor Company owns 14 dealerships in Central Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. One of their biggest challenges was linking offline advertising with Germain website traffic. More than 80 percent of all auto buyers visit a dealer’s web site before they visit the actual dealership; 53 percent of those say they were influenced to do so by television commercials.

Germain used Clarivoy’s TV Analytics platform to analyze which elements of their TV schedules were the most efficient and effective. The result: With insights from Clarivoy’s analytics, Germain is able to make data-driven decisions for their media buys that could product a 2X decrease their cost per website visitor.

Andy Mohr Automotive Group is the largest volume auto dealership group in Indiana. Lisa Masariu-McCoy the Director of Marketing, wanted to reallocate her marketing spend without negatively impacting sales. Specifically, she wanted to uncover whether broadcast or cable advertising was more effective at driving response and subsequent sales.

After 3 months, Clarivoy’s platform revealed that the often-expensive broadcast programming wasn’t necessarily the most cost-effective means to create the online engagement. Andy Mohr was able to decrease the cost per website visitor by 62 percent.

200 mentors and vetted service providers with 500 connections each add up to >100,000 people who could potentially help Central Ohio’s entrepreneurs

That’s an ocean of opportunity, but this isn’t a fishing expedition. We do the front-end vetting to match startups with potential customers who are just as committed and engaged in getting problems solved as are portfolio companies are in providing solutions.

So, the next time you see a dollar bill, or a five, or a twenty taped to a cash register in a retail store or pinned to the wall in a restaurant, be reminded of how all important first customers are.

If you haven’t already done so, contact me to talk about how you can help improve the odds of success for an outstanding Columbus-based startup by simply making a phone call or two that will speeding up their connections with potential local customers.

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Who was your first customer? The teacher who bought your first box of Girl Scout cookies. Or the neighbors who hired you to cut their grass. In my case, it was Dr. Gary Smith, the first golfer I ever caddied for. In that summer before my seventh grade year, the bag was almost as heavy as me. I knew a little about golf and even less about caddying. Dr. Smith guided me and gave me pointers along the way—where to stand and when to shut up. I didn’t save that first $20 bill or tack it to a cash register; I probably spent it on root beer and Cheetos. But I’ve never forgotten Dr. Smith or the lessons of that round.