December 21, 2017, by Johnathan Grzybowski
How to get your first 100 customers
Our journey to our first 100 customers is never pretty. It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes conversations that are sometimes difficult to have with cofounders and even team members. But when everything is said and done, we all know that we are moving to progress our company forward. We wanted to take this opportunity to go into as much detail to show you exactly how we we achieved our first milestone and give you clear examples, case studies, and real stories to show you how to get your first 100 customers.
My entire life, I’ve been a rogue risk taker. I came from nothing. I grew up in a town in Northeast Philadelphia called Juniata Park. And yes, we did have a park. (it wasn’t anything great, but we do have a cool golf course) I grew up in a relatively religious household. We went to church every Sunday and I even graduated from a catholic grade school. My family consists of 6. Two brothers, a handicapped uncle, and two working class parents.
Growing up, my family was pretty strict. My parents demanded good grades, strict outside time curfews, trendy clothing restrictions, and the constant push of . My parents were the least bit entrepreneurial. In fact, no one in my entire family was an entrepreneur, but we all had one thing in common. An incredible display of work ethic. My dad is a truck driver for 25+ years, my mom works in the school district, and I personally have had a job since the age of 15.
My first entrepreneurial journey was your typical story of shoveling snow and mowing lawns. When I eventually moved from my rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to Cherry Hill, NJ is when I took things more seriously and to a whole other level. My first business, Grzyly Services grew to about fifty lawns and my first employees were my brother and best friend.
We made a ton of money for a 15 year old and it was all spent on Wendy’s junior bacon cheese burgers. Then my mom came up to me one day as was like, you need to make your resume better and go get a real job. At first I was confused, because I was making a ton of money, why do I even need a job? But then, I worked for Apple and couldn’t be more proud of that experience. It’s what defined me as a business professional.
I worked for Apple at 18 and later left at the age of 24. I left the greatest/most profitable company in the world because I knew I was meant for something much greater than helping people with technology. There was a point and time where I became incredibly sad and lonely because I hated what I was doing. Because of that lonely time in my life, I lost friends, lost touch with family, and became a nasty person to be around. I later put my 2 weeks in with no backup plan, got fired that same day and was off on my own as an entrepreneur.
Once I quit my job at Apple, myself and a few others started a high end design agency called Waterfront Media. We worked with incredible companies that were listed as Fortune 500 companies, Inc. 5000, universities, and even VC backed startups. Like any other business there were ups and downs during our five years.
In April of 2017, my now cofounder and I took a trip to Vietnam. At the time, he was the founder of an online business publication in our city called Owner Magazine. The original idea for the concept was initially created in the country, we even vlogged about our experience.
It wasn’t until myself and Khai Tran were interviewed by a publication and were asked the following questions:
1. How can you ensure that the tech companies will hire in the city?
2. Are you hiring in the city
We did not have an adequate answer for both. In fact, the answer to this question was no. We knew this was a problem and had to find a way to fix this issue. The very next day, Penji was launched.
Here is a recap and glossary as to how we achieved our first 100 customers at Penji.
PS. If you’re not into reading articles, that’s cool. You don’t have to. We did the dirty work for you with a little recap.
Before we get to what you really want, we need to lay the foundation. Penji is a dependable on-demand design service that helps marketing teams receive unlimited graphic design, unlimited revisions, all at one flat monthly rate. In short, agencies hire us to work on their brand and their business. We act ad their outsourced design team that takes on any unwanted or overbearing projects that will aide their existing design team.
To grow a company to your first 100 customers and beyond, you need to start with the fundamentals. Setting goals within your organization and yourself is a great start. When we originally started our company, we would come into work and had absolutely no effing idea what we were doing. For the best half of two years, we did what we needed to do to survive. We had no structure or no key performance indicators. We were a small group of people that came into an expensive set of four walls and did work.
Thinking back, I have absolutely no idea what kind of work we were even doing in the beginning, but regardless, we continued to grow. We did however grow to a point where we had several team members and needed to find a way to get everyone on board with our vision. It was time to officially grow up. We had six people in the office at the time and knew we needed a systematic approach to our daily schedules.
So, we decided to expand our initial use of Trello. We went back and forth using multiple platforms, Wunderlist, Trello, Google Sheets, and Asana. But no matter what, we always went back to Trello. From what I know, we use Trello much differently than most. We not only used it for development projects, but we crafted an entire platform to cater our goal setting initiatives.
We understood early on that if we wanted to achieve 100 customers, things had to change and how we acted was just the beginning.
One think worth mentioning is that in addition to your daily goals, managers also have the opportunity to add a weekly goal. This weekly goal MUST be completed or your entire week would be worth 0. The weekly goal list is our way of saying that these goals are most important.
DISCLAIMER: We know that this may not work for everyone. We are aware of the non traditional approach, HOWEVER, this has worked incredibly well. You need to find out what works best for you and find a way to make it work for you.
We set the tone and understand the basics, now it’s time to move onto the fun managerial stuff. Maintaining accountability is by far one of the hardest things to do in business. Especially with a team. At the writing of this blog, December 21, 2017, we have twenty-one team members and growing. Holding each and every person accountable is important, but it’s difficult to organize it.
When you hire people, you need to make sure they are given clear tasks and a clear direction but the tasks need to be obtainable.
In the beginning of the week, a manager goes into that person’s task list and submits weekly goals. (If it’s in the beginning of the month, they are given monthly goals) At the end of the week, the managerial staff asks the team if they have or have not completed the tasks. If they did, awesome! Golden star for the week, but if they did not. The managers have a conversation with that person, asking them questions like:
We all have a network or followers, some of our networks are larger than others, but it’s safe to say, we all have people that we can go to, to ask for things. Collectively, between all of our social media platforms, we have a reach of about 10,000 plus people. (This is the combination of my LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends, Instagram followers, and more. PS. learn how I was able to engage with my Linkedin network using native video.)
As much as you may not want to admit it, your first 100 customers are directly in front of. It’s up to you to get your network to do exactly what it is that you want.
If you’re like me, I have exhausted my network far too many times.
What do I mean by exhausting my network? Well, in the beginning of my business career, I would go up to people and simply ask them for help. But what I gathered after doing this for several years, the person will do it. They will help you, but it might not be as warm of a lead that you may want it to be. You might be able to obtain your first 100 customers, but they may not be the customers you need or even want.
As mentioned before, we were an agency for five years and 100% of out entire referral base was based off of handshakes and coffee. We had to meet our clients in person because our ticket items were so large, but now, going from in person meetings to strictly online sales, it was a huge learning curve.
In order break this barrier and reeducate our network we did three things that were essential to obtaining our first 100 customers:
When we created a survey, we initially asked our current customers, social media friends, and email list. From the few asks that we sent, we received over 250 responses. Which acted as a base for us to gauge who was interested and specific features they wanted us to add onto our existing platform. Here are a few of the prospecting scripts that we used to get in front of our audience:
Subject 1: Helping a startup in Camden
Subject 2: We are mailing you a mastery gift!
We are currently building a startup called Penji in Camden. The goal is to become your dependable design service all at a flat monthly cost. Our core mission is to provide jobs and opportunities for students throughout the great city of Camden.
As a token of appreciation for your time, we will mail you a cool Mystery Gift after you complete a quick questionnaire. LINK GOES HERE
A few minutes of your time is all it takes to help build a community conscious company and better the lives of students and residents in Camden.
Thank you for your time, and we hope you have a wonderful weekend!
ANOTHER LINK TO THE SURVEY GOES HERE
There is something to be said about creating a community of people that genuinely care about what you do and your initiatives. Being that we are located in the city, we partnered with an economic development organization here in Camden called Waterfront Ventures. They spear head a lot of the initiatives in the city and their goal is to bring 10o tech startups into the city of Camden.
Through our partnership, it allowed us an exponential reach that got us in front of movers and shakers. As we developed and grew our relationships, we were able to solidify what we call “champions” that advocated for us and made introductions to individuals they knew would be interested in our service.
As mentioned, I personally have a rounded reach of around 10,000 people on my personal social platforms. I also mentioned that I have exhausted my friends list. (exhausted isn’t even a strong enough word, I DESTROYED my network)
So, how do I get them to “like” me again and become interested in what I am doing/trying to sell?
Well, I got inspiration from a fellow Linkedin professional named Goldie Chan. She created this awesome campaign where she posted a video a day for over 100 days. I’m personally no where near this, however, I am about to reach my 30th consecutive day of posting a video. With each video that I post, I tag people that I think would be interested in partaking in the comments or should notice my content.
I have absolutely no shame in tagging random people, and I did exactly that. By me tagging and asking questions, it did two things:
Because of my consistency of content and tagging, I received comments and interests in Penji from across the world. This opened a ton of new doors and opportunities for us to obtain our first 100 customers.
In order to understand our customers we needed to understand:
We started researching our customer base, once we had an understanding of who our competitors were and where we wanted to be in the market. Our competitors were targeting a completely different demographic than us, used different language to sell, and overall do not have the same features that we do. Which to us is a huge advantage.
So before we ever took on a single customer, we tried to understand the customer more. We created ads on social media and Google and shipped them out. The problem was that flopped miserably. Luckily for us in the beginning, we only lost a few thousands bucks, but it was a lesson learned for sure.
Needless to say, the original customer profile was a dude, so then we create another profile once we had our first 50 customers. We teetered between 40-60 customers for some time, but we looked at our overall customer based. We asked ourselves:
Once we had that down, we created a customer profile that looked like this:
Description of Company:
A marketing agency that delivers content to his clients on a monthly basis. They do not typically market themselves online (using ads), however, they do rely on personal relationships and referrals. They typically make tongue and cheek language and use social media a lot to market their message.
Number of Employees: 5-40 employees
Revenue: 250,000 – 10,000,000
Job Title: Founder, Owner, CEO, CMO, Executive Director, President, Cofounder
Interests: marketing, motivation, entrepreneurship, business, social media marketing, growth hacking
Social Network Most Frequently Used:
Desktop Facebook, Email, both mobile and desktop Linkedin
People They Follow or Watch on YouTube: Moz, Google web masters, major publications,
What’s Most Important: Speed, Quality, and communication
Challenges/Pain Points: Finding sales and bringing additional value to his customers.
Description of Company:
Created a startup looking for a quick sprint and needs particular projects completed in order to complete their tasks. They may also want to hire Penji full time because they may not have the proper resources internally within their company.
Number of Employees: 2-10
Online 24/7, business, marketing, loves the word hustle
Social Network Most Frequently Used:
Mobile Facebook, Instagram, desktop Facebook, mobile Linkedin
People They Follow: Gary Vaynerchuk, Tai Lopez, Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Billy Gene Is Marketing, Social Media Examiner
What’s Most Important: Speed, Delivery
Challenges/Pain Points: Sales, Not having a scalable design delivery process
And now…the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The nuts and bolts. The meat and potatoes to how we were able to obtain our first 100 customers. We did this in four specific ways:
The key to a successful prospecting campaign is the amount of data you’re able to collect. This can be obtained in several ways:
For our SAAS business Penji, we went the cold email route. We felt that with our company culture and the price ticket that we have with our business, cold emails would work best. Although the cold email process didn’t work originally, I can say in full confidence that it took about 100,000 emails before we started seeing traction. It took a lot of trial and error and reformatting before we found something that actually converted. (This was the nuts and bolts of how we obtained our first 100 customers)
To gain traction, we started by sending 10,000 emails on a weekly basis to agencies. It took us a while to find these emails, but what worked well for us was that we hired a few data miners in the Philippines. These data miners were tasked to find 300 contacts every day. They had to submit all of the information in a Google Sheet that we used for each day that the employee worked. Scroll down more to find out the format of our Google Sheet.
Because I want to give you all of the tools to the kingdom, I want to give you each and every script that we have ever used in the beginning of Penji. Whatever you do, do not copy and paste. Make your own, but I hope these give you inspiration for your own scripts:
I’m NAME from COMPANY and we help PRODUCT OFFERING.
ASK A QUESTION?
If so, check out WEBSITE to learn more and if you are definitely interested, I will throw you a discount towards your first month.
Could you please refer me to the person in charge of TITLE OF PERSON NEEDED TO MAKE SALE?
We help PRODUCT OFFERING.
PRODUCT OFFERING. We’ve worked with companies like: NAME 3 COMPANIES.
WRITE A TWO SENTENCE PERSONAL STORY ABOUT YOUR COMPANY. Here is our’s: “5 Years ago, we were an agency and during the process, we created this tool we call Penji. We want to be your on demand design team that’s always online and always on time, no matter what time of day.”
If you’re interested, reply to this email or head to WEBSITE. But if you’re not, what can we do to earn your business?
We’ve sent these three emails to our prospecting list every Monday. We would then follow up with each and every person on that list throughout the course of the next week or so. And that leads us to our final stop.
Like most businesses, in the beginning of Penji, we didn’t have the capital to advertise. In fact, when we did advertise, we were never able to convert a sale. We used a strategic format within our Google Sheet that allowed us to keep track of our leads and kept track of who our first 100 customers were. Here is the layout of the current Google Sheet we still use today:
After the initial emails were sent every Monday, we would then go through each and every social media platform and found a way to “ping” them. We would mainly use Twitter and Instagram and engage with these companies and comment directly on their company profiles. We used social media as a form of a “touch.” That touch propelled users to do 1 of two things:
Once we are able for them to get on a call, the success rate of a sale was in upwards of 70%. Which is pretty solid. But if they didn’t want to get on a call and clicked on our website, they were tracked through cookies and advertised accordingly. Which leads me to my final point.
As mentioned before, our advertising strategy in the beginning was absolute trash. We wasted thousands of dollars and although it was a shame, it was an expensive lesson. We used the following techniques in advertising:
Out of all the advertising efforts, the ones that gave the best results were Keyword Marketing on Google, Instagram Stories, and Video Facebook Ads. Here are some examples of the ads we created:
If you were to look at any one piece of marketing material or article that has been written about us, then you know how important our city of Camden is to us. As a company we stand for three things:
We believe in our city and in turn, our city believes in us. If you know nothing about Camden, NJ. It’s been a city plagued by crime, but the future of Camden is so bright. Currently, there is two billion dollars in tax incentives going through the city. All of the organizations that have or are entering into the city, have a commitment to hiring local organizations to either hire or contract for work. If the larger organizations are doing such, we too want to make our mark by hiring within the city. There is an incredible talent pool here and we plan on using it for years to come.
This is the portion of the article where I am supposed to motivate you and give you words of encouragement. And I will do just that because damnit are you going to need it. If you want something great, you’re gonna have to work for it. More important than that, you’re gonna have to have patience. An F ton of patience.
You see, there will be times where something isn’t working. Ads won’t convert, you may have directed your customers to the wrong website (this really happened), you may get stuck doing busy work, but you need to commit yourself and your team to your company and to the process that you have created.
I hope that this acts as a guide for you and your company. If I can give one final recommendation, I’d like to say that you need to be yourself. You need to be your own company, have your own brand, and your own process. This is just a guide and should not act as a bible. What has worked for us, may not work well for you. But if there is one thing that you should do in order to obtain your first 100 customers, you must be consistent. You must rinse and repeat.
It may take 6 months, it may take a year, but build your company around a culture of sales.
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