How do you generate a pipeline of first customers in the super early stage of a product?

Hello All,
In an early startup, how do you generate a pipeline of first customers in the super early stage of a product? Besides very warm intros and direct networking, did you cold outreach? If yes, what worked best?


Depends on the product type, but it seems referral programs (e.g. incentivize quite well warm intros. (& it’s scalable)

Instead of giving $$ to Google/Facebook on paid advertising, you give it to early believers who turn into brand ambassadors. What say?


We’re using viral loops run to build a waitlist, and I just talk to people on it and ask them to refer friends! Very manual in the beginning.


To which people did you talk to ? :open_mouth:


@AhmadBashir, do you have a crisp label for the community that your target users are in? Sometimes you just have a behaviour profile, but sometimes it really is a known community you can label (eg classic car owners). If you do, then social seeding in communities that serve those groups is a good way. Social seeding is where you engage genuinely in conversation and integrate your solution as part of the response. Is an attempt to identify sites on the web that discuss certain topics. I’ve not done this yet, but what I’m thinking of doing is finding conversations within those sites that are relevant for me and then employing social seeding.


Thanks guys! @Nathan, We are solely B2B SMB and Midmarket but have tried a few growth strategies (Paid Ads, Clearbit, Outreaches via that worked quite well. Still asking my self though how to best identify how to approach the our first +50 customers the most effective way.


@Ahmad, I think the more crisply you can define the community that those people participate in, the better: how do they in their specific community share insights and discussions? The definition you have is extremely broad, and is useful to define TAM, and I’m exactly the same as you wanting to nail the product customer fit up to the first 50 people. I’m obsessing about finding the communities where they engage and share and ideas and discussions. For example for me the first tranche is likely podcast creators (as makes it easy to share highlights from a podcast with transcript to promote it) and later IT Consultants (because Knowcast allows you to take notes from podcasts hands-free while you’re on the go and share with team mates).


We did a ton of user interviews to identify customer pain points and help shape the product, and found our first customers this way. Towards the end of the call I described the product we’re prototyping and a lot of interviewees were interested in trying it out because it solved a problem they had.


@Karan, nice one. Similarly, I did some diary studies, which was getting people to not only be interviewed but actually be observed in the real world identifying pain points. As I’m looking at pain points with podcast note-taking, I paid people to go around recording video clips of themselves about to listen to podcasts. Where they were, “what am I listening to”, that kind of stuff. They then sent the little clips to WhatsApp. Absolutely some of those used have become early tester of my product and hopefully customers in future.
The other really useful thing about this, as an aside, is I have strong conviction about what precisely is the problem, the kind of people who have it, and when it happens in their lives, including how often. That really keeps me focused, avoiding distractions of other possible random ideas that haven’t been tested in a similar way.

BTW, Where did you source the people you interviewed?


I can’t help but add that interviews are “attitudinal signals”. That is, stories people tell about what they think they did, what they think they want to do, that kind of thing.
Fundamentally, the most reliable, less-filtered signal will be an answer to the question “what did you just do right now” vs “ try and remember what you might’ve done”. Case in point: one of my first interviews was with a user who said “your app will literally change my life”.
Exciting right? HOWEVER thus user was so poorly engaged in the subsequent diary study that I had to pull her from the study, and while she said she was still interested, she’s never engaged since. Exciting when people say nice things, but not as exciting as behavioural signals :slightly_smiling_face:


@Nathan, I believe someone has summarized your last point with the proverbial actions speak louder than words :slightly_smiling_face:.

…of which I completely agree. However, anecdotally I’d +1 @Karan, as user interviews have led directly to our largest customers (B2B mid market and enterprise, super early stage as well). In terms of sourcing… @Ahmad I have yet to experiment with ClearBit, but having spent a bit of time with paid advertising and Apollo sequencing, we’ve found our best performing acquisition channel to be prospecting + outreach via LinkedIn Sales Nav — viral coefficient of shared connections amongst similar customer profiles never hurts either

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@Nathan, I had success finding people to interview on subreddits related to to our product. I offered an amazon gift card in return though. Also platforms like could work.