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How to get your first 100 customers

“The sales won’t roll in just because you’ve built the website or opened your virtual doors, you need to do some legwork to get customer attention”, says payments expert, PayGate.

In the late 1980s, the movie Field of Dreams told businesses everywhere a disastrous lie. “If you build it, they will come.” While the sentiment was great, the reality is that your business is not a single baseball diamond in a field of corn – it is one of many brilliant ideas looking to catch the customer’s attention. One of the biggest mistakes many start-ups make is sitting back and waiting for the sales to roll in after they’ve worked incredibly hard on their launch.

Building a business is hard work, and the effort you’ve put into creating your brand, products and website was worth every moment. But now you need to take the next step, towards your customers, to catch people’s attention, inspire engagement and develop trust. This is how…

10 ways to get the customer’s attention

There are several methods you can use to encourage customers to find your store and start shopping. While some will require extra investment, others are either free or fairly affordable and only require time, effort and commitment to ensure success. Here are some of the steps you can take to catch those first 100 customers, keep their attention, and then catch 100 more:

1. Network

Networking remains one of the most powerful tools in the business arsenal today. Start with your own network of family and friends, tell them about your new venture, and then ask them to spread the news. You’d be amazed at how many sales can come from these connections, and how quickly the news can spread.

2. Be social

Do research into the social media platforms that your chosen customers are most likely to favour and then set up business profiles. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter are powerful resources that can help you build your business slowly through intelligent messaging and careful content curation. Join groups that suit your niche and then slowly start contributing to the conversation and promoting your brand – if the page allows it. For example, if you sell dog toys, look for groups that focus on pets. Then use paid-for advertising and competitions to enhance your exposure further down the line.

3. Start a blog

Blogging does more than share your views and build engagement, it also improves your organic search ranking. When consumers are looking for certain products on a search engine, you will have a better chance of being found if you have regular blogs on key topics with the right keywords. Focus on the latest trends, new applications, tips and tricks, and more that are interesting to your readers and will give people a reason to visit your site, even if they weren’t planning to buy anything.

4. Create a newsletter

Email marketing is an excellent digital tactic that not only drives customer acquisition and retention, but makes them feel as if they are part of a community. As your list of newsletter subscribers grows, you will find it easier to generate sales through discounts, specials and links to products or your blogs. To build this newsletter list, you need to encourage people to subscribe through your website. Offer them discounts, give them rewards, and create an ecosystem that makes them feel that, by joining your newsletter, they are part of something special and important.

5. Create a launch special

Create a discount code that’s only eligible for your launch period and promote it across all your social media platforms. This increases the chance that you will get people’s attention and make a sale. You can do anything from offering them a free item, to saving them a percentage on the sale. You can also use your newsletter to run regular competitions that will get your name out there and your customers excited.

6. Build strategic partnerships

Collaborating with other people can really help you leverage one another’s networks to build business and generate sales. Consider working with brands that are either like-minded or not-competitive and that already attract the kind of people you’d like to see come to your business. You can then work with these partners to run shared competitions and offers, to send sample products, or to advertise on their mailing lists.

7. Make payments simple, mobile and efficient

Nothing chases people away faster than a bad payment process. They’ll get second thoughts, give up and go somewhere else. Don’t lose shoppers in the check-out process, especially not today when you have access to so many solutions that will help you make everybody’s life a lot safer and easier. Optimise your checkout process by removing unnecessary steps, especially on a mobile device, and make purchase completion as simple as a few clicks. Also don’t ask for more details than is absolutely necessary – their billing information and shipping info alone is fine.

8. Engage in digital marketing

This doesn’t have to be an expensive investment, you need only a few hundred Rands every month to spend on paid-for advertising to your target market. This can help your brand get noticed on the search engines which is very helpful when you’re starting out. Work out your budget, target your traffic with clickable, text-based ads that appear in specific search results – Google Ads can help you rank for certain keywords and phrases – and your customers will see you when they’re looking for what you sell.

9. Reach out to influencers

It’s easy to dismiss influencers as people who simply live on social media for attention, but they can actually be powerful tools in your arsenal. You don’t need to aim for the big guns, either. Focus on niche, micro influencers who talk directly to your target market and who can use your products, review them honestly, and talk about them with their audience. You can pay for them to use your product, or you can work with them as partners, it will depend on the influencer and the size of their following. Influencer platforms in South Africa include Webfluential, Continuon, and newcomer, Humanz .

10. Go offline

No, this doesn’t mean taking all your hard work off the internet and into the streets. It means that you shouldn’t discount the value of establishing real connections with real people. Networking at relevant events, spending time talking to the people who would be your customers, exploring other sales options through brick and mortar partnerships – all these offline options can add immense value to your business. For example, a pet supplies shop could find partnering with a local shelter and opening a pop-up shop there on Saturdays to be very lucrative.


Every business starts with zero customers in the beginning – yes, even Amazon. Getting the first 10 or 100 customers is often the hardest. But don’t feel overwhelmed by the hard work that lies ahead, rather be inspired by how it will help you to learn more about your customers, your market, and your business.

Once you have the first 100 customers, you’re on your way to success, this is just the hard bit at the start. Explore, try different methods, fail, try again – adopt a strategy that works for your business and keep on tweaking it as your business grows.

DPO PayGate is a proud Partner of the NSBC.

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