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Any marketing suggestions for finding first customers?

My startup, miletrackgps.com, launched an IoT product in September, 2014. My initial business/marketing plan was that through a partnership with Verizon, their business service reps would be trained on our product and bring us leads from the pool of existing Verizon customers. We've trained a good number of them on our product, but so far, they've brought us 3 leads with only one of them being decent.

In February, I realized that we couldn't rely solely on Verizon for leads. As my first business experiment, I hired an appointment setting company to do a pilot program for us to find leads for an online webinar. We're half-way through the month and I'm again concerned that we only have one webinar scheduled. I've currently instructed them to target home healthcare, retail auditing, and insurance claims companies given that those company types usually have large teams of employees who drive their own vehicles and are reimbursed for mileage.

So far, we've been able to sell around 15 devices to individuals or really small companies, but haven't found any larger deals. These were all leads I hunted myself or people who just happened upon the website.

What suggestions do you have for other approaches to find companies interested in doing business with a startup? We're currently a bootstrapped company, and I still work my day-job doing software development consulting, so lower cost and time-commitment options are preferred.

Thanks in advance!

25 Replies

Dennis Kayser
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Dennis Kayser Entrepreneur
Co-founder & CEO Forecast.it - Intelligent PPM
Good question. We're on the same page on this, so I'm just going to follow :)
Bart Burggraaf
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Bart Burggraaf Entrepreneur
Managing Director & Partner at MediaGroup London
some random thoughts quickly written;

I would suggest you look into advertising instead of sales/partnerships. Since this is a well defined audience, you should be able to find publishers that have similar audiences and advertise on them. The lowest risk / cost possibility is advertising using Google Adwords on relevant terms. With adwords you will find audiences that are already looking for such a solution, so your sales process should be easier.

As for larger deals; I think there really is no substitute for calling management at those companies yourself - appointment setting companies are rarely able to effectively sell larger ticket items (remember you are not looking for one or two items sold).

Lastly, did you consider working with distributors?
Andrew Westberg
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Andrew Westberg Entrepreneur
Nike+ Running App Android Developer at Nike
@BartBurgraff Thank you for your suggestions. I've considered distributors, but many want to see some higher sales numbers before making any commitments. I'd be open to continuing to reach out to them if you had any particular ones in mind.
Bart Burggraaf
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Bart Burggraaf Entrepreneur
Managing Director & Partner at MediaGroup London
Yeah that was more of an after thought, I don't know enough about distributors to help with that.
Paul Lanigan (Sandler Training)
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Your Attitude, Accountability, Sales Methodology and Selling Technique Trainer and Coach
Hi Andrew - you are not going to like this...but you cannot get to second base with your foot on first. Getting traction as a start up is a full time, 80 hour a week role. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do.

Do not waste your money on advertising
Do not waste money on appointment setters.

Master picking up the phone yourself learn to tell your story in less that a minute. Talk briefly about the problem you solve and then check if that's a problem your prospect faces.

"Hi John, I want to be straight up with you, this is a sales call and I'm really uncomfortable calling you out of the blue like this........could I take 1 minute to tell you why I called as long as I stick to that?

....(wait for permission)

I help x type companies who are fed up with x and/or concerned about y.

This is just a stab in the dark, but I was wondering if that's what I do, would that get any of your attention.

.....(feed off response). If they are not facing the problem you solve, thank them for their time and move on
Peter Kestenbaum
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Peter Kestenbaum Entrepreneur
Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms
couple observations 1. You are making an assumption thats its your channel or sales strategy not your product, pricing or generic interest. What were the results/feedback of your MVP or initial customer research. Just a hunch I would guess that many individuals would shy away from mileage tracking because it eliminates abuse.. A salesman that charges or logs 50 miles for a trip to his boss, the IRS does not want a device that verifies it was actually 43 miles. 2. Who is the customer. I sense your target is the user.. ( the same guy who does not want it tracked).. What if it was the person wants it tracked... meaning the trucking company, messenger service.. Who were your investors and advisors? if they were chosen well it was because they believed in the product or were in the industry... Have you approached them? pk
Bart Burggraaf
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Bart Burggraaf Entrepreneur
Managing Director & Partner at MediaGroup London
Paul, I guess we are all talking our own book but I dont agree that advertising done right is not going to be a solution here. If you employ pull advertising instead of push advertising, it should be doable. I do agree that instead of appointment setters Andrew should start to dial himself.

The sales line you gave wouldnt work well in Europe, I think that's a very american approach, just as a sidenote.
Tami Belt
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Tami Belt Advisor
Owner, Blue Cube Marketing Solutions
Let you customers help you sell. People believe people more than ads. Gather video testimonials and post on your web site, Youtube channel and social media. Also create short video demonstrations of your product and include your connection with Verizon. Having their name behind your startup will help your reputation even if it isn't helping your bottom line through sales. Network within your target market on LinkedIn, educational articles in industry publications and industry gatherings. Build trust and relationships by offering value, not a sales pitch. Then referrals and sales will follow. Business is personal, it's about relationships. Relationships are not built overnight. Finally, one of the best way to build relationships is by connecting over a cause. Find a cause that your target industry supports and find a way to get involved. Connecting over a passion in a cause is powerful. One last thought, hire a salesforce who has a vested interest in the company, not just a paycheck.
Paul Lanigan (Sandler Training)
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Your Attitude, Accountability, Sales Methodology and Selling Technique Trainer and Coach
Bart - the "sales line" is not a script, just a rough illustration for someone who may be trying a more traditional pitch.

I am 100% European 0% American and all my clients who use this approach are based in EMEA.

Presence matters more than content by a country mile
Rachel Truair
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Rachel Truair Entrepreneur
Senior Marketing Manager, North America - East | Oracle Marketing Cloud
A solid content marketing strategy that helps drive people who are googling questions related to your product (whether directly or indirectly) could potentially help drive leads. After looking at your website, I'm not clear as to whether you are hoping to sell B2B or B2C, or both. Either way, you could tailor your search engine optimized content around B2B/B2C and the different questions/information those audiences might be looking for.
Here's a case study Oracle Marketing Cloud did about our content marketing strategy - which now drives over 1500 leads/month: http://www.eloqua.com/content/dam/eloqua/Downloads/success-stories/OMC_Customer-Success-Story_PetRelocation.pdf
While content marketing is fairly low cost, it can be more of a time investment if you are not a great writer. However, it pays dividends toward building your brand and online presence.
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