How we found our first 10 paying customers

August 2, 2023
Having 10 paying customers with no churn is a solid sign of pre-success

Since launching our product earlier this year, Hubble was able to acquire paying customers and have been growing our revenue consistently every month! For those of you that have not been following our blog, Hubble is a new user research & feedback software that allows product and UX teams to collect continuous user feedback across the product development cycle.

In this blog post, I would like to write about what are some of the things that have worked well for us and what has not, with the hopes of providing insights for other early stage founders and startups that are going through the same challenge.

I personally feel it’s relatively easy to find a ton of advice that is written about how to build an MVP and launch your product but I couldn’t find a lot of good content on how to approach founder-led sales to get to your first customers (especially if you are not a second or third time founder). Caveat — Some of the things that worked well for us won’t be relevant for founders and teams that are solving problems in different markets, but I nevertheless hope that we could end up helpful to anyone that is about to start founder-led sales or is thinking of starting a B2B SaaS startup.

#1 We started to sell to potential customers before our product was live

One of the best decisions we made as we started building our initial product was starting to talk to potential customers as soon as we started building the product. On average, building a workable SaaS product with bare minimum features will take anywhere from 2–8 months, depending on the complexity of the problem you are trying to solve as well as your target market.

In order to validate our assumptions and run the litmus test of charging companies for the value delivered, we built a high-fidelity clickable prototype using Protopie and started to reach out to people to show them what we are building. When we did the demos, we didn’t even tell them that we were showing them a prototype; we pretended that they were seeing a live product just so that we could gage how excited they were and what the immediate reaction would be if they were offered to use the product right away. At this stage, the goal wasn’t to get someone to actually pay for the product but understand what are the initial reactions, questions and thoughts that come up when a real target buyer sees your product for the first time.

The main channels that we used to find people were LinkedIn, our personal networks, mentorship communities and Twitter (or X now I guess). These conversations were extremely valuable because (1) it rapidly helped us understand the competitive landscape, as people often react with comments such as “how is this different versus X” or “we are currently using product Y but it doesn’t do Z. Do you guys do Z?” (2) it helped us continue to hone our product so that it could actually cater to a real customer, versus a made up buyer from our imaginations. I cannot emphasize how important this process was before launching the product so that we could have a crystal clear customer profile to go after our product was released.

#2: We reached out to various personas that could benefit from using your product

Depending on your product category and target market, there are multiple personas that could be interested in learning more about your product. These could be managers / decision makers that hold control of the budget and orchestrate the entire team’s workflows, operations managers that are responsible for evaluating 3rd party tools and improving workflows for their functional organizations or also individual contributors that would actually perform their day to day tasks using your product. In our case, we reached out to both potential decision makers and also individual contributors that would be actual users of our product. Experimenting with different customer profiles, and reaching out to them while A/B testing different messages and channels is a great way to discover a viable early stage go-to-market strategy that will help you unlock your early leads and sales.

This will also provide great data points to start thinking about your medium & long term sales and GTM strategy. What worked for other unicorns to get to $1M in ARR may not necessarily work for you or us; I strongly believe that every founding team needs to continue to assess how they are going to find customers whether it be through in-bound marketing or outbound sales.

#3 We cared a ton about delivering a great user experience from Day 1

Pitching VCs and pitching customers is a totally different game. “Better design and user experience” will rarely be viewed as a key differentiator for VCs when you are trying to clan investment (at least from my experience) because its not a quantifiable data point but VCs are never going to spend time using your product or solving a problem that they have with your tool, unless they are your target customers. On the other hand, customers care a lot because they will actually use your product. Having a delightful UX and UI makes a big difference when you are an unknown tiny startup and you need to make a first good impression. We all buy well designed consumer products over mediocre ones because they are delightful, easy to use and pleasant; I don’t think business software buyers are any different. I also think great user experience doesn’t have to be 100% driven by software; it extends to customer service, and every interaction you make with a customer. Going that extra mile to keep your customers happy is a key to success when you are a small early stage startup.

At the end of the day, I frankly think that whatever “wow” factor you can have within your arsenal to convince people to believe in your startup and try you out, you should try to leverage. Good user experience can be your sling to beat Goliath.

David beat Goliath; small startups can beat large incumbents too!

#4 Use a CRM and a good outbound sales software from Day 1.

Outbound sales has been the main source of our revenue. Each market and category will obviously have their own nuances, but our target market (user feedback and research) has several incumbent competitors like UserTesting and UserZoom so competing on SEO and inbound can be time and cost intensive (especially if you are a seed stage company with constrained capital). We got our first paying customers by sending hundreds of emails and LinkedIn messages. I read a statistic that roughly 10% of people that receive outbound sales emails are open to trying new software which means that it will just take multiple reps and hearing tons of “No” and “Not interested” replies until you eventually get to a yes and a demo. Using a good tool helps tremendously, since it can give you a bit more scale and help you automate some of the repeated processes. We use Apollo, HubSpot and Relate but there are so many solutions out there so whatever works for you and your team, would probably work just fine.

To wrap up, finding good potential customers takes a lot of effort but actually closing them and bringing them on to your journey as paying customer is even harder. Just like you, we are still in our early innings of refining our GTM, but figured it would be cool to share some of the things that worked well for us because I know many other early stage founders are trying to tackle the same problems. If you have any thoughts and questions about this post, feel free to reach out to me at brian@hubble.team. Would love to chat and brainstorm on how we can grow together 💪

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Brian is the CEO and Founder of Hubble. Brian started Hubble to build a unified tool that allows product and UX teams to continuously discover their user's needs. Brian leads the sales and marketing efforts at the Company and he also works closely with the product team to deliver the best user experience possible for Hubble customers. In his free time, Brian likes to explore New York City and spend time with his family.

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