Entrepreneur Office Hours - Issue #56

How to get VCs and customers to pay attention.

You can have the greatest startup in the world, but if you don’t know how to get the right people looking at it, having a great startup just doesn’t matter. That’s true for both customer acquisition and fundraising, so, in this issue of EOH, I’ve got tips on how to get attention in both scenarios.

I also share a story of how one company maybe took customer acquisition a bit too far.

When you’re done with those, be sure you don’t skip this week’s Web Masters because I managed to track down the “severely retired” Michael “Fuzzy” Mauldin. He built Lycos. Lycos was Google before Google. Even if you never used Lycos, Fuzzy is a great character in Internet history, and you’ll enjoy hearing his telling of the Lycos story.

I’ll be back again in your inbox on Friday, as usual, with another issue. In the meantime, thanks for reading, sharing, and sending your questions!

-Aaron


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Founder With a $12 Billion Exit Told Me the Strategy He Used to Get VCs to Finally Pay Attention

Investors hear from lots of companies. You won’t be able to fundraise until you understand what investors really want to see.


The Robot Warrior Who Made Searching the Web Easy

Web search existed before Lycos, but it wasn't very good. Michael Mauldin -- better known as Fuzzy -- helped change that when he released Lycos. Find out how Fuzzy revolutionized the search industry on the newest episode of Web Masters.

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…or search “Web Masters” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.



FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Are you really going to die? Or is someone just trying to sell you something?

Getting a customer’s attention isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to get a bit creative. So that’s exactly what this company did, and, to be fair, it kind of worked.


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Office Hours Q&A

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QUESTION:

So I’m not a tech startup guy, but I still love a lot of the things you write.

I have a local lawn care business, and I still feel like a lot of what you talk about with startups is really applicable except maybe the fundraising part (I wish! LOL!!!!)

You’re always saying customer acquisition is more important than product, and I’m really working hard to expand my customer base. So my question is what’s the best way to advertise for a local business? Any tips or tricks from the tech startup world that could help someone like me out-hustle the competition?

- ​Elliot​

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I wouldn’t say there are particular tips or tricks. Instead, I’d say that good marketing and customer acquisition fundamentals are important no matter what business you’re in.

Specifically, the advice I want to give you here is the same advice I’d give to someone trying to build a trillion dollar, venture-backed company. The advice is basically this:

Figure out where your potential customers are learning how to solve the problem your company solves, and go find them there.

For example, you said you run a lawn care business. The question you need to answer is: “How do people find their local lawn care services?”

Off the top of my head, I’m guess things like:

  • Referrals from nearby friends and family;

  • Local message boards (e.g. Facebook groups)

  • Seeing a company working on a nearby house (that’s how I got my lawn care service!)

  • Google searches

  • Yelp-type websites

  • Craigslist

I’m sure I’m missing some. And I’m sure you’d know better. The point is, spend an hour brainstorming all the different ways people find their lawn care services. Or, if you’re really serious, stand outside your local grocery store and ask 100 strangers how they actually found their lawn care services. That approach would probably give you the best data.

Once you have your list, look through it carefully and figure out which customer discovery mechanisms you can insert yourself into.

Of the examples I listed above, you probably can’t easily insert yourself into referrals from friends and family, but you can encourage your current clients to recommend you. Maybe offer a discount?

You can -- and should -- join every local Facebook group and NextDoor group and any other digital neighborhood group. I often see questions being posted looking for local contractors and service providers. By joining those communities, you can offer to help!

Your maintenance trucks should have clear contact info on them, and you should make sure each of your employees has some of your business cards on them when they’re out working in case someone approaches them asking for info. (Again, this is exactly how I got my lawn guys.)

Search engine optimization is a long, slow play. But definitely claim your local business on Google and make sure you show up in a Google Maps search. That’s free and easy to do.

And so on and so forth.

The point is, again, that the fundamentals of marketing aren’t different between companies. Also, the biggest mistakes people make are the same. Of those, the most common is that lots of people think if they build something, customers will come to them. That never works. You have to figure out where your potential customers are looking and meet them there. Do that, and you’ll get more customers. It’s as simple (and complex!) as that.

Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!