In virtually every business, the first customer is the hardest to land as customers follow where others lead. Whether you’re serving consumers or other business, you’ve got to have a track record for prospective clients or customers to feel comfortable, but how do you get the first customers?

Give your product or service away
One idea is to offer your first customer your product or service free. Even if this costs you some money, it’s probably cheaper than most other marketing activities. Giving stuff away free creates brand awareness, gets customers used to your product or service, develops customer loyalty, and builds word of mouth marketing. You can later charge these customers or continue to offer some level of free service and other levels of premium/pay services.

Remember to treat your free customers exactly the same way as if they were paying. Draw up a sales document, indicate what you’re providing and what direct costs they’ll pay (if any), and then specify that you are “waiving” your fee. Use this experience as a practice run in learning how to deal with paying clients.

Offer deep discounts
In the early stages of your business, giving clients a favourable rate since you’re still learning is a smart business tactic. But to get your very first customers, charge far less than they could get elsewhere. This encourages people to give you a try and helps you build a clientele.

Use community and social networking sites
Social media has made it easier for businesses to get their name out to the public. Don’t forget to use specialty advertising sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can list your product or service, offer low-cost introductory specials and explain that you’re just getting started.

Ask your competitors for their excess work
Competitors can be a source of new business and industry information. If they are very busy or have small clients they can no longer serve profitably, they may be interested in subcontracting or referring work to you.