Most startups fail for lack of clients. Internal software initiatives also fail to gain traction even after hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a custom software company, we inherently sell software that doesn’t exist yet with every project. Here are a few techniques we use for helping our clients sell a vision—before their platform is done.
Step 1: Find A B2B Application
Even if your app idea is a Business to Consumer offering, chances are that there is a Business to Business application that will produce more value for your effort. There may be more consumer clients out there, but one B2B sale can produce the same value as hundreds of B2C sales.
Businesses can realize the value of your solutions in dollars and cents. While consumers measure success in subjective satisfaction, businesses measure success in easy-to-measure metrics. If your solution can help a business save (or better yet, make) more money than it costs, it’s free money for your client.
Step 2: Visualize Your Solution
Create a visual way to demonstrate the core value-add of your solution. This could be as simple as a clickable Power-Point mock-up, or as complex as a spreadsheet with formula-based algorithms.
We use Figma to create high-fidelity clickable mock-ups.
You also want the professional opinion of an experienced, business-minded software developer at this phase. Many design decisions will impact your implementation cost. You want to design your initial solution to be as inexpensive to implement as possible, without short-changing key growth plans.
The mock-ups and developer analysis can cost anywhere from $1.5k to $5k. Be sure to include some time in your budget for following up with your development team with client feedback after step 4.
Step 3: Find Potential Clients
Referrals are the best way to find clients. Ask friends and family if they know anyone in your target industry that you could talk to to get feedback. You can also connect with professionals in your target industry on LinkedIn, and invite them to lunch or coffee.
Rather than smothering them in a barrage of sales lingo, ask questions and listen. If you meet someone you think you can help, ask for an introduction to the key decision maker in their department or company. Ask if they would be interested in a discovery—you can offer this for free at first if necessary.
Step 4: Develop a Proposal
As part of your discovery, identify the key requirements your client has. Be sure to loop these into your solution if they aren’t already. Talk face-to-face with each stakeholder in the company to get their unique perspectives.
Write a proposal with key business objectives and clear, measurable metrics for success, and any relevant findings from your discovery. Update your mock-ups if necessary.
Break your proposal down into deliverables. Order the deliverables from most important to least. Divide your deliverables into phases, with the first phase containing only the bare essentials. This will make it easier for your client to start doing business with you.
Step 5: The First Client
Once you get a signed proposal, you’re in business! Work with your developer to develop phase 1. Be sure to leave plenty of time (~1.5-2x the developer’s estimate) before your client expects the work to be done.
Keep your client informed of the progress. Be up-front and transparent about any delays or hangups.
Thoroughly test the software after every update before delivering it to the client. Ensure the key business goals remain true.
If you can turn a profit and develop a healthy stream of income with bespoke B2B solutions, then you can branch out into other areas as needed.
By collecting client feedback first, you are creating a flexible solution that can adapt to customers’ specific needs. If you can react to market changes quickly, you will be able to compete with much more established options as larger businesses tend to be more rigid and have longer development cycles.
At Emmert Technology, we’ve equipped clients to test their ideas as custom B2B solutions for as little as $1.5k to $5k. If you have an idea that you want to test before investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, we’d love to chat.