This article was published in July 2015 issue of SiliconIndia.
Date: Thursday, July 02, 2015
Have you ever reflected on the euphoric feeling you experienced when you got your first customer assuming you have been in that situation? There's nothing quite like that feeling of euphoria in making your first sale and getting your first customer. You realize suddenly that finally you've built something that has the potential to grow your business and finally realize your dream. Now the big question is how you land your first early adopter customer. Early adopters are a special breed of customers and they mean everything to a business. These customers don\'t need testimonials to make a purchase. Quite often, they are proactively looking for new technology or products to improve their business. They understand that mistakes will happen. They are willing to work with you and your team. They really want you to succeed, are patient and are willing to pay for your product or service. For this article, Avinash Harsh, Founder and CEO of Halosys, a leading early stage Enterprise Mobility Company based in Silicon Valley, provided his insights and experiences in getting the first customer based on my discussion with him recently. Halosys provides an Enterprise MobileFirst API platform, known as Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) for Enterprise companies to build, secure, manage & deploy Mobile Apps connecting to internal business systems.Prior to founding Halosys, Avinash worked with Cisco and was the initial member of a team that launched the first SaaS initiative at Cisco focused on small and medium businesses. Under Avinash's leadership, Halosys has acquired marquee customers and has built a complete ecosystem around the product. Along with his Enterprise strategy Run-books and Rulebooks for deploying Mobile Apps and devices, he has also been a speaker at mobility events like CTIA. Here are four key take away (4KTA) points that can be of immense value to you in trying to get your first customer.
1. Lighthouse Customer
Finding an early adopter customer, that is willing to try your product while being aware of the fact that your product is still evolving, is a critical element in building a great product that actually will be used by the industry.The Lighthouse customers are not only critical to the success of the product, but also for boosting team\'s confidence. It's almost like seeing your own baby slowly standing and walking giving rise to the greatest joy any parent experiences at that moment. It's extremely important, however, that the product team does not deviate too far from the product road-map. The risks of becoming a one off product customized for the lighthouse customer vs. the wider adopt-ability of your product by the industry have to be finely balanced.During early days of Halosys Enterprise Mobility platform, the engineering team took up an initiative to help launch Mobile Apps connecting to SAP at a leading Semiconductor company. The challenges faced for meeting the unique security needs, connectivity to on-premise business systems and applying department specific policies to Mobile Apps were highlighted. This ultimately became the genesis of rethinking security completely in a unique way and eventually, Halosys developing a fool proof security technology for Enterprise Mobile Apps. Team felt elated with a huge sense of achievement when there was a rapid uptick in adoption of mobile apps by the customer\'s employees and managers.
2. Show & Tell
Whether your customers are IT folks or a Line of Business within an enterprise; whether your solution is related to security, Infrastructure, platform or an App, in the world of Enterprise Mobility, 'Show & Tell' philosophy works the best. Enterprises today are inundated with vendors providing competing solutions. It's difficult to comprehend the value unless it is presented in the right way. It's worth spending time early on to create a visual showcase of what the final outcome of your product for the customer would be and how they will use it. Halosys, created a few pre-built, customizable Mobile Apps that showed the customer's data flowing on day one of piloting the platform.Seeing fully functional Apps, connecting to their own business systems and authenticating against their own security mechanisms provided a competitive edge by 'Show & Tell' power of the platform. This helped in customer really opening up and talking about their unique needs and pain points.
3. Real Customer
If you are selling to an IT organization, the right person for a start-up is the one who talks and thinks like a Product Manager and not like a traditional IT Executive.The right person possesses passion for new initiatives, treats business stakeholders as paid commercial customers and is hungry for being recognized as a thought leader. We were fortunate to meet IT teams that were thinking proactively and behaving like nimble Product teams. Their outlook was not to 'Keep the lights ON' but to take the system to the next level by providing tools and apps to improve the processes for their own customers, Sales & marketing teams and provide just-in-time data to the executives.One of Halosys' initial customers - a large Data Center provider, had already trained their IT team at all levels of leadership with the mindset of a product delivery team.This enabled Halosys and the customer\'s IT team to easily launch many innovative and award winning Mobile Solutions that are now well adopted by their customers and employees.
4. Leveraging Eco-System Partners Early-on
You must find one key partner that is in adjacent space with a complementary offering to your product. It\'s important to choose a company with a wider foothold in the Enterprise. In whatever way you can, try to earn the bragging rights by integrating and being able to connect or support their software.While the initial objective is to showcase the synergy, it eventually can be leveraged to have them become your advocates and channel partner. For Halosys's mBaaS (Mobile Backend-as-a-Service)solution, the complementary solutions were provided by MDM (Mobile Device Management) and MAM (Mobile App Management) companies. Halosys initially partnered with Citrix MAM and now have partnered and integrated with a number of leading industry providers of MDM and MAM solutions.
In summary, the four key take away points for entrepreneurs in getting your first customer are to focus in on a lighthouse customer, show & tell your advantages, understanding who the real customer is within an enterprise and leveraging eco-system partners early-on.
The author is Co-Founder of AURISS TECHNOLOGIES INC. and a serial entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, California. Learn more at www.4KTA.com and follow Naveen on twitter @Naveen_4KTA.