How to get your first 1000 online customers

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The first time I started an online business I spent the vast majority of my time actually creating the service.

I spent countless hours tweaking the interface, upgrading minor flaws and generally fussing around ensuring that every little thing was perfect.

It's good to be a perfectionist; but not if you want to turn a profit.

I think the term "business" is misleading when it comes to the Internet. What people mean when they talk about an "Internet business" or an "online business" is marketing.

Don't waste too much time on the backend of the business - there will be time to impress customers with your service (fixing tiny imperfections) once you have gone out and found customers in the first place.

So online business should really be called "Internet marketing", or" online marketing" because that is what you have to spend the majority of your time doing, in order to:

  • identify new markets
  • gain exposure
  • cultivate a reputation
  • build trust
  • build a following
  • increase traffic
  • increase conversions

The list could go on and on.

The actual "business" part of an online business predominantly occurs in the formative stages - setting things up, ensuring your online platform is operational, the products and services are of sufficient quality, and so on. Once that is done you are basically performing administrative tasks and putting in a heck of a lot of marketing.

Having a good product that no-one knows about won't help anything, so in order to get your first 1000 customers, you have to do the following 5 things.

1. Create valuable, relevant content

If you think blogging is not a core business function, think again. There's a great article posted on technorati entitled "Blogging is marketing".

Take a gander through that to give you ideas on how blogging can be used as a powerful marketing tool.

"Check out the SEO software used by professional marketers."

In addition, it's important to use the best SEO & marketing strategies possible when creating content to capture leads, increase page rankings and drive plenty of juicy, organic search traffic.

2. Be passionate

If you haven't yet reached the 1000 customer milestone and you find that you're not as interested in the business or blog as you were a few months ago, then this may be a sign that you haven't really picked a business that is appealing to you.

You're not going to succeed without the passion to stick to a business for a good amount of time. My free eBooks talk about how to build up a steady stream of online income through passion based business blogging.

3. Become a social marketer

Social media and social networks can have powerful effects on blogs and small businesses. By creating super duper, highly relevant and engaging content that captures people imagination, you can end up attracting more traffic than your servers can handle.

What's nice about social marketing success is that it works almost in real-time. Something you write now might start driving traffic and revenue for your site within minutes.

4. Build a following

If you're not using the major social networks to enhance your business then you need to get started straight away. You should have a Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon and Facebook account at the very least.

Make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you online. By gathering up legions of engaged fans and followers you increase your reach, which provides the opportunity to expose new products and services to a larger online audience than you would otherwise have access to.

"Learn how to grow a mailing list for your business."

Having a following also keeps people in touch with your world. This is important because a one-time visitor is probably not going to buy anything from you. Someone who has been reading your blog for two years may well buy something.

5. Become well known in your niche

I'm not saying you have to go door to door, cold calling on anyone who might want to buy whatever it is you are selling. Instead, take the time to find out who the players are in your industry and build bridges.

Offer to write guest blog posts and articles. If you're starting out, this can be a great way to increase your reach because having content posted to a site with 50 000 followers might well bring in your first 1000 customers in one go - depending on how good the content is.

Building relationships in your niche is important because it gives you credibility and builds trust with the community.