After laying the foundation of a new venture, the first question that comes to an entrepreneur’s mind is how to acquire customers for its products. User base is one of the crucial growth elements with which one can define the success of a start-up organization.
Moreover, investors’ investment decision is also highly dependent on the number of user base of a venture. So, there is a need of holistic approach to identify the right marketing tools in a bid to tap prospective customers rather burning huge number of capital and precious resources.
Gaining initial customer traction is one of the crucial challenges that a start-up organization faces in their growth path. So, here comes the role of a supportive system like Microsoft Venture, who empowers entrepreneurs on their journey to build successful ventures.
Microsoft Venture works with start-ups at every stage of maturity to provide them required tools, resources, knowledge and expertise they need to succeed. The goal is to help start-ups scale their business, bring innovative services to market, and reach new customers.
The primary vehicle to empower start-ups is through the mentor-driven accelerator program designed to help top entrepreneurs get through the challenges of building a sustainable business, gaining customers, and scaling to global markets.
In a tete-a-tete with Entrepreneur India, Ravi Narayan, Director, Microsoft Ventures shares some of the clear pathways on how entrepreneurs should go about acquiring customers:
On Analyzing the Market Trends
When an entrepreneur starts new venture with an idea, there is a possibility that the idea may or may not be relevant for the market. And that is what the struggle is in the initial days, so we at Microsoft Venture actually run customer development and stakeholder development workshop, where we try and get an outside view rather than inside view of whether the market really needs your product.
The critical issue lies in being well-informed of what the market is that you are going to tap and what is the business model that you are going to adopt to deliver those products to the customers. Microsoft Innovation Centers help entrepreneurs at all stages, from idea development to launch of a new company. Through various programs, entrepreneurs get access to skills training, mentors, and Microsoft tools, enabling them to take their business to the next level.
On the Psychology of Marketing
The next big challenge for start-ups is to go through the long and lengthy sales cycle, which consumes a lot of time leading to the hamper in productivity of the work. In order to acquire first ten to fifteen customers, one needs to do “Proof of Concept”, which is a very slow and torturous process.
Time limitations and lack of resources put the company out of business and restricts them to do the Proof of Concept in an efficient way. The way out here is to understand what are the points on which customers are getting excited by and what are the points on which they are not getting excited. So you need to have a sales person, who has the appropriate knowhow of selling the products rather than building the products. Therefore, meeting marketing and sales target is considered as the next part of the journey. In marketing, it is all about creating a need of the product by doing advertisements, social media activities and creating awareness.
Microsoft Ventures through a three to six month program, help entrepreneurs get through the challenges of launching a company, finding customers, and expanding to global markets. Start-ups who get selected in the programs gain access to business mentors, tech and marketing experts, office space, and other resources to help scale their business.
On Business Development
Create a channel for your sales rather than going directly to the customers. There are certain aspects in the business operations, when founders delegate the responsibility of selling the product to sales professionals, who can efficiently utilise the sales supportive tools and have a better understanding of what the product is, and what is the value proposition of the product and marketing collateral?
Marketing collateral helps the company enhance its brand through the balanced usage of media and promotional content. There are certain channels that one needs to figure it out to serve the market. Microsoft Ventures helps start-ups on how to operate in market, find natural paths and establish a channel that exits and leverage the same.
Narayan enlightens more about the initiatives of Microsoft Ventures for start-ups. He says, “We also do thought leadership, where we provide guidance to much larger set of people and I think we are only player in the Indian ecosystem to help start-ups find channels and the customers globally.”
“Microsoft Ventures as an entity now operates in seven different countries. We work with start-ups that are slightly beyond the early stages. We also have some student entrepreneurship programmes, where we help students scale up the business,” he adds further.