Building Your On-Demand Platform’s Initial Customer Base

Identifying the most important customers for your on demand app

While you must on board providers before introducing your marketplace to potential customers, you need to begin marketing to your initial customer base as early as possible.  Your initial marketing push does not need to reach millions, but should reach the best of the best.  A small number of active customers is an achievable goal whose early business will allow you to improve your platform and generate much-needed revenue with minimal blowback.

Profile Your First Customers – i.e. Who Your Early Adopters?

Your perfect customer is someone who is likely to access your platform, find exactly what they are looking for and enter a transaction.   These are your early adopters.   Profile them with as much specificity as possible so you can target your initial marketing and bear fruit.   Create a profile based upon discernible criteria which could include sex, age range, marital status, income level,lifestyle and the needs met by your platform.

Imagine an on-demand platform called “Mobile Detailer”, which matched mobile car detailers with owners.   The platform resolves the difficulties of drop off/pick up, loss of use during service or waiting for the service to be performed.   Identify early adopters as local, moderate-to-wealthy male automotive enthusiast owners between the ages of 25 and 50.  This group receives the best value from having their car detailed on demand where and when they want.  Yes, 40 year-old soccer Moms want their Minivans cleaned too, but aren’t ideal enough to include in your early-adopter group.

Find and Engage Your Early Adopters

Once you’ve built your early-adopter profile, then you must find the people who fit it; on and offline.

Where do your early adopters gather offline? Sticking with our Mobile Detailer example, you might consider attending auto shows, car auctions or even the local Fast and Furious Saturday-night gathering. No meet ups on the horizon? Create your own event.  Offer early adopters a reason to attend by inviting an influencer or giving them an opportunity to showcase their cars and meet other enthusiasts. Promote through online channels and every offline connection you have.

Where do your early adopters gather online?  The internet and social media are rife with automotive-enthusiast blogs, forums, websites and profiles. Join everything and engage your early adopters and work with the people who influence them by building and sharing reciprocal supporting content. Create and repurpose your key worded content across every possible channel, tagging all posts with your social media and web-based links. Does your niche not have online presence? Start a blog based on the same solution your platform resolves.

Get Early Adopters to Join, Reach Critical Mass and Soft-Launch

Once you have built relationships with early adopters, leverage your rapport to get them to join an invitation-only launch where you may offer a discount incentive.   The most important thing is to have enough enthusiastic early-adopters to retain providers, suss out bugs and tweak your platform’s optimal supply and demand fit. How many early adopters do you need for critical mass?  Consider offering one to two transactions per month per provider with at least 30% – 50% of your early adopters engaging one transaction per month.

Once you have reached critical mass.  Do a soft launch of your platform with a small group of core early adopters so you can test and tweak it before your main launch.  We’ll look at how to prepare and structure your main launch in another post.

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