I get asked by a lot of service providers about how they can get more startup clients. My typical answer is “why”? Clients by definition are required to have budget. Most startups are unfunded, therefore have no budget, and thus cannot be a client. The typical response, is that they want to “get in early”. First off, I love that the ecosystem wants to support startups, however I want them to have aligned expectations. Here are some thoughts-
1. Sponsor existing programs to get your name out.
Pick a couple and get involved. Don’t try to be everywhere. Look at the clients where you have the best network and focus on startup ecosystems that can benefit. Example: Law firms that have a lot of B2B software clients should focus on incubators-accelerators that are focused on B2B startups. Avoid programs that are horizontal and not focused on sectors.
2. Build a program.
Many service providers have startup specific offerings. Technology providers have cloud packages that startups can use for free or a discount. Some law/accounting firms have packages where you get $10k in services with deferred payment until your first $1M of capital raise. Software dev shops have deferred and equity based programs. Message me if you want some referrals.
Track the lead generation from these programs, even though it could be years before you see a return. Meet with your ecosystem partners quarterly and ask for metrics. They want your money, make them earn it.
4. Be patient.
These are long tail leads. 2-5 yr ROI. Spend your time elsewhere if you need business near term.
5. VCs, Do your best work.
The VC community can make or break your ability to extend your relationship with a startup. I have seen some VCs bring in their lawyers, etc. as a rule. But the realty is that VCs want to spread the work around. However, VCs know the difference between good and bad work, where the startup CEO may not. A lot of vendors to startups give mediocre service because they aren’t getting “paid”. The VCs show up and this mediocre work hurts your reputation.
6. Your network.
Be prepared to open your network to your new startup client. Ultimately, this is why these companies join accelerators and incubators. Educationally, they get nominal support, but the connections to customers and capital are what they hope to get.