Entrepreneur
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By Andrew McDermott

The Maker’s Guide to an Unlimited Supply of Customers

By Andrew McDermott

Getting customers is no walk in the park; in fact, it’s more like a walk through hell.

“The toughest part of working for yourself isn’t the actual work,” as Paul Jarvis reminds us. “It’s the stuff that enables you DO your work, like business, marketing and sales.”

This is a chronic problem for makers. One that usually leads to people giving up on whatever it is they were trying to build.

What if you had an unlimited supply of customers that didn’t require you blogging, cold emailing or doing any other crap you hate to land clients?

How’d you like to learn how to get a steady stream of qualified prospects, sent directly to you whenever you needed it?

Sounds amazing, not to mention, too good to be true, right?

Amazing, yes. Too good to be true, no.

Even better, I’m going to tell you how to get this consistent stream of qualified prospects sent directly to you whenever you need it.

The tactic? Complementary sources

As it turns out, quite a few people and companies who are willing to share their customers with you. These are who I call “complementary sources.”

Here’s an example.

In 2005, Google inked a deal with Mozilla.

Google wanted to maintain its position as the dominant search engine, and Firefox was the dominant Internet browser at the time so the two made an agreement.

Mozilla made Google its default search engine, and Google paid for the right.

Was Google excited to be in front of Mozilla's users? You bet.

Was Mozilla happy to receive $53 million for its trouble?Absolutely.

Mozilla was Google’s complementary source of customers.

Complementary sources exist in every industry

Harvest and Basecamp.

YouTube and site owners.

Meebo and G-Talk, Yahoo and MSN messenger.

These are just a few examples of complementary sources. There are thousands, if not millions, more.

Regardless of how forward-thinking an idea is, every startup has a complementary source(s).

Consider the process of purchasing a new home. Your bank offers financing. The appraiser verifies what your home is worth. Realtors help you find the right home. And a title company makes sure you can legally buy the house you want.

Each of these sources want the same thing: you in a new home. They want the deal to close, and they'll work hard to make that happen. They're all complementary to each other.

Regardless of the industry you’re playing in, or whether or not you’re a solopreneur freelancing, or an entrepreneur building an app, you have complementary sources you could be utilizing.

If you're a freelance developer then copywriters, graphic designers and marketers are all complementary sources. In fact, it's almost guaranteed that each of these professionals has customers who desperately need your help.

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How to find your complementary sources

Step 1: Identify potential sources.

First, you'll need to identify your potential complementary sources.

You'll want to go after complementary sources that have customers willing to pay for your offering(s).  

For instance, if you've made an ad blocker, hop on Facebook and forums. Approach admins in charge of anti-ad groups.

Selling a live chat app? Target e-commerce development providers.

Building a game? Target smaller games in your same genre.

Step 2: Find problems. Problems are your “in.”

Solve these problems in a way that makes sense for your source. Frame working together as a mutually beneficial partnership, and they’ll be thrilled to send customers your way.

Examples of problems to solve for sources

Customers have a problem the app or product doesn't solve.

When Basecamp launched Basecamp Next, they removed an important feature – time tracking. Customers were outraged because suddenly they had a problem. They needed time tracking, but Basecamp refused to budge so Harvest stepped in, providing Basecamp customers the feature they needed but weren't getting from Basecamp.

They have lots of leads but not enough customers.

Graphic designers struggle to get the customers they need because they let prospects go cold. Savvy freelancers recruit these designers, offering education and support to their customers in exchange for access to their list.

Lots of customers, not enough sales.

Some companies have a lot of “customers” but not enough sales. Maybe they don't have anything they can sell yet. Maybe they're loaded down with lots of freemium users. Whatever the case, they have an audience that isn't being served. Firefox had lots of users but no money. Google used their audience to promote themselves, helping both parties in the process.

Step 3: Email your list of potential sources.

This step could be (and is) another article in itself. Read this article on how to write a really good email here.

Step 4: Present your offering as the essential element.

There’s always a possibility that your source will try to cut you out after they've seen your plan, and you've done the work. That's why it's vital to position your offering as the essential element.

If you're a game developer, and you're offering a free download, then customers should get that from you, on your site directly. They only get the free game after they add themselves to your email list.

Funnel your source’s audience back to you in order to minimize your dependence on them in the future.

Conclusion

Complementary sources won't share their audience with you for nothing. They must get something in return, but a lot of the times “something” doesn’t mean money.

Stop making yourself cringe by thinking of this as marketing. Reframe it as you adding value to lots of people’s lives. Essentially, you're taking a problem your source (and their customers) has and presenting a solution that makes things better for everyone.

Complementary sources are the key. Relieve your source’s headaches, and you'll have all the leads, customers and sales you need to succeed.

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