Start helping customers with their problems and they'll find you

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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 1:51 pm, Thu Jun 5, 2014.

Kevin Dewalt is an entrepreneur and angel investor living in Beijing. He teaches entrepreneurs how to implement lean startup and marketing strategies on his blog, He still enjoys writing software and working on SoHelpful—his product that makes it simple for businesses to meet new customers over Skype or Google Hangout.

Kevin is teaching a Helpful Marketing workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on April 19 from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Discounted tickets are available.

For the past five years I’ve been helping entrepreneurs worldwide learn and apply lean startup strategies to their businesses.

From Stanford’s campus to small islands in the Philippines, almost all of them have the same problem. It’s my biggest problem and your biggest problem.

Solve it and your startup will be easier and fun. Fail to solve it and you don’t have a chance.

Our biggest challenge is finding customers and winning their trust.

If you’re a lean startup you need to find customers to do customer development. Built an MVP? You already know how hard it is to get people to use, much less buy, it. And even after you have paying customers it is really tough to get them to respond to your emails and phone calls to give you feedback.

But there is a solution: be helpful.

It turns out our customers are remarkably predictable. They don’t care about anything else but their own problems.

Start helping them solve their problems and they will find you, trust you, tell everyone about you, and yes, buy from you. I call this strategy "helpful marketing."

Why you need to be helpful

Most entrepreneurs are making products like it’s 2009. Their marketing plan includes buzzwords like viral, SEO, SMM or growth hacking.

Some even imagine angel investors like me will fund their advertising budgets (we won’t). What these entrepreneurs soon discover is that getting customers to try or buy a new product gets harder every day.

Don’t believe me? Look at your email inbox, Facebook news or Twitter feed. You’ll see an unending stream of companies desperately fighting for your attention, and you ignore anyone who hasn’t earned your trust.

Unfortunately, your customers feel the same way about your startup and you’ll need to earn their trust before they'll pay attention.

Today’s startups are doing helpful marketing like Jerry McGuire

Remember the scene in "Jerry McGuire" where Tom Cruise screams, “Show me the money!”?

Jerry was feeling desperate. He was down to his last client and was willing do to anything to prove he would solve his client’s biggest problem: getting a multi-million-dollar NFL contract. So he stood up in the middle of his office and screamed into the phone.

That’s how entrepreneurs are winning today. They do anything to prove to customers they will help them solve problems. It’s why Dave McClure of 500 Startups flies to cities worldwide to meet and help entrepreneurs. Why KissMetrics writes such amazing marketing content. Why’s CEO will help you write email copy if you need it.

These entrepreneurs are not waiting for customers to ask for help. They’re aggressively pursuing customers and looking for opportunities to prove they’re helpful. 

It doesn’t matter where you are, only that you’re helpful

No, you don’t have to move to Silicon Valley. You can provide helpful marketing successfully from Omaha or Lincoln. Your customers don’t care.

I live in Beijing, China, but have almost no Chinese customers. My customers are mostly American entrepreneurs and I help them through my writing and one-on–one calls over Skype and Google Hangouts.


You can attend his workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on April 19 from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Discounted tickets are available.

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