May 15, 2024
Startup Growth
Read Time Icon - Portfolio Z Webflow Template
 min read

A framework to reaching your first $10k MRR

If I can reach $10K MRR in my first 90 days, you can too.

My latest book, Your First Million: Growth Marketing Blueprint for Startups, covers exactly that - a framework for reaching the first million in revenue. I wanted to share how to reach the first $10k MRR specifically, which typically means your first 100-500 customers. 

Getting your first 100 customers is much different than your first 10,000, because much of your offering, will be molded earlier on. If I told you that Uber gave away free iPhones to their earliest drivers and made pop-up stands to onboard them, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But this is in fact, true. It was done to get drivers signed up, and with the tools to understand them better as boots on the ground.

There are a couple of key elements that I feel are most important to reaching your first $10k MRR, including: 1) unlocking your first growth channel, 2) understanding your customers deeply, and 3) focusing on what matters. This may sound obvious, but these are often missed with founders chasing the wrong things. 

Unlocking your first growth channel

Early on, all efforts should be spent on finding how to get customers through the door. There have been many amazing products and services that never got off the ground, because they failed to get customers in. 

My personal strategy at early-stage startups (e.g. think seed-stage), has been to cast a wide net to figure out the demographic of folks interested in us. Audience matters more than anything. I’ve sat in on meetings with founders who are confused at how different their ideal customer was from what they initially believed. 

To cast a wide net on your growth channels means: 

  • Testing various growth channels, 
  • Open/broad targeting on paid acquisition, 
  • Various segments for cold outreach,
  • Many messaging tests. 
Find your audience + problem overlap.

Your goal should be to find the overlap between your audience and their problem, through the testing that you do to unlock your first growth channel.

It’s okay if you spend more to acquire and bring in the wrong customers, because this will help inform who your target audience is not. There’s a concept called the anti-ICP (ideal customer profile), that I believe is just as important as your target ICP. It allows you to filter against the wrong set of customers through all of your messaging. As you understand which customers aren’t a good fit, you’ll naturally begin to form your anti-ICP. I’m a believer that you’ll learn even more with what doesn’t work, on the path to unlocking your first growth channel. 

You also shouldn’t be afraid to offer significant discounts or trial periods, because it’ll allow you for more customer research, which will be of greater value in the long run. Profitability and getting your metrics completely dialed in should not be your goal early on.

Once you do find the one growth channel that brings in your first 100 customers, you can step on the gas, assuming metrics are in your favor.

Understand customers deeply

Instead of acquiring your customers and letting them slip into the void of churn, make sure you’re attempting to speak to every customer. This doesn’t mean creating a customer survey form that goes out automatically, but rather rolling up your sleeves and sending out personalized messages with the intent to learn as much as possible. 

Here are some tips I’ve seen when trying to get calls with customers:

  • Don’t wait weeks after they’ve churned to ask for a call,
  • Don’t try to sell them further; instead ask for advice, 
  • Mention wanting to make your offering better for them,
  • Incentivize them with a $50-100 Amazon gift card, 
  • Ask for 10-12 minutes of their time, not 30 minutes,
  • Phone calls are easier than Zoom sessions. 

You never know when that one customer call will spark new ideas or inspiration for your next iterations. If you’re having a tough time getting calls, a last resort should be former colleagues or friends. I say last resort, because they will typically be a bit more biased in not wanting to hurt your feelings with the cold hard truth.

The two big items you should seek to uncover on these calls are friction moments and ‘aha’ moments. What are they exactly? 

Friction moments are where your customers are getting stuck, and potentially churning. This is where they felt your product wasn’t for them, or they needed something more. 

‘Aha’ moments on the other hand, are moments when your customers find immense value and satisfaction from your offering. As an example, this would be when someone uses TikTok and finds huge entertainment value, because the algorithm is curating videos that they personally enjoy.  

Focus on what matters most 

I’m personally most at fault with this, considering my love of new software. So, my hope is to help everyone else avoid this. 

Unless you’re building rocket satellites and need every patent under the sun, I wouldn’t suggest building so far ahead. As a startup trying to achieve PMF, spend your resources and attention on the next month. Ask yourself: what will drive revenue for my startup and move us forward? With my latest startup, I spent countless hours setting up tools needed for the 1,000-client mark, when we were hovering around the 50-client mark.

There’s no need for fancy tools/software, automating everything or even a large team. Building lean for your first $10k MRR is the goal, so you extend your runway and chances. 

Few other tip nuggets

To stay as lean as possible, it helps to join communities where your customers are hanging out. You’ll learn a great deal on what their problems are, and what they dislike or like about the current products they’re using. If you’re launching a product, Product Hunt; if a skincare product, subreddits with people working on their skincare; if a pet product, Facebook Groups for pet owners, etc. You get the gist. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t spam groups with your product, and instead, aim to be an active voice in the group where you’re offering help. You will gain the trust of users, so that when you do want to promote your product, you’ll have users supporting you.

The last item I’ll leave you with on the road to $10k MRR, is to not optimize for perfect. As someone who is a perfectionist, I learned very quickly that efforts go wasted if you try to perfect something that gets scrapped the next week. Rather than build shiny business intelligence dashboards, a quick scrappy Google Sheet can do the job. 

Good luck on your road to $10k MRR; it’s a fun road filled with tons of learnings that will enlighten you on how companies go zero to one. 

Subscribe to my growth newsletter

Get notified the moment I publish a new article.