I read a blog post that said before you start developing your product, you should find at least 10 people who are willing to pay for the product. This seems like good sense to me and I plan to follow this advice.
Since I don't have a working product yet, what I'm looking for is not exactly customers. I'm looking for early adopters. I want to find people who are willing to try early versions of my product and give feedback in exchange for discounts.
The product I'm planning to develop is software for salons, so my customers will be, of course, salon owners and managers. Even though I'm after a specific group of people, I imagine there are universal techniques for finding customers. Here's what I can think of as far as finding salon owners and managers goes:
That's about all I can think of. What other advice do you have for finding early adopters?
The third option you listed is what I would start with because it is the easiest since salons in your area might be more open to talk to someone local about their software needs.
Also, I recommend doing a search on "salon blogs" and try searching for posts about salon software, join the conversation by adding comments, etc... this might help you pickup a few early adopters along the way.
You can also create a landing page using unbounce.com or something similar and get a few more early adopters that way.
In the end I believe that just walking into a few salons in your area and trying to talk to them about what you are building and get their opinion should be sufficient in the beginning. You need to get out there and start talking to people about it, it would help you find early adopters, potential customers and it would also help improve your idea just by talking about it.
I think any activity that involves meeting real live potential customers (such as attending conventions or cold-calling local salon owners) will pay off in the end. Even the rejections will reveal things about your target audience. Just look at the whole process as "fact gathering."
You might also want to join some LinkedIn groups devoted to your target market and start contributing to their discussion forums. I did a quick search on LinkedIn and found the Salon Professional Network, with over 1,400 members. I think the pay-off for this will be less than for meeting people in person, but it is another way of building credibility in the industry.
No, do not fall for this : "You have to find 10 people that want to buy your product"
You will never find them unless you have at least a bare bone product to show them. Think about yourself for a minute. Would you just spend money on a "supposedly good idea?" I do not think so unless you are filthy rich and money is no object. Customers not only demand to see something concrete specially in these economic times but they expect it for free because the internet, the web in particular, has trained us all (rightly or wrongly) to expect most things for free (unless you are of course Apple).
My suggestion to you is to lay the ground work and build a kick ass product through feedback and other channels. And with a lot of hard work, headache and pain (yes it will be painful) and bit of luck, things will eventually work out. But the takeaway is "Get something concrete in front of your target/prospective customers" Good Luck!!!!! Donald