Networking bears fruit
Nothing’s easy to start: Experienced CEOs share their tips on customer acquisition with more than 50 startups at MAFINEX in Mannheim
Mannheim. “When the customer says ‘no’ the first time, that’s when the sell really begins. You cannot let up,” says Martin Boll, owner of Futura International Solutions, a software house specializing in retail applications. Boll was previously CEO of Steeb Anwendungssysteme GmbH and later head of SAP AG’s customer service, so he knows from long experience what he is talking about. More than 50 startup founders and young businesspeople from the Rhine-Neckar region listened attentively when they attended the Baden-Württemberg: connected (bwcon) business initiative and the MAFINEX Entrepreneur Startup Network Rhein-Neckar in the new building of the MAFINEX Technology Center in Mannheim at the invitation of the state. There three successful company heads gave their personal answers to the question of how to gain new customers as entrepreneurs? “Customer acquisition is the biggest hurdle for startups. We aim to make it easy for them to benefit from the knowledge of experienced entrepreneurs and at the same time to network among themselves,” says Dr. Andreas Findeis, Project Manager Coach & Connect at bwcon.
Networking bears fruit, as the example of Albrecht Metter demonstrates. Even during his studies in 2001, Metter, 30, had already begun to set up his own software company. His ameria GmbH supplies SMEs and large corporations with highly qualified IT specialists who work at affordable conditions in the nearby European countries, known as “nearshoring” in the jargon. The company currently employs around 100 managers and developers in Heidelberg and its partner city Simferopol in the Crimea. “We met our first customers at events like these,” says Metter. The final breakthrough came with a large order for an international consumer goods producer, and since then the company has grown annually by 60 and more percent. His advice to the audience: “You are ambassadors 24 hours a day for your own company. You can meet potential customers anywhere. So don’t stop communicating and talk with as many people as you can about your business – this is the most successful marketing method, especially at the start.
Jürgen Müller, owner of Viamedici Software GmbH in Ettlingen, supports his acquisition with attractive commissions for sales workers - and with software. “When we set up, we first acquired a program that we could use to administer our customer relations systematically,” he recalls. Viamedici produces an IT solution for cross-media publishing for use in producing large product catalogs more efficiently, for example. “Nothing’s easy to start. Once you have your first customers, always ask them to recommend you to others and in this way open doors. This was our recipe for success,” Müller says. Before the event in the MAFINEX50 atrium with a sociable finger food buffet, the three speakers were unanimous in giving the young entrepreneurs another piece of advice for the journey into business: “Regardless of how good the prospects for your business may be: never ever risk your liquidity.”