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We are a pretty young Startup who helps offline retailers to get their products successful online and we also take care of anything else, like shipping etc.

Also the customers are very eager after our meeting to provide us with the data we need to get started ( only a list with EAN-Codes and buy prices of the retailers for their products ) we have to call them up several times and make sure, we do not lose connection. Which stops us from get started making money and running his business, because we need this list in the first place to get started.

We thought about taking a fee in the beginning so the customers is actually more bounded to us. But we are curios if there is not any better idea? How can we make sure, the customer actually wants to give as his list as quick as possible?

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You cannot really force a customer to provide you with the data. And you shouldn't. You're a fresh startup. Customers put trust in you, but they don't know if you'll succeed. You can't blame them for that.

For the project at hand, you should be patient with your customer. There's a variety of possible reasons for his delay (no interest, other priorities, uncertainty about what you want from him, ...). You should ask him if there are any problems preparing the data. Maybe you can help him out by providing something or stop by and help preparing the data? The best way to get something is to offer something first.

For future projects, you could try to negotiate an upfront, partial payment to ensure the customer's commitment. If he's willing to pay that, he's on board. But be careful with your demands till you can prove some success. And still don't expect him to be available for you project 24/7!

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  • I appreciate your answer, and it makes a good point, by offering something in the first way. I think we should try out in that direction. – M. Hirn Feb 16 '14 at 8:58
  • Glad I could be of some help! – Sven Amann Feb 17 '14 at 9:01
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If you do not get anything up front, then they have no 'skin in the game.' Even if your setup process is extremely automated (setup a site with one click) the reason to get money from the customer is manifold:

  1. If the customer is unwilling to put cash up front, they have no commitment
  2. If the customer has not given you cash, they might be trying several options and seeing which works best, all at no cost to them
  3. You should have some working capital if not for operations, for more marketing
  4. The client might say yes just because they are uncomfortable saying no. They do want to say no but you have given them a way to say no and still avoid all conflict...just don't give you the data, or keep stalling until you go away

It sounds like your business model is based on free to setup and you take a piece of each transaction. Sounds nice, for everyone, however, for the reasons above, you might want to reconsider that model to something like $100 up front or even $100 up front which gets paid back on the first 100 transactions. That is (for the second option) they would still not be paying you per se but they would have some investment in the process, motivating them to help get things up ASAP.

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  • Thanks for your answer, on your post we trieing out with our next client in that manner. I think it makes total sense. – M. Hirn Feb 16 '14 at 9:02
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Did you sign a contract? For services type work, I would hope there is a written agreement on what you two negotiated. That typically seals the deal and, from there, it is a matter of you maintaining and growing that relationship, checking in with them, asking for the data and getting a date on which they commit, and following up on a set cadence.

You can certainly ask for a retainer. Many industries do that. However, if it is not common in your business, then asking for it can make your company less attractive than a competitor, and if a competitor has been knocking on the same door, you are at risk. Once you have a reputation, you can ask for these kind of things that make you less attractive but you are trading on your reputation so you can ultimately afford it. So the question is, can you afford it now?

Having customers back at on the 11th hour is the cost of doing business. This is why you need to have a healthy pipeline. Some of your incoming business that appears to be a sure thing will stall at the last minute. If you can have them put skin in the game without degrading your competitive advantage, do it. Else, play the game by the numbers and keep selling to other customers all the time.

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  • Thanks for your answer, I appreciate it. We already signed a contract, but that did not help to get the client delivering us the documents so we can get started. So I think a contract does not help in a real good way. – M. Hirn Feb 16 '14 at 9:01
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Clients are almost never ready immediately -- even if they are the ones who find you AND they have a tight deadline. You need to work this into your pipeline and forecasts. Also, if you follow-up too often, especially if you initiated the relationship, you run a high risk of chasing them off or appearing pushy.

I have A/B tested this with my own clients and found that asking for a deposit did not make them respond any faster -- but it definitely guarantees they will respond. It can also keep a steady stream of income coming in, so long as you are prepared for those weeks when everyone seems to respond at once.

I second user7289 -- can you provide a demo without their data? Give them a 14-day free trial of your product? Find their data somewhere else and input a sample of it yourself? That is the level of effort that will impress potential customers.

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  • Thanks for sharing your expecriences. I helped us. We will also start to A/B test things. Problem is we can't give them really a trial, because we need that information also for that trial. That's kind of a bad circle. – M. Hirn Feb 16 '14 at 9:06
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it really depends on why you need the data from your customers. If you just need this data to show a demo for them, then you could use some fake data or just parse a customer's site in order to get the data you need. In this case you will be able to prepare the demo for your customers without asking them. At the next meeting, they will be so satisfied because you will make a presentation using real data that they will sign a contract with you.

As somebody else mentioned, there might be a lot of reasons why customers can't provide you with this data at this particular moment. If you need data from them not for the demo, but for the real production site, you can kindly push them. For instance, you should prepare an e-mail (a kindly reminder) that you are still waiting for the data. In this e-mail, you can describe all the benefits your client gets if he/she starts working with your startup, such as the company gaining a new market, etc. Good luck with your start up!

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