Tips to Find and Validate Potential Customers

A couple months ago I wrote an article on simple ways to find potential customers online, and it picked up some traction, so I decided to expand and write a few more tips and tricks I’ve learned recently. Enjoy!

Find Demand

If you break down business to it’s simplest form, it’s a supply and demand game. First, let’s find the demand by browsing popular sites for products that people are currently paying for . Here’s a list to start:

Find Local Demand

What are locals interested in? Use the following to find out:

Automate Craigslist = Win

I’m moving to Boston in a month, and I’ve wasted so many hours on Craigslist searching for an apartment. When seeking to find potential customers online, you may be tempted to spend insane amounts of time browsing through listings – don’t do this! There’s a better way.

There’s many programs out there that notify you via email of new listings. I use Craigslist alerts and I can search for a particular product/service, enter other parameters, and have listings sent to my inbox. This is a beautiful thing – and it saves so much time.

On a side note, you may find that you receive duplicate emails – this may annoy you, but I’ve found that if the listing is something you actually want, it gives you an opportunity to negotiate with them on price, etc. This is how I saved $150/month on my sublease. After all, who likes constantly posting on Craigslist?

Supercharge your Emails

There’s nothing I hate more than sending dozens of emails, and being clueless about whether or not the recipient actually read it. I recently found Yesware – hook up this app to your Gmail account and you’ll be able to see if people open your emails. Even better, you can create and use templates to speed up the process.


Knowing if people open your email is valuable – it narrows down your list of leads so you can give a follow up call. It’s also good for refining your message. 

If you’re looking for another tool to help with email – use Rapportive for extra customer insight.

Forums, Linkedin Groups

I enjoy following conversations on blog comments, forum topics, and wherever I can find the potential customer in their natural habitat. Oftentimes during customer development, people are eager to offer feedback, yet oftentimes it’s not insightful. I’ve had conversations with people that just want to talk, and while I enjoy building relationships, it’s tough to guide conversations.

LinkedIn groups can be another pitfall – posting on a group with 10,000 members probably won’t help you. Find niche groups – sometimes they can be a goldmine. On the other hand, I’ve seen many groups full of spam.

In short, there’s no golden bullet, but I hope some of these techniques help. Let me know in the comments below!