Joining an early-stage startup that will be closing its seed round in the next month. How/should we sell to restaurants/bars when we haven't launched? It's a discovery tool that allows users to find what's popular around them. The value to our customers (bars/restaurants) is that we can drive engaged potential customers to their venue in real-time, saving them on marketing costs associated with Yelp, Groupon, and increasing their ROI. I feel it may be too early to sell to these restaurants, but if we could offer them a grandfathered rate, and become more valuable over time once we launch, provide data on customers who spent money at their venue...we could get validation for the customer side and learn what they truly need through their objections. Realize this is a bit all over the place, but hopefully I can provide some "clarity" on the call.
It's hard to tell from your question what you have / don't have. Do you have an MVP? Do you have people using the 'discovery tool' yet?
It will be hard to get any restaurant to pay you anything unless you have a deployed MVP already. You'll need to show them actual data of the value of your tool. To do that you need people to be using it to find restaurants. So put restaurants into your tool without the restaurants necessarily paying anything for the listing. Once you have traffic you can start charging the restaurants for certain features.
That doesn't mean you should wait until your MVP is done before talking to restaurants though. To develop your MVP you should be visiting restaurants and talking to them about whether the features you're currently working on would be something they're actually interested in, and ask them open ended questions that may bring up ideas that you hadn't even thought of.
If you'd like more specific advice on the types of questions to ask, or what the restaurants might want to see in terms of MVP data, or general MVP development help, let me know,
It appears you're trying to do two things. Make money and grow your customer base. The two are not always directly related.
Sometimes business lose money by growing their customer base. Since you're starting out you may want to consider approaching from a "Pilot Program" point of view.
Let them know about your launch and ask for their input. This way their input is a value for value trade to help improve your business while bringing value to your "Beta testers".
If you are trying to sell a product that doesn't exist yet it is always great to create a demo or sell the idea of the experience. Walk them through the process of your discovery tool, do a presentation to entice them and get them excited about the product. If you product is in beta testing I think you will be able to show them enough of your product for them to get interested. Always be enthusiastic and positive about your product, companies want to invest in the person more than the platform. I hope this was helpful and if you want to further discuss reach out for a phone call!