10 Ways for Startups to Acquire Customers

Acquiring customers for your startup doesn’t have to just be traditional cold calls & direct sales.  Never understimate the power of a kick-ass marketing strategy.

Inbound Marketing

customers startup

This includes all media you own, and therefore have direct control over.  Owned media increases your value & profit margins.  Blogs, websites,etc.

  • Content Marketing.  Content is scalable, cheap, and brand-able.  It is the future of startup customer acquisition.  You can post in your own blogs, or other people’s blogs.  Don’t blast out random content.  Good content takes a lot of time to be researched, designed, created, and then marketed.
  • Organic Search Traffic.  Never underestimate a good SEO strategy combined with good content marketing.  Plan to Start can coast on it’s own (no $$) for months.  Takes time to build up though.  It’s a long term strategy (how long have we been blogging here?  Oh right.  3 years now)
  • Link Building.  Organic link building does two things when done correctly: a) it boosts  “authority” (ie: PR rating) in search engines which in turn boosts your content and search traffic efforts.  b) brings in referral traffic from other trusted sources.  Let it happen organically – which means DO NOT buy back links.


External Media

startup customers

  • Social Media Marketing.  Can be powerful when combined with inbound marketing.
  • Public relations.  Most startups will seek to acquire customers through public relations.  If you can tell a good story, it’s cheap and easy to get a hold of.  Make a statement.  You won’t get any good PR without a good brand positioning.  Example: Uber.com’s brand was positioned as a tech startup, but it’s really a car service.
  • Paid Advertising.  Traditional advertising is usually best for when you get further down the road.  It’s not a good strategy for most startups.  This includes advertising in print, TV/Media, online advertising (such as google adwords), banners, etc.
  • Events.  Ah the many bonuses of events.  Either sponsoring another’s event, or putting on your own event with sponsors.  Great co-marketing strategy.  Plus, a great additional means of revenue.


Third Party Customers

startup customers

This includes all third party sources of customers for your startup.  You need to have a proven business model, and at least the first few sales before you venture into this realm.  No one wants to partner with a failing company or unproven model.  This includes, but not limited to:

  • Business development and joint ventures.  Powerful for startups.  Build solid, complimentary partnerships for your startup early.  Get cozy with other founders & ceo’s.  Don’t try to make a deal in the first meeting.  Do good stuff for them.  The day will come when you need something, and they’ll be there when you do.  It’s all about give and take here.
  • Affiliate programs.  Hey, it can be a nice alternative to keeping a lot of sales people off your payroll.  Basically you set up a commission based affiliate program, recruit affiliates, provide them with marketing materials, and let them bring you customers.
  • Referral programs.  Referral programs are nice for existing customers.  You can give them discounts, offer nice things like gift cards, etc for referring more customers to you.  Just brainstorming here, but you can also say…a small discount for every like on facebook or whatever.