Initial Customer Acquisition Strategy for Startups on Tight Budget

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Having an optimized business website is vital for any startup; whether your idea caters the need of a local community or it can serve people across the world. However, building an awesome website can never guarantee you a single customer and it requires parallel efforts to acquire visitors.

If you are a first-time entrepreneur with a killer startup idea, you may be lured by the much-hyped “Search Engine Optimization” and “Advertising”. However, the ground reality is a bit different.

Higher search engine rankings do mean greater visibility, but this doesn’t happen overnight. It comes with hundreds of hours of expert SEOs, i.e. keyword research, onsite optimization, citations from authority websites, popularity, and overall trustworthiness of the site. And, your new website is neither popular and authoritative nor trustworthy.

Yes, you should have search engine optimization a part of the marketing plan, but as it’s not going to bring instant customers, you should keep it a low priority at the time of launch. Or in other words, SEO should be slow and steady. You might want to check this quick list of 7 SEO Essentials for a Startup Website.

Next, comes “Advertising” which can actually be very beneficial if your budget allows to rent those big billboards. But, I am sure, not all first time entrepreneurs can afford the direct and indirect costs associated with advertising.

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Then from where should I get early customers?

You cannot get visits to your website through search engine right in the beginning because it takes time and your budget doesn’t allow you to advertise, but there’re a few other unexplored options available. For instance;

  • Referrals
  • Social Media
  • Email

And, in order to make most out of these available options, you must step out of your comfort zone and communicate directly with people in communities, using media properties, groups, companies, bloggers, journalists and social media celebs. In a nut shell, you need to work on “influencer marketing”

This article will discuss a few influencer marketing ideas for new startup websites to acquire initial customers and gain momentum.

1- Look for right channel partners; the idea is to find out the places where people are most likely to purchase something similar to your product/service. For instance, your product is an organic food item, and organic food buyers buy either direct or at specialty food stores, so partnering up with a specialty food store is the best way. If it’s a kid’s educational game, targeting schools should be the right idea.

2- Connect with people offline; as a fact of the matter, most of the target audience doesn’t spend whole day on tech crunch or Hacker News, so even if you are launching a tech product, you must look for relevant offline events where you can find instant beta testers in the events and the number of initial acquisitions can be multiplied with a powerful acquisition strategy based on referral rewards. Do check this article about 15 Trade Show Display & Booth Engagement Ideas to Get More Visitors.

3- Volunteer/speak; speaking in an event is a user acquisition hotspot, but don’t worry if you do not get a chance to speak in the event. Volunteering your time can be a great alternate.

4- Co-sponsor an event; sponsoring snacks, water bottles, LED screens, lighting or anything that delivers value while highlighting your startup is a great way to gain traction in the target community.

5- Organize blogger meetups; whether it is a localized business or a global one, having a bunch of industry related bloggers onboard can help you get a broader reach with little effort. Check, how can be used to market your startup.

6- Hire an efficient yet cost effective PR company; PR, if done rightly can do wonders, so it must be done by an expert. Outsourcing PR is a good move for startups, but you must know the basics of effective PR so you can evaluate the process. Here are few relevant readings you may want to go through:

7- Have referral marketing strategy in plan from the beginning; referrals and affiliate marketing is of the growthhacking techniques most successful startups use.

8- Once, you have explored at least two of the options discussed above, the next step is target your social media campaigns in accordance with your choice of options.

9- Make sure to have highly converting landing pages on your website, and leverage the power of email marketing fully.

10- Keep on testing and evaluating your campaigns regularly and on a bit faster pace. Exclude the non working techniques and optimize the ones that deliver results.


The Bottom Line:

Website visits come from active as well as passive sources, i.e. advertising and search engine optimization respectively, however, a startup should work on a “proactive” approach, because acquiring the initial customers is the most difficult part!

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