Acquiring customers is always an uphill battle for any . Limited hours, limited resources, limited knowledge. With that in mind, we’ve piled together 12 profitable strategies that startups can use to acquire new customers.
1. Build A Customer Profile
A massive stumbling block for growing companies is the lack of clarity on who their customer is and what they struggle with.
It’s worth taking the time to determine your customer profile(s) while you’re in the early stage. That way you don’t waste marketing dollars in the long run targeting the wrong type of customers or not converting customers because your messaging isn’t on target.
Step 1 – Build The Outline
You’ll want to define who your ideal customer is, so that you can easily step in their shoes.
- How old is your ideal customer
- Are they male or female
- Job title
- Income range / business revenue range
- Marital status
- Favorite books, music, tv shows, movies
- Magazines they read
- Blogs they follow
- Interests they have
- Conferences/events they attend
- Experts/teachers they follow
There’s a lot more, but that’s enough to get you into your ideal customer’s mind.
If you’re ideal customer could be male or female, or maybe you have multiple ideal customers, create a profile for each.
After you’ve defined all of this, you’ll want to them pick a name and actual person’s image that fits this ideal customer.
HelpScout did a great job of defining their ideal customers:
Help Desk Heidi
Your entire team should be able to step inside your customer profile’s shoes and use that point of view to make decisions.
Step 2 – Talk The Talk
Now that you know what your ideal customers look like, you need to figure out what they sound like.
This is a key step that will determine the way you write your website copy, ad copy, blog content and basically any text that gets put infront of your ideal customers.
Each industry and each segment within an industry has a different way of speaking.
For example, in the Physical Therapy market, a general marketing agency saying “I can help you get more patients” is less effective than an agency that talks to the same Physical Therapist but says “I can help you target new patients that won’t rely on insurance to pay for their therapy while reducing the number of insurance claims you’ll make over the next 12 months”.
The second set of messaging is significantly more effective for that particular market. But knowing those pains is the key to this exercise.
Questions to get clarity:
- What specific words and phrases are they using?
- What are they scared of, what keeps them up at night?
- What stresses them out on a regular basis?
- What’s the worst case scenario they’re afraid of?
- What’s the I can’t believe that this exists “dream solution” they’d pay almost anything for?
- What would they be able to do or achieve if that “dream solution” existed?
If you’ve built this all into one neat little customer profile, then you are right on track to begin targeting the RIGHT customer for your company.
2. Content Marketing That Drives SEO
Content is often the lifeblood of any marketing campaign, the copy of your Facebook ad, the ebook that’s driving leads or the website copy that’s turning visitors into customers.
High quality content can be used to drive many aspects of a markeitng strategy. The most powerful combination is high quality content, leveraged to drive organic traffic through SEO.
The best marketing strategies are repeatable, and the ultimate marketing strategies can be turned into a formula.
That’s what a number of companies have done, including us. We’ve turned content marketing into a formula to drive millions of eyeballs to a product or service to convert it into millions of dollars.
Focus on High Quality Content
When it comes to longevity of content, quality trumps quantity EVERY day of the week. All of Google’s algorithm updates have one thing in common, high quality content ranks higher and higher each time.
Build actionable, high value content and you move from just ranking to ranking, building up comments, shares and relevant traffic that you can convert into hard cash.
Now Onto The Formula
Multiple Parts +2,000 Word Evergreen Content Pieces
Well Researched And Linked content (+10 Reference Links Per 1,000 Words)
Outreach To Referenced Links To Get Distribution (ContentMarketer.io is great for this)
A High Traffic Blog
Now there’s other factors that can come into play, like keeping an engaged community through your comment section, but this is the raw material formula for a high traffic blog asset that will drive money into your company’s bank account.
3. Open The Feedback Loops
When you’re building a product or even defining a service you want to offer, it’s key to constantly be improving.
Your business may start life as a digital marketing tool to help companies get more social sharing for their content, but over time it may narrow down to a tool to help content managers within companies better promote their content to key influencers.
These shifts in focus are all part of an iterative process of customer development and gaining key feedback from your ideal customers. In making these iterations, the worst thing you can do is make decisions without customer feedback to back your shift.
When you’re starting off with few customers, the customer is often your own team, otherwise known in the tech world as “eating your own dog food”.
Here’s the two main ways to build up the feedback you need to make these key shifts that will improve your product or service.
Focus Sessions With Potential Customers
In the early stages, you won’t always have a base of customers to pull from. While reaching out to potential customers, take a learning first approach to get into their train of thought.
Ask them questions about the pains you’re solving, like:
- How does this problem effect your business right now?
- By solving this problem, what would improve in your business?
- If you could have anything built to solve this problem, what would your solution look like?
- How would that solution work with your current business processes?
The aim is the ask them similar questions that you would ask if you were building a software or service just for them.
After 20 – 30 of these calls with the same type of customer, you’ll notice commonalities that point towards key features or elements of a service offering that a majority of the market is after.
You can then go back to all of those people you talked to and ask them “now that I’ve built a solution to solve the problem you’re having, would you like us to solve your problem?”.
Common Trends Through Your Support Desk
When you have customers on board and you are looking to make improvements to your product or service, you don’t have to look any further than the support tickets you have in your archive.
There’s always customers who are more engaged than others, and often these customers will actively provide you with feedback on what can be done better or what they’d like to see.
The worst thing you can do is get feedback from 1 or 2 customers and immediately begin building a “bolt-on” to cover that request. You want to be more methodical in the way you make changes.
If a customer requests something new, bounce it off of multiple customers or compile the top 10 and ask all of your customers to vote on what would be most useful to them and why. The “why” part of it is the most crucial.
If it’s just a nice to have, that means it’s not something directly related to driving more revenue, and there’s better ideas to be actioned upon.
4. Invest In Talent
If you read the stories of any company that grew rapidly (SumoMe, KissMetrics, AirBnB, Dropbox, etc), they haven’t skimped on hiring the best.
A great team often means you’re able to build a great product. Experienced team members means you have a short ramp up period before they’re effective and they’ll be able to bring something to the table off the bat.
The motto of any startup. Don’t settle for just anyone when you’re in the early stage of building the company. The wrong hire can lead you down a path for failure.
When you have a more established team who share the same vision for the company, it becomes easier to hire and train talent because the direction of the company is more controlled.
There’s lots of content out there that argues a successful company comes from marketing, while just as much content out there says the same thing about having a good product.
The reality is, if you have a product no one wants to use, no one will. Any amount of marketing and advertising won’t save you from failing miserably.
But a good product without marketing is in the same boat, it will grow to an extent, but it’s likely to fizzle out due to lack of revenue.
Think of a good product and solid marketing as the chicken and the egg theory. You can’t have one without the other, and one shouldn’t really come before the other either.
They both have to be tackled in sequence so you hit the ground running.
5. Guest Blogging
There’s a few ways to tap into existing audiences, the most common exchange is through content.
Guest blogging can be a really powerful way of building authority in a space through content posted on multiple blogs in a market.
Step 1 – Identify Your Targets
Figure out what blogs or publications you want to be on. Make sure they’re frequented blogs and publications of your ideal customer targets and if you’re just starting out, aim for some smaller ones. You can leverage the smaller blog features for an Entrepreneur or Inc spot down the road.
Step 2 – Craft a Pitch
Keep it relevant to the type of content you normally see on the blog you want a guest spot on. Pitching “10 Study Hacks To Ace Your College Exams” isn’t a great topic for a blog about content marketing for example (that’s a true story…horrible idea).
You want to stay relevant to their blog and offer value in the same way they do to their audience. But don’t stop there.
Even if it’s a blog with lots of traffic, do a bit of your own research on the SEO side of things. Identify some topcs that can drive SEO because the more traffic that lands on your guest blog, the more traffic that gets shot towards your site. It will also attract people to reach out to you and ask for a guest blog.
Step 3 – Make The Pitch
It’s just about as simple as it sounds. Send your targetes a suggested topic and 2 – 4 bullet points outlining what will be covered
In some cases they will ask for the whole article to be delivered at once. It’s still worth doing these if it’s a good blog/publication. At the worst, you can re-use that content in another pitch.
From there the process is relatively straight forwards. Get approval, write the content, get it posted, rinse and repeat.
You can get content requests delivered to you daily through HARO – Help A Reporter Out, among other similar platforms.
6. Guest Podcasting
Guest posting is great, but there’s a new medium that’s becoming more and more popular for content consumption. It’s podcasts.
Podcasts really just a conversation between two people, but recorded. The best ones have millions of listeners who download the daily, weekly or monthly podcast episode. Even some of the small ones can pull in 10,000 downloads without too much effort.
Podcasts often have weekly episodes, which means every single week these shows have to book a new person to talk to.
If you look at iTunes in your main market, you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of shows. Your main aim should be the ones not in the top 50 of your category. You want to focus on the ones just below that.
They’re hungry for good content and they’re growing, which means you’ll have less hassle to get a spot and you can book them often.
It’s a great way to build authority and get your offer infront of a few thousand people.
There’s also two great services to help you get going down the guest podcasting road: RadioGuestList and InterviewConnections. RadioGuestList is relatively low cost for those just dabbling in the idea of it while InterviewConnections is the more done for you option.
7. Viral Loops
They’re not just a funny sounding buzz word, it’s also a term used to describe elements that drive acquisition and “virality”.
Let’s run through a few commonly used and not so commonly used viral loops you can swipe to double or even triple your customer base.
Anyone with a smartphone and a mild Angry Birds or mobile gaming addiction will recognize this one.
Almost every software out there has multiple milestones a customer hits during their initial experience and over the software’s lifetime use. The key to this viral loop is to integrate positive reinforcement into day to day use.
This is achieved through messages congratulating the customer on taking action.
The opportunity here is to tap into a customer’s network through the achievement. A simple Facebook share, Tweet or even inviting people by email to see what you’ve accomplished.
Many platforms out there are inherently social. It’s not limited to just B2C platforms either.
Task management platforms, audio or video communications platforms and networking platforms are all inherently social. Due to this, they instinctively trigger the need for someone to invite friends and co-workers.
Task and project management platforms are the best example of this. Here’s Taskworld:
Taskworld leverages an on boarding flow to push invitations, but it’s also a necessary action to unlock the platform’s full potential.
SumoMe is one of the best example of how branding on a widget can equate to rapid growth. In 2014 it reached over 1 billion people after starting from complete zero earlier that year.
Within a year the company was synonymous with email capture for blogs everywhere.
If you had a platform out there who’s widget was seen 10,000 times per day for each person on board and 1% clicked through the “Powered by” branding. Do you think you could convert some of the 100 that came back?
Then when you had 2 people on board serving up 20,000 impressions per day, would you be able to convert some of the 200 that came back that day?
It’s a continuous loop of growth. Each time you add more people, it continues to multiply.
If you can capture your initial customer base, it’s one of the post powerful viral loops out there with proven success in building multiple million dollar companies (Hotmail, Gleam, Soundcloud and many more).
8. Build Good Will With Your First Encounter
Some have on boarding wizards, some have platform walkthroughs and some offer up value on top of value right away.
One of the most used strategies to acquire users is discounting, but discounting alone won’t sell even the best of products.
You have to deliver that discount in a unique way, make it more about your customer than yourself or simply add scarcity or urgency.
In the end it doesn’t do too much for you.
Free trials work in a similar manor, but few ever combine the two.
The idea of a trial based discount is rarely seen, but highly profitable when implemented right.
The concept is to offer a discount equivalent to the number of days of your trial.
If you have a 14 day free trial, offer a 14% discount upon entry into the platform. As the trial length remaining goes from 14 days to 13 days, the discount offer moves down as well from 14% to 13%.
This repeats over time with the end being 1 day left in the trial and a 1% discount still on offer.
With this strategy you’re able to:
You’ve created an incentive to dive into the platform faster.
Create A First Impression
While a 14% discount may not seem massive, if you stick to your guns and don’t offer a discount afterwards, it’s a great gesture.
Increase Your Conversions
By enticing them to dive into the platform faster, you’re also getting them run through their buying cycle faster. The end result is, you get them into a mode where they’re ready to purchase much faster than you otherwise would have.
The law of expansion isn’t just for procrastinating work. The same goes for purchase research and testing.
9. Testimonials And Case Studies
Your product doesn’t speak for itself. You have to speak for it.
Testimonials are a staple of any good landing page or homepage. They tell a story of what you can do for your potential customer through the stories of what you’ve done for others.
Here’s an example taken from our site:
Case studies on the other hand are more detailed accounts of what you can do for a specific segment of your potential customers.
Typically these are leveraged to tell a story of how you achieved a result for a customer and breakdown how it’s repeatable.
Case studies make for the ultimate selling tool.
Testimonials don’t tell the whole story and often sound like they’ve been taken out of context. Case studies on the other hand are in-depth accounts of a situation where you’ve helped your customer achieve a result.
It can be the different between a 6-figure a year company and an 8-figure a year company.
The reason for this is people want to see a story that can be directly relatable to them. The more they resonate with the journey, the more they’ll want that end result.
10. Make Your Site Opt-in Friendly
The average website conversion rate on a website is less than 1% and only 2.35% on a landing page.
That means that on most websites over 99% of traffic isn’t converting and even on specific landing pages over 97% of traffic isn’t converting.
While you can’t always get someone to hit your conversion goal, you can tempt them with other offers to try and capture the gold that is an email address.
When you capture someone’s email address you’ve been given a second chance to entice them with an offer that will actually achieve a conversion. The way to do this is quite simple.
The point of these platforms is to help you capture 1%, 2% or even 10% of that lost traffic into a second chance.
OptinMonster is a great option to allow you to make use of multiple behavioral driven opt-in forms from exit intent based pop-ups to scroll based slide-ins. If you can manage 3 to 4 opt-in points per page on your blog and 1 to 2 opt-in points on your main website, you’ll have no problem capturing an extra 5% of traffic into emails.
The mistake most people make, even massive brands like Axe Body Spray make this mistake, is that they capture email addresses in some fashion but then never do anything with it.
Utilizing those emails to offer up alternative services, affiliate products or making a one time offer on the same product is your ticket to converting more of email leads faster.
It could be as simple as a thanks for subscribing, here’s what was promised, now here’s something you probably didn’t know we even offered.
The most ideal scenario is that you utilize something like the Invisible Selling Machine formula for email on boarding to indoctrinate your email subscribers and then offer them value before you try to sell them.
11. Reach Out Directly On Social Media
Social automation tools are getting better and better as people realize just how powerful of a prospecting channel it can be. You can search by content pushed out by potential customers, content in their profile, people they follow and so much more – all at your fingertips.
Say you’re a software company in the web hosting space. People often take to Twitter when their hosting goes down or they have a problem because those issues are dealt with faster in a public setting.
You can simply search for “hosting down” or “website down” on Twitter and get thousands of conversations you can jump into and offer advice, help or even your services. With automation you can now even automate the process of jumping into those conversations to play the numbers game and generate prospects passively.
Imagine waking up every day to a dozen new prospects ready to jump onto your platform because of a personal looking message you have being pushed out via Twitter multiple times a day.
Facebook doesn’t have as extensive a list due to it’s relatively closed in nature. Instagram on the other hand as Instagress, which can automate liking, commenting and following/unfollowing to grow your audience and drive traffic into your funnel.
Linkedin is the more complex of them with each element of a well oiled Linkedin funnel being handled by separate software. Elink.club has worked wonders for many Linkedin prospectors. It helps automate the most essential part, the inbound traffic driving.
12. Leverage The Power of Linkedin
Linkedin is the best professional network to leverage for social B2B lead generation. It’s over 400 million strong and despite the bad rep for old tech and stringent connection rules, there’s some really powerful things you can do to make it a winner.
Step 1 – Join Linkedin Groups
You have to be a friend to have a friend. Approach Linkedin groups in the same way you would building a relationship. Provide value and then engage for the connection.
Step 2 – Create A Linkedin Group
Creating a Linkedin group gives you a whole community of people you have access to by InMail, email and through content posted. It also instantly places you as an authority in the market your group is specific to.
Neil Patel over a QuickSprout wrote a phenomenal post about how to leverage Linkedin groups to build an audience. It’s a recommended read.
Step 3 – Direct Prospecting & Networking
People join Linkedin for two purposes. One is to apply for jobs and the other is to network. Linkedin was made for networking and it’s what most people on the site want to do. While many try to network to make a direct sell approach, there’s a better way of approaching networking to generate leads and make sales.
We’ve built a 38 minute training video walking through how we use Linkedin for generating leads on autopilot. You can get a copy of it for free here.
It’s the last Linkedin training you’ll ever need to get up to speed and fully leverage your network for driving revenue.
You don’t need to be executing on all of these strategies at once. Any one or two of these can bring you back 6 to 7 figures in new revenue and maybe even scale you beyond. The key is to be focused and find the strategy that fits best with your company and your customers.
Focus on providing value through whatever approach you take and you’ll go far and scale fast.
We’ve used several of these strategies with clients and companies we’ve all been a part of with great success. Some work better than others in the specific scenarios they were leveraged in, but applied in the right way they can all fill your platform with customers and your bank accounts with profit.
If you have any questions about any of the steps in these strategies, let me know! Leave me a comment below, and I’ll try to clear things up.