By Robert McClees, HubSpot for Startups
Customer acquisition is something that most startups struggle with in the early stages of their business. Founders with limited funding face a multitude of challenges and it’s often hard to dedicate resources to gaining new customers. As startups grow and scale, founders must look for ways to improve upon their acquisition strategy or explore new ones. Whether you are a first-time founder or a serial entrepreneur, the key to customer acquisition as a startup comes down to this: find low-cost, time-saving tactics that have massive results. Keep reading to learn how to do just that.
Content marketing is one of the most popular customer acquisition strategies out there. Implementing an effective content marketing strategy is one of the best ways to establish legitimacy and authenticity as a new business.
Content marketing can come in many forms – blogging, infographics, educational kits, video, or podcasting to name a few. It is a great tool for startups to publish product-centric content that is focused on educating their audience on how to use and optimize their product or service.
For startups that don’t have the time to create a suite of original content for their audience, consider using curated content. This is when you reshare content pieces that someone outside of your startup has created and it is a popular tactic that can save you time and lead to positive results. Curated content really comes in handy when running email marketing campaigns or building out landing page funnels for websites.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is an extremely valuable form of marketing for startups–mainly because it can be done successfully at little to no cost. A well thought out social media strategy can build an authentic relationship with your audience that will keep them engaged with your business for a long time to come.
Do research on both paid and organic social media and determine which one makes the most sense for your business. Having a mix of both organic and paid social media ads is a strategy that can pay off big if done correctly. Paid ads typically depend on your budget, but it gets your content in front of your target audience right away. This comes in various forms—such as paying an influencer to promote your product on Instagram, running a Facebook advertising campaign, or having a video advertisement on YouTube.
Do your homework and make sure you know what each social platform is best used for before deciding to join; it’s best to pick two to start with and do them well. Determine your marketing goals with your team and let your goals inform which social platforms will best help you achieve those goals. Here is a quick rundown of the most popular social media platforms and their best use cases to get you started:
Paid advertising can be most beneficial on this platform due to Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm, which is making it harder for organic content to be seen. Using video content and Facebook live sessions are two proven methods that will guarantee interaction from your audience.
Don’t discount Instagram Stories! This is often where communities are built and where you can meaningfully engage with your audience. Stories are a great way to get your audience to interact with your profile directly, whether this is in the form of a poll, a question, or just encouraging direct messages. Your followers can give you direct responses, allowing you to keep the conversation going. If some Stories are especially well-received and showcase what your company is all about, try using the highlight tool to permanently feature those collections. That will also give new followers a quick understanding of what you’re all about.
Twitter is a place where brands can be a part of trending conversations that are resonated with their audience. Voice and tone are key here because of Twitter’s conversational culture. Try to focus on trending topics that are on par with your brand message.
LinkedIn is extremely effective when it comes to customer acquisition. A study about B2B marketing found that 93% of B2B marketers found the platform more effective than its competitors for lead generation. LinkedIn is also a great place to build relationships with potential customers and showcase your product.
Tap Into Your Network
Utilizing your network is often an overlooked customer acquisition tactic, especially when you’re just starting out. Scaling as a new business is never an easy thing to do and many of your first customers will be friends, family, and colleagues. Consider the many different individuals in your network and make the appropriate asks accordingly. You can ask them to share your startup on social media or with someone who may benefit from the product or service. You can ask for connections and introductions, whether to potential customers, investors, or mentors. The key is asking the right person for the right action, so consider how they would be willing to help. Your network can play a big role, especially early on in your startup’s customer acquisition. This is an easy way to gain potential new customers, resources and mentors while spending little to no money at all.
Customer Referral Programs
If you want to take it up a notch, implement a customer referral program. Rewarding customers for bringing more customers to your startup is a method that works for everybody in theory. The key to a referral program is understanding how to incentivize your customers. Some tactics that have worked for startups include getting a discount on your products or services, gifting, or a loyalty rewards program.
Referral programs are best suited for startups further in their customer acquisition journey. Not sure how to get started? There are tons of available resources on how to build an effective customer referral program to help with gaining new customers. But in short, figure out how customers are currently getting referred to your business and try to optimize that. As your referral pipeline takes shape, ensure you set goals to track the progress of the program over time.
Leverage Low Cost or Free Products
Sometimes, part of the challenge with customer acquisition is budget allocation. It isn’t easy keeping the lights on at an early-stage startup. In order to allocate more funds for customer acquisition, consider tools that will help alleviate costs and help propel your acquisition strategy forward.
Finding the right resources to help run your business can be a difficult task of trial and error, especially when there may not be enough funds to keep trying different products. Leveraging low-cost or free apps are great investments to make because they can increase productivity while not requiring large sums of your budget. When considering a product, it’s always smart to push for a free demo or trial. Finding an easy-to-use product is just as important as low-cost. Products and software that are difficult to use will only lead to time and money lost for your startup. Here are some top-rated, low-cost, or free products to consider today:
HubSpot’s free tools are the perfect choice for startups looking for powerful software on a budget, but also software that can scale with you as your startup grows. HubSpot free tools – email marketing, live chat, forms, ads, reports, and more – are all built in a robust free CRM to help you build your business. For startups looking to expand productivity within their business—HubSpot provides value that is hard to pass up.
Canva is a fantastic product to use to create graphics for any design needs. The free version offers a ton of value for startups looking to create content. There are three plans offered by Canva so this tool can also grow with your business.
Buffer is a great tool for creating social content to tie into your customer acquisition strategy. This powerful social media management tool covers all of your startup’s social media needs – from planning and scheduling posts to analyzing your accounts. Although Buffer doesn’t offer a free plan – their lowest plan starts out at $15 per month – they do allow a 2-week free trial to test out their products.
Every startup should have a project management tool in their arsenal, especially for tracking customer acquisition projects. Asana is one such tool that can help streamline projects and increase your team’s productivity.
We know that startup employees often wear many hats within their small teams. Project management tools like Asana make it easier to track and get tasks done – allowing tasks to be delegated throughout your team and prioritized based on impact. Asana offers a free plan and three paid plans to grow into. Their paid plans start out at $10.99 per month and move to $24.99 per month.
These are just a shortlist of resources to help startups with customer acquisition. There are an abundance of assets available to startups at low-costs that can help them acquire customers for their business. Take a look at the list of resources below to aid in fine-tuning your customer acquisition strategy.
- The Ultimate Guide to Customer Acquisition for 2020
- HubSpot for Startups Exclusive: Startup Expert AMA Series
- 26 Ways to Leverage Content In Your Customer Acquisition Strategy
- How to Build a Customer Referral Program
- Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America
- Customer Acquisition: Resources to Help You Find and Keep Clients