Customer acquisition is the next toughest task after finding investors a startup will face. Without customer, any big business does not have any value. It is the customers who decide the fate of any great business. Customer acquisition process requires the entrepreneur to understand what makes the customer tick and investing heavily in inbound marketing strategies and search engine optimization (SEO). Strategies have to be formed to decide on the ways to attract customers. Various strategies have been discussed below that will help startups to slowly grow its customer base.
1.Find the right users:
The foremost thing one entrepreneur has to do to acquire customers is to find out the target customers and locate them. The first step to do so is to ask oneself ‘who is my customer?’ Once the right target customers are found, they can be sought after to get feedbacks or suggestions about the product or the services of their company. Next is to locate your target customer and get there. Meetup groups, communities and other group activities where the customers may be are to be targeted to promote the business. For instance, if the business is dealing with SaaS app for musicians then try to be on every musician forum, IRC chatroom and Facebook group.
Rather than engaging in just promotion of the product, it has to be ensured to create value and engage with the users as it can take the business long way. Attracting the right type of customer makes all the other things simpler. So the entrepreneur has to really know and understand what ‘right’ means to him or her.
Goals are vital for any business. It acts as strong base for business strategies, for tactics and daily focus. It has been stated, “Determine goals, milestones and priorities. These three tasks make people more productive. Productivity makes better use of your time. Time is directly related to growth. Growth is why we are here. Therefore, growth is goals, milestone and priorities,” in the book called Full-Scale.
The goals can be set on the basis of monetary, user count or activity based goals. But it has to be ensured the goals are SMART which means they have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. The goals have to fit into these to make them practical and able to reach. Setting unrealistic goals will not business from any perspective. They could only discourage the business for doing anything worthwhile. Also, it has to be noted that the business should not have many goals. More number of goals would the entrepreneur wary of what he/she is doing. It is important to focus just on one or two goals at a time. To acquire customers, the goal could be to get more visitors, convert visitors into leads or convert more leads into customers.
3.The Viral Loop:
Many businesses are interested in viral marketing, but in the real sense, only a few companies can actually do viral marketing. All entrepreneurs are really interested in viral marketing as a company can acquire many customers without spending much money. The base for viral marketing is the powerful internet as it serves as a strong platform for ideas to reach a lot rapidly through emails, instant messagings, blogs and social messaging platforms. The biggest advantage is that it’s free. Companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp are the successful agents of viral marketing. YouTube is a valuable promotional platform as each video receives from hundreds to thousands of views. The key is finding a way to monetize the traffic or customers that one can acquire through virality. There are various kinds of experiments that can increase the value. Even interesting blog post that has share-ability can go viral. However, investors are generally not easily convinced when the entrepreneur talks about the plans to go for viral marketing.
4.Word of mouth:
The power of word of mouth is often underestimated. Word of mouth is an important means users find new products yet it is something one cannot have control of. It is an important source of influence on short-term and long-term consumer attitudes and purchase behavior. The credibility factor attached with it plays the major role in influencing the customer decisions. Studies have proved that word of mouth is more influential than newspapers, magazines, personal selling and radio advertising.
The best way to make people notice is to do things in your way rather than copying the way what the competitors do in the market. For instance, if an entrepreneur is building a SaaS service, sending personal welcoming mail to first 100 users would make the company stand out from the rest. Offering very good customer service stands out, for example Zappos, 37 Signals and IntercomIO gained attentions from customers from the way they interacted with the community. Positive word of mouth is an outcome of customer satisfaction.
5.Distribution of Free Samples:
It is hard to find anyone who does not love getting anything for free. Distributing free sample of the product or allowing free downloads of the software or giving away credits for a service can encourage customers to try out the product or service again in future. If they really like the product or service, they can become a loyal paid customer in near future.
Freemium is a common technique to attract users and increase morale. For instance, Uber gives away free credits for new users to take a ride in its cab. Few years ago, Uber gave free rides for new users during the time of London Olympics for each hour after a British Olympian won a medal in London. This free service was much talked about topic on social sites like Twitter etc, Giveways can boost traffic however visitors looking to win a prize do not necessarily have an intention to buy the product or service.
For lot of startups simple referral schemes can drive sign ups but they require an initial user base. This channel is not only effective but costs very low too. Dropbox is one such startup that made use of this strategy. It gives its customers 500 MB per referral which encourages the users to add more people to the circle to obtain more bonuses. There are also customer referral platforms like Friendbuy which helps marketers to set up customer referral campaigns and measure performance.
There is too much of hype surrounding the phrase ‘content marketing,’ so it is quite easy to be carried off from the real meaning of the content marketing. Content marketing is closely associated with ‘blog posts’ but in reality all form of content marketing is counted as content. Even a simple email that communicates the message of the company to the right person is content marketing. Content marketing is very powerful and it comes to the rescue of the cash-poor startup who are on a lookout for best tactic to acquire new customers.
Creating real and interesting content can help in attracting people to your website and eventually sign up for your newsletter. Blogging and whitepapers are few of the great ways to build a user base and it is all about creating value for your readers. SlideShare presentations hold high-ranking in Google. For example, the musician startup could create “Top ten ways for musicians to find new venues” and put together some useful and interesting content that pulls them to their product.
8.Search Engine Optimization:
The biggest part of developing practical and usable content lies in those shares and links that will help the entrepreneurs in eventually gaining rank in search engines. It is obvious that productive search results are a great place for potential customers to find the company. The variety of SEO tools available for Google Adwords will facilitate the company to reach for the potential users and the customers. This marketing tool improves the business ranking in local search results and brings it to the front of the customers when they are searching it online. SEO has a high return on investment in comparison with other marketing initiatives. A study done in 2013 shows that 54% of marketers stated that local search optimization positively affected their business. Another study on restaurants reported that nearly 75% of consumers say they often choose a restaurant to dine in on the basis of their local search results.
Social media presence targets more at content. It cannot do much on its own but it serves as fuel to the fire and helps in spreading the online content. It can be advantageous if worked with the right tools. It serves as a platform to find the customers for the business and help them address the problem with the company’s products and services. There is a new tool called Little Bird that helps in figuring out the influencers within a topic. It will assist in interaction with the customers, getting their feedbacks and also share what the business is doing with the community. The comments on Facebook for a product can help in the sales of the product. Facebook has a better reach than Twitter in social media. Some entrepreneurs also find Instagram and Pinterest valuable for product promotions. Instagram has recently opened its platform for all marketers would be an added advantage. A startup called LaunchRock uses Pinterest to share great examples of customer launch page examples.
Press is a very good strategy for acquiring customer but it does not work on long-term basis. The outlet the entrepreneur one selects plays the vital role in the reach. Advertising for PS3 and Xbox in women’s fashion magazines like Vogue will not do its purpose because it was not for the right audience. Founders look at various news sites like Mashable and Verge to get instant recognition and to rope in investor interest. Having a story that is much more than just a launch, like business traction, funding, acquisitions or any interst happening will help in gaining press coverage. Sometime smaller blogs have niche that are valuable because two hundred active users are better than thousand that may not help the business.
11. Guerilla Marketing:
For startups who are short on budget, guerilla marketing tactics can prove to be very rewarding to acquire new customers. It is a way of using what the business has at its disposal to market its products in the real world. It is a low-cost unconventional marketing approach that gives maximum yield. This tactic is all about taking the customer by surprise, make an indelible impression and create large amount of social buzz. It is known for making much more valuable impression with consumers in comparison with the traditional forms of advertising. It is considered valuable as it strikes the consumer at a more valuable and memorable level.
12. Public Relations:
Public relations are not just getting large coverage from press, but also engagement with the blogosphere and online communities. It is not advisable for a startup to pass the task to a PR firm, not only it is expensive but as the initial stage no one can explain the product and the company better than the owner.
It is advisable for the startups to create their own touch points like blog, a twitter account and a Facebook page. The entrepreneur should take time to make them more useful and interesting to grab the attention of the customers. Building up reputation takes time but it is not directly related to money.
Selecting the right channel as the strategy for the company based on the product and the services of the startup guarantees the success in acquiring customers.