In the quest to harness the digital landscape for startup growth, we’ve gathered 20 unique insights from founders, CEOs, and other industry leaders. From leveraging an affiliate program to encouraging online reviews, this article unveils a spectrum of innovative customer acquisition strategies that are reshaping the startup world.
- Leverage UGC and an Affiliate Program
- Post on TikTok
- Prioritize SEO
- Host Virtual Events
- Engage Your Community
- Segment Your Email List
- Set up Bing Webmaster Tools
- Create a Referral Program
- Start a Podcast
- Build Channel Partnerships
- Send Direct Mail
- Test Meta Advertising
- Publish YouTube “How-To” Videos
- Post Daily on TikTok
- Re-target Email Audience from Social Media
- Combine Referral Codes and Social Rebates
- Utilize YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook
- Track Key Metrics via Analytics
- Collaborate with Micro-Influencers
- Encourage Online Reviews
Leverage UGC and an Affiliate Program
We leveraged UGC, empowered with an affiliate program. We launched this program, offering up to a 10% commission for referrals, which led to a surge in affiliate sign-ups. Our existing customers shared their positive experiences, amplified by these affiliates, significantly boosting our qualified leads by 15%.
This method proved cost-effective, particularly in the personal loan sector, where acquisition costs are usually high. Moreover, real customer testimonials enhanced trust, a crucial factor in financial services. This helped us cut marketing costs and build a strong community that is now the backbone of our business.
Focus on Helpful, Short Form Video
In today’s digital age, one effective customer acquisition channel for my startup is TikTok. In our niche, creating videos of me talking to sellers and providing solutions through buying their real estate off-market has been beneficial. Keeping their identity confidential, I share snippets of the conversations and demonstrate how I manage these situations.
This approach has led to new seller clients reaching out after seeing me assist others, and it has also created opportunities to coach aspiring real estate investors who notice my frequent content posts. The importance of a transparent approach is paramount, and TikTok serves as an effective medium for this. After people consume my content, acquiring them as a client becomes much easier.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has worked great for us when it comes to acquiring new customers. By learning how to carry out keyword research, targeting, and optimizing our content for the correct keywords, and carrying out technical optimizations of our websites, we have been able to drive a lot of attention to our products.
Through this, we have been able to acquire new customers in a more efficient, cheaper, and organic way in which customers approached us for our products. We have found much more success with SEO than with other methods such as cold calling or emailing.
To those interested in starting with SEO, a practical tip I would give is to ensure you are thinking about the search intent—that is, what information the people searching for a specific keyword are looking for. If you think of that and tailor your content based on it, you will find much more success in customer acquisition through SEO.
Host Virtual Events
Attending virtual events on LinkedIn is a wonderful way to acquire new customers for a B2B company. The strategy involves going to events where businesses might have a need for a visitor-management system.
The essential aspect of this approach is to indirectly promote products to other attendees. Engaging in conversations and asking questions is often enough to make one’s presence known.
Should that prove insufficient, hosting a virtual event is another option. Our company has hosted a few, and business owners are usually interested in novel topics. Discussing a niche and offering a guest speaker or a free trial of software to attendees can garner interest.
Engaging with topics on LinkedIn and putting a company out there can be an effective marketing strategy.
Engage Your Community
As an advisor to early-stage startups, rather than paying to acquire strangers from cold traffic, I recommend rallying interest organically around your early adopter community to unlock growth with stronger retention. I focus on ProductHunt, X, and Reddit (alongside LinkedIn).
Coordinating a ProductHunt launch and sharing updates using hashtags like #buildinpublic and #indiehackers taps into an engaged audience that eagerly supports new products in their infancy. Identifying subreddits aligned with your startup’s niche allows interfacing with potential users even pre-launch to validate product-market fit.
The key is getting your brand and ethos out there early among communities passionate about new innovations, rather than interrupting disinterested people with ads. I track metrics like subreddit subscribers, X hashtag impressions, and engagement rates, ProductHunt upvotes, and digital word-of-mouth to benchmark traction, but the qualitative support early adopters provide proves invaluable.
As startups scale, exploring channels like paid search and lead generation becomes crucial to expanding beyond early audiences. But for bootstrapped founders, focusing on delighted early adopters first allows capitalizing on users intrinsically invested in your mission to drive word-of-mouth virality. Meet people where they already converge around emergent brands for sustainable, grassroots growth, even pre-launch and in those critical first months.
Segment Your Email Lists
Cultivating an engaged email subscriber list has been the most effective customer acquisition strategy for me as a holistic coach and entrepreneur consultant for women. Over 90% of my new coaching and consulting clients come from my list of several thousand female entrepreneurs who opt in for business tips and inspiration.
I provide free value to list members by sending a weekly newsletter with mindset and wellness tips for female founders, along with business insights and lessons learned from my own journey as a woman entrepreneur. This establishes trust and primes the list when I announce new coaching programs or open enrollment for my mastermind group.
A key tip is to segment your list based on interests and engagement so that I can customize the value I provide to different groups. The personal connection and goodwill from my subscriber list allow me to launch new services when ready.
While it takes consistency and patience to grow an email list over time, it can become a reliable source of ideal clients. I’d encourage any entrepreneur to start building their list by providing valuable business tips and inspiration. It’s the cornerstone of my customer acquisition approach.
Set up Bing Webmaster Tools
I get around 30k monthly users from Bing to my job board, which is about 40% of my traffic.
It might be surprising for most marketers who focus solely on Google for organic traffic, but Bing should not be neglected. Bing’s traffic is skewed toward people over 50, who are the most valuable and highest-converting demographic.
Furthermore, it has become increasingly difficult for small businesses to rank on Google in the last few months. Unless you are a big brand, your chances of ranking for high-volume keywords on Google are slim to none.
Google also has too many widgets, like the People Also Ask or YouTube features, that push legitimate websites down in the search result pages. This means fewer visitors to your website!
If you are interested in diversifying your organic traffic acquisition, the first step to getting started with Bing is to set up a Bing Webmaster Tools account and submit your sitemap.
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Create a Referral Program
Referral programs are a very lucrative and inclusive way of acquiring customers for any business.
Creating a good referral program that makes it easy for customers to share your brand with the community is essential. It is a system that incentivizes previous customers to recommend your products to their family and friends, which, in turn, draws in more customers. It proves to be a better strategy than reviews and filling out forms, as it allows customers to share their brand experience with partners, colleagues, and friends and is more authentic.
This marketing strategy turns your previously satisfied customers into brand advocates and successfully spreads your product’s value. It works well to the advantage of both the customers and the company; the customers receive additional benefits, and the company is able to expand its brand reach.
Start a Podcast
Podcasting has been my secret sauce.
I started a podcast in the first year of starting my marketing agency. It wasn’t anything fancy; I didn’t even edit the episodes before I posted them. I used it to blow up our authority in the niches we were pursuing.
I contacted industry leaders—people who were known, liked, and trusted—and asked them if they wanted to be featured on the podcast. Nine times out of ten, they said yes because they were trying to grow their reach and authority. By association, people started to trust me and my brand more because they saw me conversing with people they knew, which gave them the confidence to reach out.
In addition, after recording, I would chat with that industry leader a bit, asking how I could help them with their brand, and I even landed a few of the industry leaders as clients this way because now they knew, liked, and trusted me. That catapulted things even further, even faster.
Build Channel Partnerships
Besides organic and paid methods, our business essentially employs two other targeted customer acquisition strategies: channel partnerships and a customer referral program. Through channel partnerships, we collaborate with other businesses that share our target audience, allowing us to reach new customers and extend our market presence.
Simultaneously, our referral program turns satisfied clients into valuable referrals, generating fresh business. The key lies in creating a win-win situation through attractive, value-based incentives for both partners and referrers. Rather than monetary rewards, we focus on offerings that hold value for both parties, such as access to a premium feature for free for the referrer.
This approach not only broadens our client base but also fosters lasting loyalty—customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate (Source: Deloitte)—ensuring that our business sees a sustainable return.
Send Direct Mail
Direct mail isn’t dead but lives among a very few, and that’s the beauty of it. The fewer the number, the higher the chances of it attracting customers, whether it’s for your luxury items or direct mail itself. Every company is after digital marketing due to the fast results.
On one side, all of this is great for the fast-paced world, but at times, it can be very overwhelming for customers. That’s the reason why a digital detox is such a big thing now. With direct mail, it seems more prioritized and, at the same time, customized. Since fewer organizations are doing it, your organization gets an opportunity to attract more eyes and stand out among other organizations.
And since technology is evolving, people are preferring to take time out for themselves, away from this technology-driven world. In this situation, direct mail is surely going to draw them towards your organization to see what it’s all about, if not to buy.
Test Meta Advertising
Ad campaigns for clients and our own company follow a highly effective strategy: utilizing Meta advertising with broad targeting alongside a creative testing framework. Broad targeting parameters like age, gender, and location enable Meta’s machine learning algorithm to pinpoint the most promising customers.
The creative testing framework involves presenting Meta with the best ads to run, which helps in identifying the top-performing creative each month. These ads are then used by Meta to locate the most suitable clients, while the startup gains valuable business insights applicable beyond advertising. The creative testing framework entails creating five ads, breaking them down into five headlines, images or videos, and primary text, resulting in 125 possible ad variations.
By conducting control and variable tests on all 15 elements and narrowing it down to the top 20 ad variations, these elements can be fed into a dynamic creative ad test. After several weeks, this process reveals the most effective ad from the variations, a procedure that should be repeated monthly to consistently produce all-star ads.
Publish YouTube “How-To” Videos
We noticed that our industry relies on many “how-to” videos on YouTube, so we began publishing weekly videos on that platform and have gotten a great bang for our buck. It takes longer to make a video than to write a blog post or other forms of marketing, but it’s proven to not only build our brand but also set us apart as leaders in the industry.
Post Daily on TikTok
I’m all in on TikTok. There’s no other customer acquisition channel that immediately pushes out content for free to a large number of people upon release. TikTok will find your audience for you—for free.
If you can make a decent video about your product, even if it’s anonymous, TikTok will find your best audience. You could spend only 15 minutes on a product promotion video, which makes a company tens of thousands of dollars in monthly recurring revenue. I’ve literally done this.
I’ve been making go-to-market videos daily for the last year, and I’m nearly at 70,000 followers. TikTok has been such an incredible customer acquisition channel for my personal brand and my startups.
Make a video a day. Commit to three months. It only takes 15 minutes to shoot, edit, and publish a TikTok—you can do it all from within the TikTok app. You’ll be shocked by what happens within these 90 days.
Re-target Email Audience from Social Media
The best strategy for us has been using email marketing with social media ad retargeting.
First, we create an email campaign that not only provides valuable content but also encourages the prospects to visit our website, which gets them into our retargeting audience pool.
Then, we use social media retargeting to provide more information or give special offers to entice them.
Tip: Include a time limit to create a sense of urgency. This usually increases the conversion rates.
Combine Referral Codes and Social Rebates
Recommendations and referrals are the lifeblood of our business, and we maximize their value for us in a number of ways. For starters, we give each customer three referral codes to give to their friends, each of which is good for 10% off our services.
We also give customers a rebate if they post a positive review on social media for us. Besides this, we feature customer reviews and recommendations heavily in our marketing materials and on our website.
Utilize YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook
In my mind, there’s no question that social media is one of the best acquisition channels for digital marketers. Think about it this way: over 4.5 billion people use sites like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok each month, so there’s a good chance your audience is out there and waiting to discover your brand.
If you want to make the most of your social media strategy, create plenty of video content. Believe it or not, 88% of marketers who invest in video say it resulted in a positive return on investment. I use a combination of pre-recorded videos and live events to connect with our audience, boost brand awareness, and increase engagement across all marketing platforms.
Track Key Metrics via Analytics
Operating a digital company without using analytics is akin to driving a vehicle with your eyes closed. You’re going to fail if you don’t know what’s functioning well, where visitors are coming from, and which aspects of your pages are working—or not.
Numerous elements can impact client acquisition, which is why it’s critical to evaluate and assess your outcomes. Analytics for customer acquisition can assist you in determining where clients learn about your products, among other things. Before you begin, choose the customer acquisition metrics you want to track.
Customer acquisition costs or new customer growth are two examples of typical metrics. Although it may seem difficult, with the right planning and strategies, your company can recruit high-value clients, retain them longer, and expand more sustainably.
Collaborate with Micro-Influencers
Running a startup in this digital age is a bit like surfing. You have to catch the right wave at the right time! The most promising channel we’ve found recently is actually social media micro-influencer marketing.
I worked with a company where we launched an eco-friendly water bottle range; we partnered with micro-influencers who are passionate about sustainability. They had smaller followings, but their audiences were super engaged. We provided them with free products, and in return, they created authentic content about our bottles.
The results were astonishing. Our website traffic shot up, and we saw a significant increase in sales. It turns out people trust recommendations from influencers they admire.
Don’t underestimate the power of micro-influencers in your niche. Their smaller, but engaged, audience can provide a higher conversion rate than bigger influencers or traditional advertising methods. It’s all about finding the right wave to ride!
Encourage Online Reviews
In the digital age, harnessing the power of online reviews has been a game-changer for customer acquisition. It’s like turning customers into your cheerleading squad. A practical tip? Actively encourage happy customers to leave reviews.
Make it easy for them, perhaps with a link right after purchase or service completion. It’s amazing how a bunch of genuine, positive reviews can boost your startup’s visibility and credibility. It’s essentially word-of-mouth, but supercharged for the digital world.