When you’re a startup the biggest challenge is getting new customers.
You’ll of course need to hone your service and product over time, but the number one item is getting new customers.
With startups, especially those that are bootstrapping, you have the added challenge of getting new customers without having much money.
And even if you have a little money sometimes the best ways to acquire customers require scrappiness versus throwing money at something hoping it will work.
At GBW, we’ve done a few different things to acquire customers. We consider ourselves a scrappy little startup and in the early days we had to get especially scrappy in order to get new customers.
Most of those things we tried then and still do today were just about getting noticed by customers. Often that’s all it takes. If you put yourself somewhere that your ideal customer will see you they’ll often become interested and if you’ve targeted the right person they’ll reach out to you asking about your service.
Here are the ways you can get noticed by your customer.
1. Guest Podcast Interviews
I’ve recently been looking into doing more podcast interviews. I recent interview I did resulted in about 10-15 new inquiries over a two-week span. That’s pretty good for GBW. You certainly don’t want to turn down any inquiry especially when you’re a startup. Some of them weren’t the right fit and that’s okay. But others worked out and that’s great for us and hopefully great for them as well.
To find podcasts, I simply searched for podcasts in the GBW industry. I tried to find ones that discussed startups and business, but also ones that discussed inbound marketing and blogging.
Find podcasts that share information that you have knowledge in. Present a few of the topics you can speak to and tailor those topics around the things the podcast has covered previously. That will make you very appealing to the podcast host.
2. Guest Blog Posts
Guest posting has gotten a little bit of a bad reputation the last couple years. The reason for that is all the companies using guest posting to try solely to boost their SEO. Guest posting can help a little bit with SEO, but with all online marketing you’re really not trying to boost your SEO; at least not entirely.
It’s always better to focus on your target customers and what they want first. That’s what you can do with guest posting. Find popular blogs in your industry and write the best blog post you can possibly write. Look at the posts that have been popular on the blog and formulate a topic that is similar. Then go all out; at least 10x what the other posts have been.
It can get read by a lot of readers, which exposes you to potential customers.
There are guest posts I did 2+ years ago that still bring traffic to GBW almost every day; all those visits are potential customers.
3. Co-Writing Or Co-Hosting Online Content
Sometimes to get noticed you have to find people with an established audience. Think of the music industry. New artists always try to find a way to get out on a big tour with an established star. This gives the new artist a chance to win over an established fanbase.
Find the leaders in your industry and see if there is a way for you to work together. You’ll probably have to do 90% of the work on something like a blog post, webinar, video or some other type of content, but that’s okay.
Most people are willing to work together if you present an amazing idea for content and if you’re offering to do much of the work. They get to take half credit for something even if you do all the work, but that’s okay because you’re getting exposure to their followers.
4. Connecting On Social Media (Especially Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn)
You might be surprised, but when you follow people on social media they do see that you’ve followed them. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve followed my target customers before on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn and those people have seen me, read about GBW and have contacted me.
You don’t want to overdo this one. It’s more about finding the exact right person and following them.
Identify your target customer. Find someone that fits that profile and who uses social media regularly. Then connect with them. It might be enough that they see who you are and they’ll do some digging on your service and how it can help them.
5. Searching Social Media For Clues
Early on in the days of GBW I would look on Twitter, LinkedIn Groups and blog comments for little clues that somebody needed a blogging service. I was looking to see if someone was asking about blogging. If they were I would answer the question they had. That’s exposure to me as a blogging expert and maybe they would contact me asking about our service.
I would also look for people that were asking about blogging services directly. These were harder to find, but they did exist. I would usually try to direct message these folks to see if we could communicate about their need. This kept it private.
The key here is to make sure you’re targeting the exact target customer for your business. This means they’ll be happy when you reach out and tell them about your service. They’re happy because they’re asking about your service already; they’re just not sure where to find it.
I would follow “Blogging” or “Blogging Service” on Twitter. The results weren’t full, but on occasion a good one would pop up and that can lead to a few customers. It did for us.
6. Contacting Competitor’s Clients
This one is probably the scrappiest ones, but the best salespeople often do it. There is nothing wrong with looking at your competitor’s website and seeing who they work with. Companies are usually looking to keep their options open. They’re loyal, but not if there is a better option out there.
When I worked for a large ecommerce and catalog company, we often kept our options open even using three or four display advertising partners at the same time. We wanted to test the services against each other.
Reach out to the competitor’s customers. You know they’re interested in the service and they’ll often be interested in testing a new service like yours.
7. Publishing Consistently On Your Company Blog
At GBW, we’re biased about this one, but it’s the number one way we bring in new business. Blogging improves traffic to your site through social media, search and word of mouth. If you don’t have content on your site you don’t have anything for your potential customers to find online. If they’re searching for answers to a question you want them to find your blog post. And then you want them to share it on Twitter so their colleagues can see it too.
Start a blog. Publish weekly posts or even monthly posts. Focus on answering your target customer’s common questions. It can lead to great things and you’ll get noticed by more potential customers.
Getting noticed isn’t that difficult, but you have to get noticed in the right way. You can’t just barge your way into your customer’s life. You have to use finesse and make them feel like they found you and that they’re the ones initiating the conversation. That seems to be the best way to go about it. That strategy has worked for many startups including GBW and we think it can work for you too.