“New customers make the startup world go round.…”
– Anonymous

OK, full disclosure … I made that quote up right this very moment!

While it may not have come from Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, it does sound quite appropriate for today’s startups, doesn’t it? It is one of the hard truths of the digital age that new customer acquisition is absolutely necessary for the creation of innovative and cutting edge products/services.

It is time for us to give the attention deserved to every entrepreneur’s most pressing early-stage startup question:

How do startups acquire sufficient customers?

Remember, there are numerous digital age startups that still fail (and fail miserably) even though they have great products, rock star digital marketing and experienced teams. Looking to our question above, we should take note we used the adjective sufficient to define our ideal customer base.

Why?

Well, as most entrepreneurs are aware, it isn’t an overly strenuous exercise in mental/startup competence to find a small customer base in the digital age. Even the digital age startups that truly hit rock bottom managed to accomplish just that. Yet, without sufficient customers you won’t be able to raise sufficient capital, and without sufficient capital, you run the risk of becoming just another unflattering statistic of the digital age startup scene (i.e., part of the 90%)

As a startup founder and entrepreneur, you likely understand better than most the notion that disposable resources are the bane of your startup existence. Not only will you have more time than disposable resources, but you will likely have more highly talented human capital as well. This means that the only solution for digital age startup survival is to evolve and innovate with the resources you have available. From content marketing, to SEM and social media, customer acquisition for young startups requires a multi-faceted approach.

To help facilitate this process, we have created a three-point plan of customer acquisition best practices. We will provide you with the need-to-know customer acquisition basics, as well as a list of additional resources.

Let’s take a look!

Best Practice #1 – Focus on Content Marketing

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With all the buzzword rhetoric surrounding our digital age understanding of “content marketing,” we need to recall what content marketing truly is: the application of mostly digital media and content in order to keep your ideal consumers informed and entertained.

Typically, a diverse content marketing strategy is employed in order to raise the profile of a marketer and the brand with which he or she is associated. Content is great for customer acquisition in the digital age as purchasers are more autonomous and self-sufficient than ever before. They want independent engagement and the availability of high value content. From traditional content such as email marketing, to the millennial-focused campaigns of today, content marketing has the potential to take many “purpose driven” forms.

Here are five simple steps startups should follow to capture digital age customers with a multistep content funnel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given its diversity, content marketing should be considered an essential part of your customer acquisition strategy for both the customers of “today” and “tomorrow.” Look to develop a great team of content all-stars, continuously strive to meet the needs of today’s consumers. Here are additional resources for further content marketing guidance:

Best Practice #2 – Don’t Forget Your SEM

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Search engine marketing (also known as SEM) is the logical continuation of content marketing. Without a basic understanding of its tactics and techniques, including both paid advertising and SEO, your value driven content will never reach the audience it was intended for and you will never acquire the customers you need. A recent study by Shop.org and Forrester Research highlights this point, with 85% of retailers surveyed indicating search marketing was the most effective customer acquistion tactic.

As we have recently covered PPC advertising in some detail, let’s turn our focus to SEO. Search Engine Optimization will help your startup rank naturally in search engines, as well as develop organic consumer relationships that are built on mutual trust. Contrary to popular opinion, SEO goes beyond simple links and keywords and is really is a broader concept designed to increase content popularity and authority.

SEO should be considered ideal for those digital age startups that already have a significant number of pages and a firm commitment to both content creation and distribution. For those startups still looking to build product buzz and general awareness, social media is a good alternative option (see below). As SEO can potentially generate traffic throughout all parts of the consumer funnel (i.e., from research to purchase), it is ideal to use SEO in combination with other techniques of content creation. Two essential points of focus for SEO customer acquisition are the appropriately named “on-page” and “off-page” SEO. Let’s briefly review each.

“On-page” is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. This refers to both the content and the HTML source code. Some potential tactics include:

“Off-page” SEO refers to the body of techniques (often associated with linking) that can be used to improve upon the position of your website in search engine results. It essentially tells Google what others think about your page. Some potential tactics include:

Looking for more information on how to create organic search results and place potential customers in a position to find you? Check out these great resources below:

Best Practice #3 – Master Social Media

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A common misconception in the digital age is that social media, on its own, has the power to solve the customer acquisition question that all startups face. A few tweets, a few posts and a few tags is all it takes to find you customers … so the myth goes. While it is an attractive theory for many young startups, it is not remotely close to accurate and it often leads to startup disappointment.

Social media excels as a singular (but very important) part of a comprehensive acquisition strategy. Its value lies in its ability to streamline consumer relationships through a mutual meeting of value. As the optimal way for businesses to truly acquire new/loyal consumers in the digital age is to understand and meet their unique preferences for value and the best way to accomplish this is to frequently use the social technology they hold dear.

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, over 52% of online adults use two or more social media platforms for their social networking needs. This high usage rate means social media platforms are not only unique in their ability to provide insightful data pertaining to customer acquisition and value preferences, but they can help startups avoids superficial statistics such as “number of followers.”

Some of the potential insights to monitor include:

Another area of focus for social media customer acquisition is brand awareness. As we have already mentioned multiple times, great content can only do its job when the right people see the right posts and the right shares. Created in moderation, and while considering consumer preferences, social media brand awareness has the potential to connect/acquire consumers and drive traffic. Effective social media brand awareness can manifest in the following ways:

The above tips and strategies are just a few of the many aspects of social media customer acquisition that you should keep in mind. For further guidance on customer acquisition via social media, see the references below:

In Conclusion…

To end our discussion on the tips and techniques of customer acquisition for startups, let us recall the words a great entrepreneur once spoke: “New customers make the startup world go round….” The information above, together with the additional resources provided, should help put your startup on the path to customer acquisition success in the digital age. Good luck!