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Top 5 inexpensive, specific ways for startups to get new customers

Marketing Success

You’re a startup strapped for cash. You know that upselling and retention are cheaper than acquiring new business – BUT – there’s no one to upsell and retain if you don’t have business coming in.

Here are some straightforward, inexpensive ways that you can target prospects and bring in business without having to be a sales pro or marketing guru.

1. Find some proactive partners for free distribution

Think of partners as distributors of your product that doesn’t hurt your margins. Or, as a sales fleet that you don’t have to pay for (at least until they’ve brought in some cash). Partners usually work via commission. Maybe they’d earn 10-25% of all the total contract value (TCV) of any deal they bring in.

A successful partnership typically goes like this:

Your SaaS company + Service provider in same niche/industry = leads

A new CRM SaaS company targets mid-sized companies. CRM company might reach out to a sales consultant, who has a solid book of mid-sized business, to offer a partnership. The SaaS company could offer a commission arrangement to the consultant partner. In exchange, the consultant would actively seek opportunities for the SaaS company through their current network and future prospects.

Your partner(s) might close deals themselves if they’ve got the experience (although with that, they might demand higher commission). Most likely, your partner will refer warm leads directly to you (probably via email) in exchange for a lower commission or fee. You’ll have to work out the details with your partner regarding a possible subscription to your software as they might need to provide demos to prospects.

How to find a great partner(s)
First, understand who you are targeting. You need to look for partners who have the same customer/client demographic as you. Search for consultants and other product companies that share your niche. Let them know that you’re offering a commission arrangement.

The best partners are the ones that are proactive. They WANT to sell your product to their current Rolodex, and they WANT to pitch it to their new prospects. You might have to kiss a lot of toads to find the prince – but, trying won’t hurt you!

2. Give 10 referrals per week (at least!)

Referrals are golden leads because they’re always 1. qualified and 2. hot. Qualified leads are prospects with a need for your product. A hot lead (or warm lead) is one that’s ready to make a purchase.

Referrals are similar to partnerships in that you’re not paying for incoming business. Referrals are different from partnerships because partners are proactive in finding leads for your business, whereas referrals tend to be passive. To generate enough referrals, you need an established referral network.

*To get referrals, you have to give them*
I’ve been asked many a time, yeah but, how do I generate enough referrals? Asking for them isn’t enough. What’s more powerful than asking? GIVING.

To build a referral network you need a group of folks who service your niche. Maybe an attorney/law firm, a marketing service provider, an accounting firm, etc. To get referrals from these people, you simply GIVE them.

Since everyone needs an accountant, an attorney, marketing services, etc., giving referrals to these types of businesses is almost effortless. The best part is – they’ll return the favor should customers be in need of a product like yours.

Imagine how many referrals you’d have coming in if every salesperson on your team (or you!) were meeting a quota of giving ten referrals per week.

How to build a lucrative referral network through Meetup + email
Use Meetup. Find events where the type of referral partners you need will be attending. Go there. Make friends. Get email addresses and always follow up right after you meet someone.

Some of my referral connections are now really great friends of mine, and it all started because we’d go bowling, golfing, explore new foods, drink beers, friend stuff – but also, we’d talk about who we’re doing business with. Try it – it’s the most fun way to get new business.

3. Get leads with your first blog post and $75

Content is the #1 source of leads for many startups, especially b2b businesses. You can write quality content (that gives value to your audience), and you can do so quicker than you think (link to 1-hour content creation post).

Try writing a blog post that targets your primary users. Then, redeem your free ad credit on LinkedIn. I think you have to spend $25 to get $50 in credit (total spend = $75). Use the credit to advertise your valuable piece of content. Make sure you define a pretty specific target for your ad. Define the industry/niche, the job title of the decision maker, company size, etc.

Use your content to build an email list
Use your content to build an email list. I got a handful of subscribers when I advertised my first blog post via LinkedIn. You can continue building an email list with great content. The more you put out, and the higher value it has, the more subscribers you’ll attract. You’ll convert your email list to subscribers down the road with new blog posts, newsletters, and product updates.

4. Convert trial users with a $5 per-day budget, then scale

The great thing about running paid ads (like Facebook, Adwords, LinkedIn), is that you can easily A/B test (glossary) and optimize. This allows you to scale efficiently – without spending huge amounts on ads that don’t convert.

Start small, test, then scale
In my latest campaign, I got 20+ trial subscribers in 1 week with a $5 per-day ad budget through Facebook. Google Adwords, Facebook, and LinkedIn will all automatically optimize your campaigns for you – all you’ve got to do is create an A version and a B version. Optimize constantly.

Use landing pages targeting market segments
One lesson I learned super quick: You need a landing page based on the target market you’re after.

Don’t just send all of your ad visitors to the homepage or subscribe page of your website. This kills conversions. Instead, write an enticing landing page (link). Explain to this target prospect group WHY your product is beneficial to them.

Example: I recently ran a campaign for an online music-learning program for kids – obvs, I needed to target parents. Conversions doubled when I created a landing page that highlighted all of the ways the program benefits kids.

5. Generate thousands of dollars in Slack channels

I’ve used Slack to generate thousands of dollars for businesses. We (Baremetrics 🙂 ) got our first 100 customers via Twitter. Many B2B businesses love LinkedIn for lead generation as you can search and save leads by biz type, employee title, etc. The point: You need to find out where your target market is at online – and, put value in their faces.

Slack is great for leads
This trick helped me double my customer base. Slack is friendly, conversational, etc. You can find groups to join here. I`m part of Launch, Female Founders, and several other groups where I network, get referrals and share my content. People typically direct message when they’re interested in products/services, and from there, you can convert! You can share new product features (link) and even get valuable user feedback from Slack groups.

Put your quality content into relevant LinkedIn groups
My page views doubled when I started putting my content into LinkedIn groups. Join groups where your target users are engaging. Post your content. Ask people to share. A don’t just post the article – say something along with it. People love stories, so tell them about your journey to that new feature, your personal journey to entrepreneurship, etc.

Go for it

To get new customers, use your creative muscles and create compelling content to share on your blog, to advertise or post in a new Slack channel. Get out and meet people – you never know who might become an excellent source of referrals or even a close friend.

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