Customer Acquisition Strategy for Startups: Guide to Acquire First 100 Customers

“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”–Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s

Once you have a sell-able product, the first thing you need to do is to make a solid customer acquisition strategy. Having a proper strategy in place is essential to achieving sustainable long-term growth. Without having a plan for new user acquisition, you will undoubtedly struggle and eventually fail.

With that said, why is it important to have a customer acquisition plan from the very start? Can’t you just focus on marketing your startup to achieve exponential growth?

Sadly, just like every other thing, a startup needs proper planning to grow. This requires audience refinement, goal setting, and multi-channel marketing.

In this article, we will discuss customer acquisition techniques to attract more customers and retain them while growing the startup. But before we get to that part, it is important to understand what constitutes a customer acquisition strategy?

What is Customer Acquisition?

In the simplest of terms, customer acquisition is a term that refers to getting more customers. Every business, every agency, and every entrepreneur must create a customer acquisition strategy. Useful customer acquisition strategies that a business can employ include referrals, loyalty programs, and various others.

For every business, the meaning of the term ‘customer acquisition’ is different. But it more or less relates to three factors of growth. Get, Keep, and Grow.

Get: When you acquire new customers for your business. This is the first part of the user acquisition process. You market your product or service through multiple channels and then you get a customer.

Keep: How many of these customers can you retain for your business? It depends on the value you provide to the customer. The churn rate of customers varies from industry to industry but on average, it is between 5% to 7%. If you want to keep your customers, you will have to provide them with something new. Take an example of Facebook. Facebook offers new ways of engaging its users. More of it is related to user-generated content, but the whole business model is developed in a way to keep users coming for more.

Grow: How many of your customers actually help grow your business? Or, to how many of the customers can you up-sell or cross-sell your products? Some of them might become your referral, or recommend someone else to your business, some might not.

Collectively, these factors are the building bricks of the ‘customer acquisition’ concept.


Image Source

Once the startup reaches the growth stage, the whole customer acquisition cycle is complete. Now, to repeat the same process, the startup needs to create a loop. This means the old customers/users of the startup can refer new users that will form a growth loop.

Now, as you know what customer acquisition strategy is, let’s discuss what you need to know to get started.

Channels, Goals, and Audience

You need to understand your targeting channels, your desired audience, and your goal before starting the process of creating a customer acquisition strategy. Read below to know what they are and how to set them.

Define your Audience

Suppose your startup offers fitness and gym tutorials on a daily basis for a subscription charge of $1 per month. In this case, the audience of the startup will be:

People who work out on a daily basis.

If we refine it further, this can be people including gym subscribers, home gym users, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes.

Define your goals

Now, let’s suppose you want 10,000 members in the first three months. This is your quarterly goal. Your yearly goal is to reach 50,000 subscribers who pay $1 per month. Now let’s turn our imagination one notch up. Your customer’s LTV is $12. Means each of your customer will only remain with you for a year.

Define your channels

Let’s see what types of channels are available to you for customer acquisition. Online marketing channels that are most often used include:

  • Paid Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing and SEO

Let’s see which customer acquisition techniques you can use the following marketing channels.

Customer Acquisition Strategies for Startups

Now the question is: What types of use acquisition strategy you can use to step up the startup’s marketing on both online and offline channels.

Online Marketing

In online marketing, we have multiple channels available for customer acquisition. First one is paid marketing. It is a refined channel to get customers because it offers targeted marketing to an audience.

The second customer acquisition method is email marketing. It helps target visitors who had engaged with your ecommerce store before. You have their email addresses and you can target them through emails.

The third customer acquisition technique is organic marketing. It is completely free and long lasting. Organic marketing is further divided into social and search marketing.

The fourth channel of customer acquisition is affiliate marketing. For startups, the best way to penetrate a competitive market is through affiliate marketing.

Most startup founders tend to highlight the importance of paid marketing because it leads to high conversions. Here are some customer acquisition strategies that you can use for paid marketing.

  • Seed Engagement Metrics to Drive Down Ad Spend

One proven way to get more conversions through paid marketing campaigns is by boosting an already engaged post to your targeted audience. First, create posts for your social media platforms and then boost them with ‘engagement’ ads to get more comments and likes. You can even get engagement through low-converting countries like the Philippines.

paid marketing campaigns


paid marketing campaigns

We have taken the above two pictures from Growth pilot. They compare two identical posts and show how higher engagement can lead to more conversions.

Key Points

1. Promote marketing content in social media groups and communities.

2. Run engagement ads that can lead to higher engagement and then to sales

3. Target countries with low CPC costs just to get initial engagement. Some countries to target include the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and a few others. You can test the ads to target even more users.

  • Remarketing

Remarketing is another customer acquisition strategy that works when you show ads to the same audience that initially liked your content. This content can be on social media, website, or even in emails. Remarketing ads can also be shown to visitors who visited your website and have an account on Facebook.

For remarketing strategy to work, first, create a remarketing advertising campaign for your startup. Take leads that you have collected through social media and lead funnels. Now, add them to paid marketing platforms for remarketing.

You can run remarketing on all paid channels including search and social.


Take this ad from Whistler. It is a remarketing ad. As you can see, the caption includes ‘time is ticking…’

It was shown to the person who opened the Expedia website and searched for planning a trip to whistler. The ad searches for cookies of Expedia within the browser. When it detects those cookies, it then shows users the ad.

You can develop similar remarketing strategies, by testing various ad sets. Remarketing ads have a higher conversion rate because the leads are already warm. They have either visited your website. Or, they know about your business in some way. By remarketing them with the offers they were interested in, you can increase conversions for a much lower cost.

TipSegment remarketing audience based on their journey. For example, those who were on the checkout page might be interested in discounts or trial offers.

  • Similar/Lookalike Audience

Another customer acquisition strategy to grow your startup and on board customers is by searching for similar or lookalike audience. First, identify those customers who have already bought from your website. Now, create their lookalikes. This means you now have a potential customer base. Target them with relevant ads. Another better way is to do Micro Split Tests (MST) – a strategy that was introduced by Jason Wardrop.

According to this strategy, you first select a target audience and then test your ads. Once you have conversions rolling in, split the test with a lookalike audience. You then have to repeat the first step again and see if it leads to conversions. Keep drilling down to see which type of ad set is bringing in the most leads.

See how we found a winning ad set using this strategy. Our cost per lead was $15.85 and we gained 50 leads this way.

  • Segment your ads by demographics and geographics
  • Test strategies for a week and ignore those that don’t perform well
  • Those that are performing well, keep their audience and then create their lookalikes.

2. Email Marketing

Most ecommerce store owners tend to opt for an email marketing funnel to create email marketing campaigns. These campaigns are helpful in reminding people about a product or a service that they have forgotten. Email marketing is also a clever way of remarketing. Here are a few customer acquisition strategies you can use with email marketing.

  • Give Value to Your Subscribers

Email marketing is an outdated method. But the reason we have added it to our startup customer acquisition strategy is that it still works! People buy products if they are reminded through emails. That’s why landing your message in their inbox is important. It makes them feel that you went an extra step to reach them and this makes all the difference.


Image: Google Script Examples

Moreover, you can monitor their behavior through email analytics. You can track when they open your email, when they click a button within the email, and when they land on your website through email marketing. You can track almost every action they take and this helps with retargeting.

  • Increase Engagement from Unopened Emails

When you have the data available, you can target only those who didn’t open your previous email with another subject line. This trick was first introduced by Noah Kagan. He experimented by sending one email message twice to customers who had not opened it earlier.

From his first email campaign, the open rate was around 70 percent. Almost 30 percent of people had not opened his email. So, he took the same email, waited for a week, and then sent it to those who had not opened it earlier.

The process is simple:

  1. Take the SAME email you sent and CHANGE the subject line to something new
  2. Email it out a week later JUST TO YOUR NON-OPENS (Source)

By adding a completely new subject line, the users who have not opened your previous email will never know if you are re-sending them the same email. This gives you a chance to increase the open rate of your emails without looking like a spammer.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is one organic way of gaining customers for your website. Some strategies to acquire customers using social media are mentioned below:

  • Q&A Websites

Quora is a social Q&A website that allows users to answer questions about almost all topics. You can make a profile and start promoting your brand by answering relevant queries of the users. For example, if you provide SEO services, then simply start answering SEO related questions with a link back to the services page of your website.

You can use a paid tool like SEMrush to search for top questions on Quora. For example, go to SEMRush and select organic traffic for Quora. Now, filter the results by adding your own search term i.e. Cloud hosting. Or, go to Google search and type ‘ cloud hosting’ to search for top ranking pages related to this query.

  • Collaborate with Influencers

Another way to get more customers through social media is by bringing influencers onboard.

Who are influencers? Anyone who has a large following on a social media platform and is willing to sponsor your content is an influencer.

Influencers will charge you a small fee to promote your product or service to their audience. But the benefit of bringing them onboard is that they can easily increase your credibility and help convert more visitors. You can read more about influencer marketing and how to improve conversion through it.

  • Capitalize on User Generated Content

Another clever acquisition strategy to increase your reach is by promoting user-generated content. Look how Wendy’s is doing it.


Wendy’s twitter account is highly active. Whenever a user posts something related to Wendy’s, its official account is the first one to talk about it. This not only gives Wendy’s users a sense of being heard, but it also promotes the company’s goodwill.

User-generated content doesn’t guarantee customer acquisition, but it will surely increase your brand’s reach to people who didn’t know about it before. Moreover, the person whose content you shared will then share your post in his or her circle.

4. Organic Search Marketing

In organic marketing, you don’t pay anything to market your products and services. For example:  When you post something on social media and get traffic. Or, when you rank posts on the search engine and you get traffic through it.

Here is how you can get customers organically.

  • Rank for Paid Keywords

The best way to beat the competition is by searching for keywords that you want to target through paid marketing. Now search for opportunities to rank for those keywords organically. This way you will reduce your ad spend and get more conversions. Keep looking for new converting keywords and rank for them organically to boost conversions at a lower spend.


See the above example. Amazon is trying to rank for the paid keyword that costs some price. For us, it is completely free to rank for this keyword organically. However, it did cost us some hard work to rank using search engine optimization tactics.

  • Improve User Experience on Your Website

Another way to acquire more customers is by improving the user experience on your website. This means, make your website more attractive to visitors. Start tracking user-journey and find out why visitors are leaving your website.

You can also check the same by tracking the bounce rate and average page session duration. If you want more data, then integrate heat maps on your website.

  • Republish and Repurpose

Most of the content you publish today will become old in the next few months. This means Google will reduce its ranking and you will receive less traffic. To increase its ranking again, simply update it with newer facts.

Similarly, you can increase its reach even further by repurposing the content to other formats. For example, you have written a blog post. Now turn this post into a slide and share it on Slideshare and other slide sharing websites. Turn it into an infographic and share it on Flickr and Also, you can turn it into snackable images using Canva and share it on Pinterest and other image sharing social media platforms.


Source: Hootsuite Blog

5. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is another solid way of acquiring new customers. Amazon is one company that grew its business completely through affiliate marketing. Many other companies are now using affiliate marketing to get a solid edge in acquiring more customers. Here is how you can use affiliate marketing as a startup to get more customers.

  • Build a Small-Scale Influencer Referral Program

You can easily set up an affiliate program for your website using an affiliate tracking software. One of the best affiliate tracking software is Affiliatly. It integrates with WooCommerce. You can use it instantly after signing up for the service.

Once you have the affiliate program setup, convince bloggers to promote your products on their blogs. You may have to offer them better commission rates. Therefore, you must keep the LTV of your customers in mind and then offer commissions accordingly.

  • Introduce Incentive Based Slabs

We at madquick have an incentive-based slabs system for our affiliates. This means we increase the commissions of affiliates who provide us with more customers. You can also introduce this for your startup.


First, craft a strategy that works for you and then make slabs for various sales numbers.

6. Create Problem-Solving Content for Your Audience

The content you put out should focus on offering solutions to the audience you’re targeting.For instance, you can create product guides and personalized tutorial information that highlight how your business is relevant to resolving your target audience’s issues.

Personalized, solution-oriented content will help you reel in incoming prospects. To understand how to create this sort of effective content, you need to find out the pain points of your audience, and what their online search intent is.

problem solving content

7. Integration with Other Products that your Audience Needs

If you already have a thriving user base for one product, you can capitalize on it for other products and services as well. Integrate one product with another to improve the overall user experience; this will help you expand your user base further.

You can also identify and connect with other businesses that could use your products to fill an existing gap. For instance, you could connect with an ecommerce store owner to integrate a customer centered live chat application on the store store. In this case, both the owner of the live chat app and the ecommerce store owner mutually benefit from the integration. Both are able to add more value for the customer with the integration than without.

Source: OnlineWebFonts

8. Build Tools To Market Saas Products

One of the most effective ways of improving lead generation is by providing the targeted audience a tool that they can use to make their life easier. With the help of different tools, you can provide value to your customers and promote goodwill simultaneously.

Cloudways Ecommerce Tools

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