Every business owner remembers their first real customer. The excitement of seeing your hard work pay off. It’s like finding gold in the ocean.
Small businesses and startups might have smaller budgets and bandwidth than their corporate counterparts but that doesn’t make them less capable. Whoever said you need a big budget to find the perfect customers for your business was lying.
You can find the right customers for your business, even when working on a small or nonexistent budget. Whether you’re looking to acquire your first, hundredth, or thousandth customer, there are plenty of low-cost acquisition tactics you can use to get those customers over the line.
Here are some easy, budget-friendly tactics that build a strong foundation for acquiring great-fit customers — including some that you might not have even considered before!
Customer acquisition tactics for small businesses
Smart acquisition strategies don’t have to cost thousands. Let’s talk about how even small businesses and startups on a limited budget can find their best customers with the right customer acquisition tactics.
1) Prioritize content
If your client acquisition budget is tight, content marketing will be your best friend. Content marketing lets you reach your target audience by creating content that they will love.
Content marketing includes the likes of blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, guides, infographics, and even social media posts. The best type of content will provide solutions to your target audience’s problems. A beard oil brand, for example, might share beard care guides. Meanwhile, a project management tool might share blog articles on workplace productivity, team collaboration, and time management tips.
The secret to effective content marketing is to write about the topics that relate to your target audience and your brand. Use this content to position your brand as a voice of authority in your industry.
Content marketing is a powerful tool for customer acquisition, with more than 80% of marketers agreeing that content marketing is beneficial for building awareness and improving customer and stakeholder relationships. Yet, only 14% of marketers view content marketing as a tactical tool for their business.
Integrate content marketing into your customer acquisition strategy with these three types of content:
- SEO content
- Repurposed content
- Lead generation content
Even without a big budget, your marketing team can use these three content types to get your brand in front of the right audience and turn those people into customers.
SEO content refers to content that has been created with search engine optimization in mind. SEO content is designed to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). The best way to do that is to find relevant keywords for your brand. Next, create valuable content that will rank well for those keywords. Then, sit back and watch as your content drives perfect-fit customers to your site.
SEO content is valuable for every stage of the customer journey, but you can use it superbly during the early stages of awareness and conversion. If someone is looking for answers to a question, they’re likely to start their research with a quick online search. By creating SEO content, you increase the chances of your brand showing up in those search results.
Once you’ve created SEO content to attract new customers, don’t just leave that content dormant on your website. Promote it across other channels. Better yet, repurpose it for other channels.
That SEO-rich blog post could be turned into a series of social media posts, a podcast, a YouTube video, guest post for another site… whatever channel you’re thinking of, it can likely be repurposed to fit.
Repurposing content is a great way to attract your ideal customer on a small budget because you’re using content that already exists. You’re simply scaling something you have already created.
To demonstrate the power of repurposed content, let’s look at Moz.
In 2007, Moz’s co-founder Rand Fiskin had the idea of launching a video series titled “Whiteboard Friday”. In Whiteboard Friday, Moz creates illustrative video explainers on topics such as “how to create 10x content” or “how to learn SEO”. Those videos are uploaded to YouTube where they amass hundreds to thousands of views. But, Moz didn’t stop there. They also upload the videos to the blog and include a written transcript of the video. They’ll then draw from those videos to create ongoing content for social media too.
It’s been 14 years since their first Whiteboard Friday video and the series is still going strong, creating a bank of content that continually attracts customers to Moz.
Lead generation content
The other content type that your customer acquisition strategy needs is lead generation content. Lead generation content is content that is designed to build a pipeline of leads for your business.
As lead generation content is focused on sourcing new prospects for your business, this type of content should capture lead information. You could offer a downloadable eBook, guide or report in return for a lead’s email address. Alternatively, your lead generation content could be a free webinar -– and the webinar registrants will be your leads — or it may be a newsletter where anyone who subscribes is then classed as a lead.
Whatever you offer in return for new leads is known as a lead magnet. Make sure this lead magnet has been created with your perfect-fit customer in mind. The more valuable your customers find this lead magnet, the easier it will be to acquire new leads.
For lead generation content to work, you need to encourage customers to visit a landing page where they will share their contact information in exchange for a free offer. This sharing of information fills your CRM with new leads. Once you’ve mapped out your lead generation content, you can use other marketing channels such as SEO content, paid advertising or social media marketing to direct traffic to your lead magnet landing page.
2) Be active on social media
A social media customer acquisition strategy is a must-have in today’s digital world.
Being active on the social media channels your customers use matters. If your customers are on Twitter, make sure you’re tweeting. If they use TikTok, share bite-sized videos designed especially for them.
Above all else, social media is social. Engage with your target audience and spark up a conversation. It’s the perfect place to build relationships with prospects. Consumers seek authenticity — they genuinely want to hear about your products and services, see customer testimonials, and gain insight into your brand’s personality on social media.
Still not convinced? In 2021, 68% of consumers made at least one purchase directly from social media. This research by Sprout Social also anticipates that social shopping will become a $1.2 trillion channel by 2025. Your perfect customers are on social media — you just need to engage with them.
Find the right channels and develop a strategy
Social media management requires a vast skill set. While you might want to be active on every channel possible, it can be overwhelming.
Rather than posting to every possible social media channel, find the channels where your target audience is most active. Create a dedicated social media marketing strategy for each channel.
While developing this strategy, take time to focus on:
- What type of content your audience engages with the most
- Your competitor’s activity on social media
- How to create content that attracts your target audience and converts them into customers
- What KPIs you will use to measure your social media success
Your social media customer acquisition strategy should focus primarily on attracting and engaging with your target audience. From here, you want to develop social media tactics that turn those connections into customers.
Outreach via social media
When it comes to social media, you can’t just expect your target audience to find you. You have to be the one to instigate the conversation. Share valuable content, shout about your products or services and provide genuine help for your target audience.
Social media outreach is a profitable customer acquisition strategy for small businesses. Use social media to find your perfect-fit customers and start building relationships with those people. When reaching out to new prospects via social media, be sure to personalize your message. Collect quality leads then take time to send those leads personalized messages. Make sure you also make the conversation more about helping them than it is about you and your company.
In her first six months of business, Melissa Ramos promoted her business in free Facebook groups. Melissa started a free Facebook group to bring her community closer together. Before starting the group, Melissa recounted that no matter what marketing or sales tactics she used, “nothing was paying off.”
Creating the group gave her an insight into the challenges her prospects faced and how to improve her products to better serve her audience’s needs — and meeting those needs led to greater customer acquisition for her small business.
3) Partner with other businesses
Introduce partner marketing to your customer acquisition strategy for an innovative way to reach even more potential customers. Strengthening your brand partnerships lets you increase awareness and maximize performance all while saving time and resources.
Partners help break down barriers to new customer acquisition channels. When working with a partner, you can both leverage one another’s audience to promote your products and services. Work with partners who are closely aligned with your brand to get the most out of your partner marketing customer acquisition strategy.
You can choose to work with partners on an exchange basis where you each contribute equally to the campaign development, promotion and execution in exchange for sharing prospect information at the end. This method of partnership marketing makes it a low-cost tactic for customer acquisition. Of course, there are paid routes you can go down if you want to maximize the return on your partnership marketing efforts.
4) Engage new customers with email marketing
Every $1 spent on email marketing could drive an ROI of $36 for your business. If email marketing isn’t already part of your customer acquisition strategy, it’s time to change that.
Effective email marketing can help you turn prospects and leads into active customers. Put your audience at the center of your email marketing strategy. Focus your email campaigns on giving back to your audience — help them solve problems, answer their questions, and hold space for them. By doing this, you’ll be able to build new relationships with your prospects and encourage them to become customers without being too “salesy”.
Create a lead magnet
Lead generation content lets you build a pipeline of interested leads for your business. Creating a lead magnet for your newsletter is a great way to capture those leads.
Offer your target audience something you know they’ll love when they sign up for your newsletter. Having a lead magnet incentivizes people to sign up for your newsletter which can make it quicker and easier for you to grow your email list.
Once they’re all signed up, you can start sending out frequent email newsletters to keep them engaged and turn them into customers. Email marketing may be a slow-burning customer acquisition tactic but the nurturing process is bound to produce high quality leads.
Start a newsletter
Email newsletters don’t have to be boring product updates or company announcements. A well-designed newsletter can be a robust customer acquisition tactic for your small business.
Turn your newsletter into a lead-generating machine by prioritizing valuable content. Forget about brand-focused updates or sales messages. Instead, turn your newsletter upside-down and use it to provide more value for your audience. Share advice, tips, resources… Curate an email newsletter based on your audience’s interests, motivations and challenges.
Your efforts will be rewarded as leads begin to see you as a trusted fountain of knowledge in your field. Newsletters can be a goldmine for lead nurturing, turning your email readers into valued customers.
Unyoked offer off-grid cabin bookings but their email newsletters don’t just promote their available bookings. Through their newsletter, Unyoked shares musings around slow-living and sustainability — two concepts that are deeply aligned with the values of their brand and its target audience. They include subtle promotional content in their newsletters but only as a footnote, not the centerpiece. They close out by sharing other resources they love. All-in-all, they turn their newsletter into a cozy read for their target audience.
5) Communicate with your existing customers
As you set sail on your customer acquisition journey, don’t neglect your existing customers. Your current customer base can offer a wealth of experience to support your new customer acquisition efforts.
Communicating with existing customers and actively listening to what they have to say is the best way to find gaps in your current customer acquisition strategy. So, how do you collect such valuable information? Ask for it.
Invite your customers to partake in customer interviews or send out timely customer surveys to gather feedback. You could also request reviews and then dig deeper into those responses. Set up live chat or hold office hours where you are available to speak with your customers.
Keeping conversation regularly flowing with your customers will help you finetune your customer experience for both new and existing customers.
Customer surveys & interviews
Engage your current customers in satisfaction surveys and interviews. The conversations that unfold during these surveys and interviews could highlight pitfalls within the customer journey. Using everything learned through customer surveys and interviews, you can fix the gaps in the customer journey and develop a robust customer experience for your audience.
Exit-intent surveys are great for finding out why someone leaves your website. Alternatively, you could send customers abandoned cart emails asking why they didn’t finish their purchase or check in with long-time users and customers to ask about their experience.
Incentivizing customers for completing surveys could help you get more responses but be careful. Plus, recent research into web-based surveys suggests that incentives don’t impact the data quality or bias.
As for interviews, invite customers to attend recorded interviews where you can delve deeper into their experience. Interviews give customers an opportunity to share their full experience as you use open-ended questions to guide the conversation. When inviting customers to interviews, be sure to invite a mix of engaged and inactive customers. You want to make sure you hear a variety of opinions, not just from those who are already self-proclaimed brand advocates.
Bonus tip: Calculate your customer acquisition cost
Every cent counts when you’re running a small business. Calculating your customer acquisition cost (CAC) is a helpful move for figuring out the cost of acquiring new customers across all of your sales and marketing efforts.
From here, you can see which customer acquisition efforts cost the most and which ones drive the most quality customers for the smallest sum. This will help you determine which customer acquisition tactics are most successful for your business. You’ll also be able to finetune your acquisition strategy so you can keep expanding your customer base while minimizing the impact on your bottom line.
Calculate CAC by adding up the costs associated with acquiring new customers over a specified date range.
The calculation for CAC should look like this:
CAC = (cost of sales + cost of marketing) / new customers acquired
When calculating the cost of sales and marketing, be sure to include everything from staffing costs to software subscriptions, creative costs, and advertising spend.
Armed with your CAC, you can see how this rate fares across all the different customer acquisition efforts in your matrix. Work out which tactics are working well for you and which ones may need further improvement. You can also compare CAC against other business metrics to discover meaningful insights to improve the customer experience.
Wrapping up — Put these budget-friendly customer acquisition tactics to the test
You don’t need thousands of dollars to attract high-value customers to your business. You simply need to arm yourself with a thorough customer acquisition strategy.
Acquiring new customers can be fun too. From connecting with prospects on social media to sharing insightful newsletters, make sure your customer acquisition tactics focus on the customer experience above all else.
Refresh your customer acquisition strategy to include these innovative tactics and watch as you build stronger relationships with your prospects — and, of course, turn those prospects into loyal customers.