When you are just starting up your venture you’ll likely be anxious to get your first few clients, and at the lowest cost possible. What I recommend to startups that I mentor is to be sure you hit the low-hanging fruit first. One thing to do is some very basic SEO optimization so people can find you in online searches. It can take a while to get really good search engine results placement though, so here’s another low-hanging fruit (aka “cheap”) way to attract your first users, clients, or customers…
Engage with the community.
Sure, content marketing (aka blogging mainly) has been a hot topic for a while, and unless your head has been buried in the sand for a while, you’re already doing this. But there is something you can do that is a bit more proactive rather than just writing content and waiting for people to show up at your site. And that something is to engage with the community.
For almost every topic there is a forum somewhere online to discuss said topic. There are cat people forums, there are coding forums, there are Mac user forums, security forums, etc., etc. Find forums that either directly apply to your ventures focus, or at least discusses topics that are related and that the users there may also be interested in your product/solution.
Sign up on the forums and start engaging with people. Do not spam the forums or randomly answer questions by suggesting your solution. Truly engage with the people. Enter into the discussions. Answer questions. Post items and start new threads. If someone asks a very specific question and it just so happens that your product is a good solution for them – then, and only then, should you mention it. Otherwise, don’t sell.
Trust me, you’ll sell more if you don’t actively try to sell. I know it may not make sense, but it is the case. People get put off quickly when someone joins their community to sell to them. So, just engage. Oh, but by the way, make that engagement count by having a standard tagline. Most community sites will let you set up a standard signature or tagline. If so, set this to be something like:
Your Business; Your Title
Your Business One-Sentence Catch-Phrase
So even though you aren’t selling, people will have an idea where you come from. Then, if they have a need they think you might be able to address for them, they’ll think of you. They’ll think “that person is very nice, not pushy, and has been helpful without trying to sell me anything – I’ll get in touch with them and check out their product(s)”.
This works. For me specifically, when I first started growing my business there weren’t a ton of online community sites like now. Back then we relied on newsgroups (NNTP) and even a bit on FIDONet (mainly through BBS sites). But still, it worked for me. I engaged with these communities and built up a reputation for someone who a) really knew my stuff and was an industry expert and b) who had a solution in the industry but wasn’t a pushy sales person. I started having people contact me asking questions – which I answered whenever I could. I then started having them ask me about my solutions, and many became clients fairly quickly.
Try it. All it takes is some time, which yes, is in short supply when starting a business, but most founders have more time than money, so invest the time wisely to grab the low-hanging fruit.
And speaking of blog-posting (yeah, way up above :>) if you see a topic come up a few times, write a quick blog post about that topic. Then the next time that same topic comes up again you can say “hey, this has come up a bit now so I wrote up a good solution” and post the link in your response. That isn’t selling – it’s giving free help and educating the community. But it is one more way (besides the signature/tagline) to get a potential user to your site. Also, posting those blog links into the forums (again, only when appropriate) helps build “link juice” which helps out your SEO rankings over time.
I hope this helps. No, go get some new customers!