How to Acquire New Users for Your Startup

One of the most common problems a startup faces is the issue of acquiring new users or customers. I thought I would write a post on how to get traction as a startup. Some of these methods may not work for you, others may seem spammy so pick and choose as you please and comment below if I miss any. 

10 ways to acquire new users or customers

Answer Quora questions and create a Quora blog - One of the most effective channels I've used is Quora. While it takes a couple posts to get the hang out it and understand the community, this site is awesome for startups to engage in. Answer questions in your industry or vertical and write posts frequently. As you get upvotes on your content you'll receive credits that you can use to promote your blog posts to other users. It ends up being a virtuous cycle because the more you write, the more credits you get and the more views you get on your articles. Set a goal to write an answer everyday and you'll slowly build a following and attract new users. 

Hacker News - Post your launch page on Hacker News and then get your friends to help you get to the front page. I've had friends get over 10,000 page views in a day so be prepared for a surge of users! Stay tuned for a post on how I was able to hack hacker news and get to the front page :)

Reddit /startup subreddit - While Reddit isn't a repeatable marketing channel, it can be great for acquiring your first users. I've seen thousands of visits from Reddit by posting questions and also posting my link. The key is to have a compelling headline (as is usually the case!) and to post to the right place. 

Write guest blog posts - Like many aspects of content marketing guest blogging can take some time, but the results in the long run are amazing. Buffer guest posted their way to startup success by writing up to 3 posts per day in some cases. Not only will you attract new users in the short term, but the backlinks will help your organic SEO efforts.

Reach out to newsletter owners - There are a ton of "aggregators" of content out there whose sole mission is to read about cool products and then send out an email with links to those and good articles every week. Reach out to these people and explain why they should feature your startup or blog post. Odds are they're willing to help out!

Set up Google Alerts for related keywords - Most information on the web is useless noise, but some of it isn't which is why Google Alerts is so helpful. Set up a Alert for your keyword (e.g. if you are a video conferencing startup track "video chat" "video conferencing" etc.) and then comment any time you see a blog post on the subject. Be polite, contribute useful information and then leave a link at the bottom. 

Leave comments on the top 5-10 search results - On a related note, you can search your keyword on Google and find the top 5-10 articles then leave a similar comment. Insider tip: you can search that keyword on Google Keyword Planner to see how much search volume it gets. If it gets more than 5,000-10,000 per month it's probably worth commenting. Anything less is up to you!

Use Craigslist - Alas, we get into the gray areas of morality... Let's say you're a job search startup or a startup in the housing space. Craigslist is a great place to find people that have a specific need (e.g. they are looking to buy a home or rent their apartment). You can reply to their email address or if you're really smart about it build a web scraper like my friend Luke. If you're a genius you can build a Craigslist integration like Airbnb did. Check out the whole growth hack here.

Reach out to owners of Facebook fan pages - If your product really offers value and you can find a Facebook page with targeted followers then reach out to the owner and see if he'd mind sharing your website or a blog post. Think of a way that it will benefit him or his following to increase the odds of him responding. 

Search Twitter for related hashtags - I met a friend the other night who was acquiring users by checking Twitter every morning for #clickers and then tweeting at the people that were talking about it to see if they'd be able to offer some feedback on his product. Social media is meant to be a conversation so this is even more useful than tweeting your blog posts to the 37 followers you may have. That same friend also mentioned that when a new game was released with characters called "clickers" he had a lot of noise to sift through so heads up it's not always dead simple!

Manually reach out to people - One of the best ways to acquire your first group of users or customers is to be direct and reach out. This can consist of emailing people, reaching out on LinkedIn, tweeting at people with profile info that alludes to interest, stopping people in a coffee shop etc. The first 1,000 customers don't need to be found in a scalable way because they'll help form the basis of your scalable model. From them you can learn what makes them share with others and how you can build features to reduce friction of doing so. 


At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself two questions: Where are my ideal users/customers already hanging out and conversing? And how can I offer them value? Figure out the answer to those questions and getting to 1,000,000 users/customers will be cake :) 

If you liked this article share it with some friends! And if you know of some other ways to acquire users/customers comment below.