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How to Get Your First Customers as a Startup: Tips for Long-term Success

friendly shop assistant waving and greeting customers in store while at POS terminal counter June 12, 2023

Learning how startups get their first customers can often be one of the most challenging steps in bringing your business to life. It is difficult to know where to start and even more daunting to understand how best to attract potential customers and grow your customer base. 

But fear not - there are countless strategies used to help startups get their first customers, and this article will explore some of the most valuable tactics startups can employ to get their first customers and continue building relationships with them for long-term success.

What is a startup? 

A startup is a business in its early stages of development that typically has limited resources, capital, and customer base, as well as having to get creative with strategies to acquire customers and funding

However, you can employ several tactics to help get your startup off the ground and grow your customer base, which we'll review in the next section.

5 Strategies to help startups get their first customers 

This section will outline some of the most effective strategies startups can employ to gain their first customers and grow their customer base.

Utilize your existing network 

The first step any startup should take when acquiring customers is to leverage their personal networks, such as your family, friends, professional associations or groups, and even local businesses. Engaging with these networks can help startups connect with potential customers and gain valuable insight into the customer experience. Building relationships through online networking platforms like LinkedIn can also benefit startups looking to get their businesses off the ground.

Digital marketing strategies 

SEO and content marketing are two of the most powerful strategies for startups. By optimizing your website or platform for search engines and creating content that is helpful, informative, and relevant to your target audience, you will be able to drive organic traffic to your website effectively. 

You can also use email marketing campaigns and paid advertising (Google Ads and Facebook Ads) to increase visibility and reach potential customers. 

Lastly, taking advantage of social media marketing can provide another avenue for startups to engage with their target market. By creating and sharing engaging content on various social media platforms, startups can gain invaluable brand awareness and establish relationships with potential customers.

Referral programs, word-of-mouth, and UGC campaigns 

Referral programs and word-of-mouth campaigns can be incredibly effective tools for startups seeking their first customers. Referral programs are a stellar way to incentivize current customers to spread the word about your business and bring in new ones. 

Through offering exclusive discounts, free products or services, or even monetary incentives, referral programs can be a powerful way to encourage customers to talk about your business, especially in the early stages.

Word-of-mouth and user-generated content campaigns are similar, although these are usually more focused on getting customers to talk about your business without offering incentives. Word-of-mouth campaigns can be as simple as asking satisfied customers to leave reviews or share their experiences with others.

User-generated content (UGC) campaigns encourage customers to create content for you (i.e., photos, videos, stories) that feature your product or service. UGC can be an effective way to generate buzz and increase brand awareness with potential customers. 

UGC is a powerful tactic because people tend to believe people more than brands, so seeing a real person thoroughly enjoying your product or service can significantly boost how others feel about your business and offers. Moreover, UGC campaigns strengthen customer loyalty and create an intimate connection between customers and the brand.

Leverage analytics to get to know your customers 

Analytics are essential to understanding and optimizing customer acquisition strategies since they give businesses actionable insights into customer behavior which, in turn, can be used to improve their marketing and sales strategies.

Analytics can provide startups with valuable data that they can use to create more effective customer acquisition campaigns. For instance, analytics can help startups identify which digital marketing channels are performing best, which content resonates with customers the most, and where their target market is. Once gathered, startups can use this data to tweak campaigns, target the right audience, and optimize their strategies for maximum results.

Moreover, analytics can help startups measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website traffic, click-through rate (CTR), time spent on site, and more. With this knowledge, startups can create more targeted campaigns that are more likely to convert.

Offer a free trial or demo 

What better way to get customers excited about your product or service than to let them try it at a discount or for free? Offering a free trial or demo of your product or service can effectively give potential customers a taste of what your business offers. A free trial allows customers to get a feel for the product or service and help them see the value it could add to their daily lives, which can often be enough to convince them to purchase.

Free trials can also offer something invaluable to startup business owners: feedback. Having customers test out your product or service in a controlled setting can provide feedback that you can use to improve your offerings and make them more appealing to your target audience.


Tips for long-term success 

Engaging with and building trust with your existing customers is crucial to ensure long-term success. Below are a few suggestions for achieving this goal.

1. Prioritize exemplary customer service 

No matter how great your product or service is, it won't mean much if you don't provide excellent customer service to back it up. From responding to customer inquiries quickly to offering exceptional support and assistance when needed, prioritizing good customer service is essential for ensuring customers are happy with their purchases and likely to purchase from you again. 

2. Listening to customer feedback and making improvements 

Listening to and acting on customer feedback is another critical factor in successful customer acquisition. You must be open to criticism and use it to make improvements, including changes to the product or service, improving customer service, or tweaking marketing campaigns for better results.

3. Utilizing different strategies to acquire new customers 

Startups should also strive to diversify their customer acquisition channels to maximize reach and find new customers. While one channel may work well for a certain period, it's important to explore other options to expand your reach.

For example, if you rely on organic search engine optimization (SEO) to drive customers to your website, consider exploring other channels, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, influencer marketing, content marketing, or email marketing.

In addition, remember to track the performance of each channel and adjust your strategy accordingly. That way, if one particular channel is outperforming the others in conversions, you can invest more resources and cut back on the channels that aren't delivering results.

4. Learning from mistakes and taking risks to innovate 

Being a startup business owner means becoming comfortable with the inevitable mistakes. It's part of the process and is necessary for learning and growth. However, don't become discouraged by mistakes; instead, use them to learn what works and what doesn't.

While taking risks can be intimidating, pushing the boundaries and innovating is necessary. Doing so will allow your business to stand out and attract more customers.


When it comes to getting your first customers as a startup business, persistence and creativity are key. Like most great things in life, the path to success might be hard-won, but the result will be more than worth it—allowing you to stand out from the competition and connect with people who genuinely want what you offer.

It's no easy feat to achieve success as an entrepreneur, but if you put in the work necessary to land your first customer, you can be sure you've taken some important steps toward turning your dream into a reality. Just remember to take things one step at a time, and success will follow.


I take tremendous pride in building positive and lasting relationships in my businesses and personal life. Every member of my team is committed to helping our clients get the maximum amount of funding possible and achieve their highest growth potential.

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