66 Proven Tactics to Acquire Users With Zero Marketing Budget

Note: A version of this post was shared on Reddit and ended up becoming one of the highest up-voted posts of all time on the r/entrepreneur subreddit. Thanks! 

A few years ago, I grew my E-commerce site from $0 to $50k in monthly revenue just 3 months after launching. We didn’t have a physical presence and I didn’t spend one penny on marketing, every single sale came from free online channels.

Regardless of what type of company you run, one thing remains true: Getting new users to your site is the single most important factor for success.

Today, I spend all my time driving users to my startup, and these same tactics still work flawlessly. I’ve compiled every tactic I know into a single, easy to follow, list. (Keep in mind, not all of these strategies are applicable to everyone, so I loosely separated them into a few different subcategories.)

For Pre-Launch and Beta Companies

People love giving feedback, interacting with founders, and discovering products before everyone else. For this reason, early stage startups have a leg up over established brands since you can leverage all of the sites designed for pre-launch companies. There are dozens of marketing tactics to drive traffic to pre-launch companies, below are a few ideas:

  1. Submit your company to Erlibird.com
  2. Share your website on Startupli.st
  3. Run a crowdfunding campaign
  4. Share your startup on Betalist
  5. Throw a launch party, invite local meetup groups to attend. Better yet, link up with an existing meetup and launch at one of their events.
  6. Share your startup on Reddit’s /r/startups category

Submission & Posting Based Tactics

If your website resonates well with users, it’s very easy to leverage submission sites for traffic. On websites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Hackernews and ProductHunt users decide what websites come out on top. So, if you have a good product that users like, these sites will literally send tens of thousands of highly targeted visitors overnight.

  1. Submit your website to StumbleUpon
  2. Submit your site to ProductHunt
  3. Share your launch on Hackernews and Reddit
  4. Create a Crunchbase page
  5. Launch a topic at Scoop.it and post your website into your topic page
  6. Find what blogs appear in Google for your target keywords, leave relevant comments on those blogs

Community Involvement Tactics

Forums, events and community education provides an easy way to reach a large number of people. While some of these tactics are very time-intensive, the return is well worth the input effort.

  1. Ask for feedback on Hackernews using their ShowHN forum
  2. Message meetup coordinators and ask for speaking gigs at local events.
  3. Film your speaking gigs and share videos of your talks on your blog
  4. Hold ongoing webinars that answer common problems in your industry, invite members from the community to join
  5. Teach a class on Skill Share about your industry or niche
  6. Teach a class on GeneralAssemb.ly about your industry or niche
  7. Start a podcast, ask existing podcasts to give a shout out to your podcast

Outreach & Press Based Tactics

Even in the age of digital marketing, relationships are key. If you can build lasting relationships with relevant bloggers and journalists, you may never have to spend a dime on marketing. If you have more money then time, hire a PR firm. But if you have more time than money, you can do everything a PR company will do for yourself.

  1. Outreach to bloggers and influencers, invite them to share your content
  2. Write guest posts on other blogs
  3. Reach out directly to target customers on LinkedIn
  4. Use tools like MajesticSEO to see who links to your competitors, outreach to them
  5. Contact school alumni on LinkedIn, leverage their advice and assistance
  6. Ask potential customers about their problems, propose your product as a solution. Ask for their feedback and get them involved.
  7. Pinpoint a new journalist at a big publication, offer them an exclusive on your content. Provide them with data that only you have access to. Help the new journalist look good.
  8. See where your existing traffic comes from and build stronger relationships with those sources. Look specifically for product lists, blogs, or press that is already sending you traffic.
  9. Build relationships with owners of popular Facebook pages, ask them to promote a free contest or giveaway that you create.
  10. Manually reach out to Twitter and Facebook followers of your competitors
  11. Giveaway your product for free to Youtube reviewers and review bloggers

Content-Focused Marketing Tactics

Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but content is king. Content drives traffic, it’s that simple. People constantly search for how to guides, articles to answer to their questions, and great content to consume. Simply publishing content will, without a doubt, drive users to your brand.

  1. Respond to unanswered questions in your niche on Quora
  2. Engage in targeted forums on Reddit, share posts and respond to others
  3. Submit a free press release using a service like PRlog
  4. Create an infographic, share on free distribution sites like Visual.ly
  5. Write a post called “Our competitor vs Our Company” – This will attract search engine traffic looking for reviews of competitor
  6. Submit a presentation to Slideshare
  7. Giveaway a free e-book, ask users to sign up to your newsletter to download it.
  8. Create a “how-to” guide for something that is typically difficult in your industry.
  9. Consult copy bloggers attention grabbing headline guides and write posts that fill those templates.

E-mail Marketing Tactics

Do you check your inbox? Yup, turns out most people do. Go figure. It still astonishes me how underutilized E-mail strategies are. I talk to founders all the time who say “I have over 100 people on my E-mail newsletter”. But when I ask them if they’re sending out newsletters, they usually say “No”. Even if you don’t have a list built up yet, you can still leverage the power of E-mail marketing.

  1. Promote your company in your E-mail signature.
  2. Launch an E-mail newsletter using a free service like MailChimp.
  3. Get your startup featured on existing newsletters such as Startupdigest.
  4. Integrate a drip marketing campaign
  5. If you’re early stage, use Unbounce or any landing page tool and design a simple single page that collects E-mail addresses.

Partnership Tactics

Partnerships should be mutually beneficial. Time and time again, people think they will be able to leverage a partnership with a top brand when they’re just starting out. 99 times out of 100, a top brand will not want to partner with a smaller company. Instead, look for partnership opportunities with companies at a similar size & stage as yours. Better yet, look for smaller companies who will more likely to go out of their way to help you.

  1. Partner with other companies in your space and upsell each other’s products
  2. Create a deal on AppSumo
  3. Run a promotion on Groupon
  4. Run promotions on StackSocial
  5. Cross promote each others brand on your E-mail newsletters, twitter pages, etc.

Customer-Centric Tactics

Existing customers are rarely used for marketing, but they should be. If you don’t have much money to put into marketing, leveraging your top advocates and happiest customers can go a long way. If you’re not talking to your customers on a regular basis, do that first before trying any of these strategies. If you are already talking to your customers, here are some ways to amplify customer promotion.

  1. Set Up a Referral Program, offer an incentive for existing users to invite their friends
  2. Encourage social shares by using a service like Twilighter
  3. Send personalized E-mails to your existing users, ask for their help promoting your company.
  4. Add social sharing buttons to your site
  5. Use Hellobar as a call to action for a promotion
  6. Invite your existing customers to provide feedback on the next version of your product. You can send them a survey or a WuFoo form to do this easily.

SEO Strategies

SEO is extremely powerful. Anybody that proclaims “SEO is Dead” does not know what they are talking about. As long as websites show up when you search a keyword, and people use search engines, there will ALWAYS be ways to get traffic from search. When people say “SEO is dead” they might mean “manipulating Google is dead”, which I sort of agree with. Solid, well founded, SEO strategies can drive just as much traffic (if not more) then the old, outdated, black-hat tactics… they’re just harder to do.

  1. Use the Google Keyword tool to identify high volume, low competition keywords in your niche. Create content around those keywords
  2. Determine what questions people in your niche are asking, create blog posts answering those questions
  3. Focus on getting high quality inbound links from blogs, forums and press mentions
  4. Use SEO friendly URL’s
  5. Write good title tags and H1 tags
  6. Submit an XML sitemap to Google webmaster tools
  7. Add alt-text and descriptions to all of your images.

Social Media Strategies

There are over a billion people on social media. One of the greatest values of social media is the ability to engage with a community of potential users and thought leaders. After all, engagement and personal contact is at the heart of social media. The right social media strategies will provide you with an opportunity to interact with customers, thought leaders, and influencers without spending a dime.

  1. Run a free promotion or giveaway if users follow you on social media
  2. Direct message thought leaders, interact with them, congratulate them on their recent press, etc.
  3. Trade shout outs with other companies and thought leaders. Accounts with a similar social following to you will be more willing to cross promote.
  4. Sign up for a service like Mention.com, respond to anyone that mentions one your brand, one of your competitors, or asks a question about your space.

And… The Most Powerful Tactics I know

There are 10 more strategies that I choose not to include in this blog post. These 10 tactics are, without a doubt, the most powerful growth strategies that I know. But, if too many people start executing on them, they’ll start to lose their value. If you’re really interested in learning these tactics, shoot me an E-mail.

You can E-mail me directly for the tactics, Jesse at NeoReach.com.

Or, enter your E-mail below and I'll send them to you:

If you have any ideas for strategies that I didn’t include, I’m happy to feature them and give you a shout out on this post. Tweet at me @JesseRank

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