As a small business ourselves, we’re always experimenting with ways that we can get new customers, improve the ways we generate leads and ultimately get more people to use our product.
If you’re a business owner then it’s likely that you’ll also constantly be looking for ways that you can attract new customers and take your business to new levels.
So to help jumpstart your creativity and planning here are 20 inspiring examples from real life startups who have knocked it out of the park.
1. Fake it , till you make it.
Transportation company Lyft realised that in order to attract new customers online they needed to achieve an equilibrium between their drivers (supply) and passengers (demand). They knew too many passengers wanting a ride and too few drivers would annoy passengers, and too many drivers and not enough passengers would not make for happy drivers.
So Lyft faked it, hiring fake drivers by the hour to wait around for passengers. Passengers loved having drivers so many drivers that were immediately available and the number of repeat customers boomed.
2. Transparency triumphs – Don’t be afraid to share.
Social media scheduling tool, Buffer went from 0 to 30,000 users in the first 9 months.
The recipe for success was a heady mix of “extreme” guest blogging, and more importantly their fearless approach to sharing every single detail about their company.
Transparency is one of Buffer’s corporate values and in 2013 they were true to their word, publishing a blog post of the names and salaries of all of their employees. Not only did the brave move catch the attention of the media and increase traffic to the website through driving awareness of the brand, but they also doubled the number of job applications.
3. Little things for big gains
Uber is a great inspiration for any business. Just take the time that they provided ice cream trucks on demand or delivered roses for Uber users’ significant others on Valentine’s Day.
Instead of spending millions on advertising trying to attract these potential new customers, they chose to focus on smaller gestures, which gained lots of free exposure and press mentions – ultimately increasing traffic to their app and helping them to get more repeat customers.
4. Jump on betas
Of course, you already know you need to run a social campaign, but make sure you stay ahead of the game by keeping up to date with beta features. Take ‘I Am Playr”, a social media video game, who integrated with Facebook’s Open Graph as soon as it emerged from closed Beta.
Reaching 4 million users in 6 months may sound like a reach, but I Am Plyr made it happen by jumping on a brand new opportunity quickly and by using marketing channels small teams rarely use to attract new customers to their app online.
5. Piggyback of people who’ve already made it
By choosing to play nice and integrate with other already successful services, like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram was able to gain brand exposure and distribution through platforms that already had a large and engaged user base.
It helped them to accelerate and boost the growth of the business in the early days.
6. Aha! Moment
Twitter learned an important lesson early on, for a user to stick around they had to select at least 5 – 10 accounts to follow on their first day.
So they focused their efforts on driving users to do this … and the rest is history.
7. Get face to face with your potential customers
When Tinder were first trying to get people to use their app they held exclusive parties at colleges in the USA, with one condition – you must have downloaded the Tinder app.
Driving network effects through college by college launches helped to significantly raise their adoption rates in the early days. Word of mouth continues to drive growth of new users today.
The idea here is simple, give something to get something. In the beginning Dropbox incentivised people to spread the word about their brand by giving each user s 125mb increase in cloud storage, when they followed the brand on Twitter and connected with them on Facebook.
9. Create some power users
Create power users to power your growth, a strategy engaged by Linkedin, who seeded their product with well connected influencers. In turn these ‘power users’ helped to convey the inspirational brand message which went mainstream, attracting new users.
10. You don’t need to start from scratch.
Just take the example of eCommerce site Nasty Gal, which began after founder Sophia Amoruso leveraged ebay to execute her business idea, an online vintage clothes store.
By starting small, and making use of a platform that her target audience already engaged with, she was able to focus on other details of running a business, that now has over 550,000 customers.
11. Build up an enviable email list
In the early days Facebook bought several service providers in developing countries. While this apparent change in direction confused the business experts, all was revealed when it turned out Facebook just wanted to get hold of their email addresses to add to their list.
Accommodation giant Airbnb realised that one way to get new customers and increasing website traffic was to poach people renting their property from other websites – cue a visit to Craigslist.
Airbnb got in touch with people renting via Craigslist to ask them to place their ads on Airbnb instead. Cheeky, but it worked.
13. People love what they can’t have
Mobile payments company Clinkle created buzz when the 22 year old founder from Stanford, Lucas Duplan, raised an astonishing $25 million in seed funding from some of Silicon Valley’s most talked about investors.
From here they restricted the number of people who had full functionality in the platform, adding many new sign ups to a wait list. They told users how many people were in front of them, but cleverly gave them the chance to get ahead by performing some simple platform related tasks.
14. Start a referral scheme
Spreading the word about a brand to your nearest and dearest is invaluable for any new startup looking to attract new customers and grow their business online.
Sadly this referral deal is no longer around, but Paypal’s friend bounty paid out $10 in case to each new customer and to the person who referred them – helping them to growth hack their way to tens of millions of users.
15. Take the online, offline
Fixed, an app that let’s you fight parking tickets hired a team of ‘Ticket Hero’s’, who took to the streets of San Fran on the hunt for vehicles who’d received a parking ticket – upon which they slapped a Fixed branded report card of the windscreen.
They could reportedly slap down 4000 report cards a day! As a side note they also employ the waitlist technique when they launch in a new city.
16. Platform hacking
YouTube’s rapid growth can be attributed to ‘platform hacking’ MySpace – who at the time had 25 million users.
They made it easy for MySpace users to embed YouTube videos into their profile pages for free. YouTube may have taken on the cost of hosting by the subsequent brand awareness and new direct users won out.
17. People will do almost anything for free t-shirt.
Just speak to the guys at New Relic, Trak.io and Invision, who gave out a free t-shirt to anyone that signed up for their service.
Invision used the tactic of giving a free t-shirt to anyone that signed up for their mailing list on their exit intent pop-up – a technique that got \ visitors to convert before they left their site.
18. The random act of kindness
It’s one thing to build up an email list, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you’re trying to use it to boost lead generation and get new customers – after all you can only read so many blogs and 25% off promo deals before you shut off.
But what if your email just gave you something for free, no strings attached. Like Squarespace, who randomly offered you a free extension to your trial, or HostelWorld who added money into your account.
19. Leverage word of mouth
According to this blog post, Uber grew almost exclusively via word of mouth. Uber made word of mouth a core part of their strategy and the ride sharing company calculated that every seven rides generated one new user because of a word-of-mouth recommendation.
20. Heat up the competition to build community
As a new startup YouTube decided to use competition as a primary mechanism for building up a community. They started off small, awarding an iPod Nano to a random YouTuber every day for two months, giving users the opportunity to improve their chances of winners by completing more actions, like submitting a video or inviting others to join.
After trailing a series of contests they began to leverage their partnerships to offer better prizes.
Looking to generate more ideas on how you can get new customers to your business online? Try out our free website traffic tool to create a custom list of ideas for your business.