This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Acquiring your first customers is more art than science.

You don’t have spreadsheets full of data to pull from, you don’t have existing segments, and you’re not even sure who specifically will buy your product.

You’re just testing out different methods to “see what sticks” and what you should double down on.

The tactics you should be using to get your first 100 customers are a mix of both marketing and customer development. With each tactic, you should aim to not only get a new customer, but also find ways to dig deeper into who they are and what they’re interested in. You need to really know who these people are that are buying from you more than anything else and then use that information to increase your ROI.

Most entrepreneurs reflexively turn to paid advertising when trying to get their first customers. But in reality, there are a variety of ways you can get initial traction, including leveraging other people’s audiences, using online communities, targeting the right social networks, and more.

Here’s a comprehensive list of tactics you can use to get your first 100 customers:

1) Reach Out to Your Network

A quick way to do some customer development is to reach out to your existing network and ask them specific questions about your product and market. If you’re creating a product for a specific niche, then chances are you know people who are in that niche already.

You can also run through your existing LinkedIn contacts, find people who are in your industry, and send them an e-mail like this one:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: GrooveHQ

You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help.

One of the biggest reasons new businesses fail is that founders don’t talk to customers. It’s easy to believe that you already know everything about your target market and convince yourself that they definitely need your product. But the best marketers are humble enough to talk to their market and validate their hypotheses, even if they know they’re correct.

For example, Hiten Shah did many hours of customer interviews for a project he was working on around helping startups raise money. As a prominent entrepreneur in Silicon Valley who has raised money from some of the biggest venture capitalists, he’s already talked to hundreds of people who have asked him for advice on the topic.

But he still did customer interviews.

Though you don’t want to sell anything during your interviews, you can ask the people you talk to whether they would like to be added to a private e-mail list where you send out updates every now and then on the progress of your venture.

Down the road, they could turn into your first customers.

2) Use Twitter for Market Research

A good way to find potential customers who are experiencing the pain you want to solve is by searching online complaints. Social networks like Twitter are an easy way to do this.

For example, if the product you’re looking to create competes with Salesforce, you could for search something like “Salesforce is complicated” in Twitter. Here are a couple of comments that come up:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

You could reach out to those users directly, and ask them to chat more about why they think Salesforce is complicated so that you understand how to make your product better.

Other online forums can be good for this as well. If you search “Salesforce is too complicated” in Google, you’ll find a lot of forums and blog posts on which users discuss why it’s hard to use. You’ll get a better sense of the problems that your product will need to solve and the features that will have to come with it. You’ll have a clearer understanding of the words that your market is using to describe their problems, so you can write perfect high-converting sales copy when the the time comes.

When you do searches like these, you also can either confirm or disprove your hypothesis. For example, if people aren’t searching for solutions to Salesforce problems, or you’re seeing a small amount of search results in Twitter or Google, then there might not even be a big enough pain point to solve.

Once you get on the phone to chat with these potential customers, be sure to ask them whether it would be okay for you to stay in touch and send updates every now and then on your future product. This way, you can both do your market research and build a list of potential beta customers.

3) Use Quora

Another customer development tool that’s at everyone’s disposal is Quora. Quora is a site where you can browse and post questions on a virtually any topic. It can be a great way to gather a large number of answers from people in your target demographic about the product you’re trying to sell.

According to Adweek, Quora’s demographics consist mostly of college educated professionals. Because Quora got its first users through tech news sites like TechCrunch, many of its users work in technology. Some of the most followed topics include investing, computer programming, mobile, and software engineering – so companies such as IT partner in London could definitely find some business here.

For example, check out this question where a Quora user asks “What are the biggest pain points with Hadoop?” Here’s an in depth answer to the question by an ex-Cloudera employee that received 100+ upvotes:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

If you were trying to create a product to solve pain points around Hadoop, an answer like this would be invaluable. You can find similar, in-depth answers across topics like personal finance, CRM systems, sales, marketing, and more.

You can measure how much an answer resonates with people by the number of comments and upvotes it receives. For example, the answer to the Hadoop question above received over 100 upvotes and a few positive comments. That shows that other Hadoop users are likely facing the same problems.

If you find an insightful answer to a relevant question in your industry, you can message that user and ask to set up a phone call in order to uncover more details about their problems, then add them to your beta list.

4) Customer Development Tools

Most marketers know that tools like Qualaroo and SurveyMonkey can help you understand your audience better. But did you know that they can also help you generate more leads and customers?

If you already know what your ideal customer profile looks like, then all you need to generate more leads is to create a survey that qualifies your prospects. For example, GoodBlogs used Qualaroo to boost registrations by 300% for one of their clients.

GoodBlogs helps businesses create user-generated content. One of their clients is the largest livestock trailer manufacturer in North America, and they launched a site for horse lovers through GoodBlogs. When visitors landed on their site, they were shown a Qualaroo pop-up that said “Do you own a horse?” If they answered ‘yes,’ they were asked to input their e-mail address to receive special offers.

Read More: 5 Important Landing Page Elements You Should Be A/B Testing

You can do the same thing for your niche. For example, here’s an example of how Qualaroo used its own service to generate leads:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: Qualaroo

For this process to work effectively, all you need is just one leading question that qualifies your prospects. It could be as simple as asking them “Do you need [X solution] to [Y pain point]?” If they answer yes, immediately ask them for details like their name, e-mail, and/or company name and treat them like a lead.

You’ll only have to set this up once. From there, you’ll have a steady stream of qualified leads coming in from your site directly.

5) Launch to an E-mail List

One of the best ways to virtually guarantee sales when you launch your product is to launch through an e-mail list.

There are many ways to build an e-mail list from scratch. For example, you could reach out to people one-on-one through social networks like Quora or Twitter to do your customer development and then add them to your launch e-mail list. We’ll get into some other tactics you can use to build your e-mail list below.

Learn More: Cold Email Templates that Get Responses

For now, let’s dig into how to craft your launch sequence to get as many sales as possible.

A profitable launch sequence usually consists of adding value to your subscribers in the first few e-mails, then persuading them to buy your product in the last one or two e-mails. Nathan Barry used the following launch sequence formula to get $16,000 in sales from just 1,200 subscribers:

This outline covers all the basic elements of a profitable launch sequence — building anticipation, adding value through educational material, and providing a sales message asking readers to buy your product.

6) Use Betalist

You’re probably aware of sites like Product Hunt or Reddit that feature products or posts that get a lot of upvotes from the community. But there are also sites like Betalist, where you can pay to be featured in front of a large technology audience.


Many startups have used sites like Betalist to rapidly generate a list of early bird signups. Take FrontApp for example, a product that helps teams work more efficiently. They used Betalist to generate 400 high-quality signups in just a couple of days.

FrontApp wanted to get beta users for their product, so they decided to go directly to the source and test out some “beta user” communities. Sites like Erlibird and help startups get their first signups by featuring them in front of a targeted group of users, so FrontApp submitted their product to these sites.

FrontApp got the best results from Betalist: they paid $49 to get their product featured on the front page and received about 400 signups (from a total of 832 direct visits). And because many Betalist users are early adopters in the startup world, several of them wrote articles about FrontApp after seeing it featured on Betalist, which resulted in even more inbound links.

These sites typically work best for a consumer product audience. But if your product resonates with the community, you could get hundreds of qualified signups in a matter of days.

7) Leverage Other People’s Platforms

One of the quickest ways to build an audience of your own is to find other brands that have an audience similar to what you’re trying to build and bring them over to your own platform. Trust is a big factor when persuading people to buy, and if you leverage someone else’s platform to build your own audience, you’ll be able to “borrow” the trust they’ve built with that audience as well.

Pipedrive is a sales management tool that helps sales teams close more deals.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

They used these two tactics to get their first 1,000 paying customers:

It takes a lot of work to build credibility and trust with an audience, so one of the most efficient ways to get sales is by leveraging other people’s audiences and borrow their credibility. You can do this by going to conferences and industry meetups like Pipedrive did, or leveraging existing online communities (which we’ll talk more about later in this article).

Related Content: How Landon Ray Took ONTRAPORT from a Dozen Customers to 1,000 Customers in Just 2 Months

8) Guest Posting

At its core, guest posting is basically another way of leveraging other people’s audiences to build your own. It’s a tried and true approach that has worked for many businesses.

Buffera social media automation tool, used a guest blogging strategy to get over 100,000 customers within nine months.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind in order to get the most success from guest blogging:

If you make content marketing a priority, it can be incredibly profitable for your business. Buffer grew almost entirely through content marketing, as did KISSmetrics, HubSpot, and other similar companies.

9) SEO

Search engine traffic can also be a good, reliable source of paying customers.

The problem is that for many industries, it’s becoming harder and harder to rank high for competitive search terms because there’s growing competition. If you’re targeting marketers or entrepreneurs, you’ll be facing tough competition for search terms in your niche. In fact, influencers like Neil Patel, Noah Kagan, and companies like HubSpot and KISSmetrics already own the top spots for many relevant keywords in the industry.

So how can you still generate traffic and leads through search despite all these competitors?

One way to do this is by focusing on long-tail keywords. So instead of trying to rank for “SEO tools,” try to rank for something more specific like “The best SEO tools for B2B startups.”

If you consistently publish high-quality, long-tail content over time, you’ll generate a significant amount of traffic.

Learn More: Effective SEO Techniques that Work in 2017

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: HubSpot

A simple way to generate long-tail content ideas is by looking at the most viewed questions on Quora for your specific niche. Let’s say you’re selling a product in the marketing niche. You could start by going on Quora and typing “marketing” into the search box.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Next, click on the topic “Marketing” and then select the “Topic FAQ” tab.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Under this section, you’ll find a list of some of the most commonly viewed answers within that topic. For example, here are a couple questions under the “Topic FAQ” section for Marketing:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

This gives you a bit of insight into what potential customers are looking for. You might want to create content on how entrepreneurs in specific niches (i.e. family therapy, medicine, law, etc.) can optimize their marketing, or write content on how major companies structure their marketing efforts.

Long-tail keywords can help you generate a large amount of monthly traffic that can convert to leads. For example, Tamal Anwar boosted his search rankings and traffic by writing content around longer variations of existing keywords.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

10) Cold E-mail

One of the most straightforward ways to get your first customers is through cold e-mail. It’s relatively easy to find the email addresses of your prospects, and it’s easy to reach out to a high volume of people relatively quickly.

Learn More: How to Get More Responses From Cold Emails

Here’s an example of a cold e-mail template that got one B2B company over 16 new customers.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

According to HubSpot, this e-mail template generated a 57% open rate, a 21% response rate, and 16 new customers.

There a few reasons why this e-mail worked so well:

According to the article, you should be getting a 10% response rate through your cold e-mails. If you’re below that number, chances are your e-mails need some improvement.

Once you know how to craft your cold e-mail, you have to find a list of prospects and their e-mail addresses. If you’re familiar with your niche, it’s usually not too difficult to find a list of prospects. For example, if you’re in the tech space, you can use sites like AngelList and Crunchbase to find a list of companies and filter them by criteria like number of employees, location, and more.

The problem typically lies in finding their actual e-mail addresses. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools available to help you do this.

Email Hunter lets you find e-mail addresses by company domain. You just have to input the company’s domain name, and all publicly available e-mail addresses associated with it will be shown below.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: Yesware

Email Hunter lets you search 150 domains for free every month and has plans that start at $49/month if you want to search more.

Another tool called EmailBreaker provides you with the e-mail formats for a variety of companies.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: Yesware

Not all domain names will have their e-mail formats listed, and some e-mail formats might be incorrect, but EmailBreaker is able to correctly identify e-mail formats for most domains.

11) Run Paid Advertisements

Most new entrepreneurs turn to paid advertising as their main source for getting their first customers.

However, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about using paid ads as your first channel of acquiring customers. Some people like Kristian Tanninen say that paid advertising should only be used by companies that have existing products on the market. Other entrepreneurs believe that paid ads should only be used to scale a sales process that has already been proven through other lead gen sources.

But other marketers say that paid traffic is the fastest way to drive leads when you’re first starting out.

When you do run paid advertising, you want to make sure you’ve got a high-converting landing page where you can drive your prospects. Here are key elements of a high-converting landing page:

Learn More: How To Drive ROI Using Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP)

You can run paid ads on a variety of channels when you’re first starting out, but these are the most tried and true channels:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: Neil Patel

12) LinkedIn Messages

LinkedIn messages are an alternative to cold e-mail that can yield a higher conversion rate for your business.

There are a few inherent problems that can make your cold e-mails convert at a low rate, but a big part of it is how impersonal the medium is. Although it can be done, it’s harder to communicate your credibility, your offer, what your company does, and still sound human.

If you reach out to people on LinkedIn, your message could have a more “human” touch because of the fact that they can see your full profile.

There are two ways you can reach out to people on LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Inmails

Inmails are private messages that you can send to anyone on LinkedIn who is not your connection, but you’re only given a certain amount every month. After you exhaust that amount, you have the option to purchase Inmails individually, typically around $10 each. Inmails are different from regular messages that you can send to your connections on LinkedIn — regular messages are free, but Inmails can be quite expensive. 

Sponsored Inmails

Sponsored Inmails are different from regular Inmails in that they let you send out your message to thousands of professionals at a time, whereas regular Inmails can only be targeted individually.

LinkedIn actually recommends this feature for lead generation specifically, and recommends promoting webinars, e-books, etc. to boost conversion rates. For example, check out how LinkedIn used sponsored Inmails to promote their marketer’s guide.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Source: Formstack

Duke University also used sponsored Inmails to boost their conversion rates. According to this case study, they weren’t able to communicate the value proposition of their Cross Continent MBA program (a program that lets professionals across the world get their MBA without leaving their jobs).

They used sponsored Inmail to target prospects by their seniority level, education and location. They used LinkedIn’s targeting capabilities to only target professionals who would likely be qualified for the program. Duke was able to tell prospects about their Cross Continent MBA program and have a call to action that encouraged readers to sign up for more information with their email address.

They saw a conversion rate increase of 400% in certain geographic regions. As an added bonus, their cost per lead was 10% lower than on other marketing channels. They also were able to reduce their closure speed from 18 months to just six months, a 300% boost.

LinkedIn Messages

Another approach to lead generation you can take is messaging your connections directly, which is completely free. You can use LinkedIn’s advanced search feature to find a list of targeted prospects, connect with all of them, and then message the ones who accept your connection request.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Adding prospects as connections is one way of “warming them up” before reaching out with your pitch, and could boost your response rates.

While you’re likely to get more quality leads from LinkedIn, their cost per lead is also relatively high compared to other social networks like Facebook.

13) Interact with Your Subscribers 1-on-1

While you might not have a lot of money when you’re first starting to get customers, you do have one big advantage over more established companies: you have more time. And that means you can give your subscribers more 1-on-1 attention than a big company can.

The best way to develop a long-term relationship with a subscriber and build a deeper level of trust is by interacting with them on a more personal basis. According to Forbes, recipients of 1-on-1 interactions are more likely to share their positive experience on social media and stay loyal to your company over the long term.

In fact, Gary Vaynerchuk took this exact approach to building his audience over a span of many years. For example, he once asked his followers whether they needed anything, and one fan named Daniel replied that he needed eggs.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Most entrepreneurs wouldn’t have have continued the conversation. But Gary went on to ask for the Daniel’s address. An hour after sharing his address, Daniel received several cartons of eggs at his apartment.

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

Daniel went on to write about his experience on Medium, and became a fan for life.

While you don’t have to go out of your way to send your subscribers groceries, you should ask them to respond to your e-mails, and try to respond to as many as you can.

14) Leverage Online Communities

Online communities can be a great way to get your first customers. Online communities are essentially scalable versions of industry conferences — you’re able to interact with likeminded people, offer something of value to them, stay in touch, and potentially get some new paying customers.

When you go to a conference, you don’t want to go in and hard sell everyone you meet on the first interaction. If you do that, chances are you’ll turn off everyone you talk to and close the door for a mutually beneficial relationship. A better approach is to get to know them, understand their problems, and follow up later.

Similarly, you don’t want to spam an online community with promotions and links to your website before they get a chance to know who you are. You have to add value to that community first, and the way to do that depends on the community you’re trying to get involved in. Here are some targeted online communities you could join:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

The best way to add value to an online community is by first getting a feel for the kind of topics that resonate within that community. What kind of posts are getting the most engagement? What’s getting the most upvotes or likes?

One easy way to add value to virtually any group while also building a list of potential customers is by offering free “office hours” to help people solve the pain point that your product solves. For example, if you have a SaaS product that helps people improve their sales process, you might post about a “Sales Process Q&A session” where you let others in the group schedule a time on your calendar to chat about improving their sales process.

This way, you can get a better understanding of your market and their pain points on the call, and also ask them in a non-pushy way whether they’d like to be part of a beta user list.

Check out how this Facebook user is offering free office hour sessions to help people dismantle their fears and mental barriers around public speaking:

14 Ways to Acquire Your First 100 Customers

If you offer to give your time to help members of the group, you’ll both build a deeper relationship with members of the group (which could result in more paying customers) as well as credibility within the group.


The strategies that will take you from zero to 100 customers aren’t the same strategies that will take you from 100 to 1,000 customers.

At the beginning, you might be putting in a lot of your own time sending out cold e-mails, LinkedIn messages, or crafting paid advertising campaigns. You might be interacting with your subscribers one-on-one, asking questions and responding to every e-mail. You might be going on sites like Quora to source long-tail keywords and writing content around that to generate traffic from search.

There are a variety of different ways to acquire your first 100 customers. And they’ll all typically involve some form of doing things that don’t scale.

What tactics have helped you generate the most customers? Let us know in the comments!

9 Marketing Mistakes You Don't Realize You're Making This post by Bryan Johnston originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition. Marketing is simple, right? Anyone can do it—you just get the word out to entice people to buy your service or product. Nope. Marketing is simple in theory…but that doesn’t mean it’s easy in reality. There’s a lot going on under the hood, and since most of us would never dream of messing around with our car’s engine, it doesn’t make sense to think we can pull off successful marketing without knowing anything about it. Before you can fix your mistakes (and you are making mistakes) you must first know what they are.

What Marketing Is

Marketing is complex. It is not just sex and slogans. It’s about putting the right product, at the right price, at the right time, in the right place. Those are the essentials, and referred to as the 4Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion). he 9 Marketing Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making(1)

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Modern marketing can take many forms: content, inbound, outbound, sandwich board on the street (is that still a thing?).

“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” ~The Chartered Institute of Marketing

Marketing is multi-faceted, with its many elements working in harmony to deliver the goods. The many arms of marketing include:

Marketing can be B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business). It can be pushy or pully (to coin a new phrase). Much like a cryptozoologist looking for Bigfoot, it can be hard to find the right tactics and formula to get what you’re after. That’s when the amateur gives up. But that’s not you, is it?

What Marketing Isn’t

Marketing is also sales. Yes, it leads to sales by getting the word out there through branding and advertising, via both the written word and images, and then luring prospective customers in, but a marketer is not the one to actually interact with the sales lead—that’s the job of the sales person in the sales department. Marketing is also not creative nor does it belong in the content department. Again, marketers work closely with these departments by sharing the analytics and insights they’ve gained from the information and research they’ve produced, but a marketer is not the one to actually produce or design the content. And as mentioned already, marketing is not easy. Many companies—and especially small businesses—make the error of doing all their own marketing without any know-how. That could work, providing you have someone who knows what they’re doing—like your very own Don Draper. But most brands just starting out don’t have that luxury, so they must go it alone. You can do it…if you have a map highlighting all the booby traps. So without further ado, here are the 9 most common marketing mistakes you’re probably making…and how to fix them.

Mistake #1 – Too Many Discounts/Promos

“Attract” and “increase” are two of the most popular words to any business owner. Attract more customers, and increase sales. Those are good reasons to offer your customer base a special rate or discount. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. Discounts can blow up in your face. New businesses often make the mistake of offering big discounts at launch or when sales are stagnating. They’re a quick shot in the arm, like a can of spinach for Popeye. What you don’t see? The leafy green hangover the next day. Likewise, discounts can have serious and long-term negative effects. Giving discounts too often or too casually and they can turn on you like a rabid dog because they:

It’s a question of price versus value. Customers want excellent value for their money and the actual amount in many ways is irrelevant. he 9 Marketing Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making(2)

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Instead, try an alternative like earned discounts (such as volume quotas), early payment discounts, or multi-buy options. Focus on the static value of your product or service. Use discounts for appreciation, not retention. Offer only to a select group and be careful about how you announce it. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers believes you should never, ever discount your product. Not sometimes. Not rarely. Never. He likens discounts to a drug, and your customers will become addicted. He suggests that you add value instead of lowering prices. This can lead to the same sales spike without the long-term damage.

Mistake #2 – Loving Your Prospects but Ignoring Your Customers

With a prospect, it’s a lot like dating. You’re wooing, making promises, offering the best service or product, and you’re in constant communication. You can’t stop thinking about them. You send them little notes all day. They feel loved and appreciated. But once they’re a customer, it can quickly become a bad marriage. You take them for granted. You forget those promises. You don’t call as much. You never send cute little notes anymore. It’s mind-boggling. Customers are the lifeblood, no? A prospect may buy. A customer has bought. And lest we forget, it’s more expensive to get a new customer than to retain an existing one; 3-10x more expensive depending on the source, with some claiming upwards of 20-30x! Even if it’s “only” twice as much, it doesn’t make sense to not focus on customer retention at least as much as customer acquisition. Adobe estimates that for every 1% of buyers that return for another online visit, revenue will increase by approximately 10%. If retailers focused on turning 10% of their customers into repeat buyers, they could double their overall revenue! But businesses spend only about 2% of their marketing budget on customer relationships. What the what? You need a steady supply of leads. Absolutely. But share the love. Bring flowers home for no reason. Offer those special “new customer only” discounts to your loyal and repeat clients. Remind them that you can’t live without them.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of insanely actionable first steps to identifying the perfect influencers – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Mistake #3 – Abusing the Six Principles of Influence

Even if you’ve never heard of him, you’re probably using (and abusing) some of his ideas. Robert Cialdini is a psychologist and author of the best-seller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it, he outlines what he calls the 6 principles (or weapons, depending on where you land on the good-evil sliding scale) of persuasion:

  1. Reciprocity – we’re hardwired to pay back favors and debts.
  2. Commitment and Consistency – we stick with and follow through on something we’ve previously chosen in some way.
  3. Social Proof – if something is popular with the masses, or individuals we know and like, we tend to trust it more.
  4. Liking – we agree to requests from people we like more readily.
  5. Authority – we follow people who at least look like they know what they’re doing (doctors, police officers, scientists, “experts”).
  6. Scarcity – if something is limited or in short supply, we want it even more.

You can—and should—use these principles in your marketing efforts. Without them, you’re not as persuasive as you could be…and marketing is ultimately about persuading someone to purchase what you’re selling. They help boost conversions and sales. But the principles can be abused. Sincerity is vitally important because consumers are very good at sniffing out insincerity and exaggeration when it comes to marketing. Take the scarcity principle. Use it too frequently, and like the boy who cried wolf, eventually no one will believe you. Think of all the television infomercials abusing this one: Call now! Only available for the next ten minutes! Only 3 left in the world! Today only, and then gone forever! The 9 Marketing Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making(3)

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How much do you believe those claims? Not much. Fake scarcity will bite you in the butt with plummeting sales, bad word-of-mouth, low opinions, and a mass exodus of prospects and customers. So don’t do it. The same is true for abusing any of the principles. Use them sparingly and use them genuinely.

Mistake #4 – No Unique Selling Proposition

In our rush to bring our product to the public, we often gloss over the minute details, believing that its sheer awesomeness will bring in customers by the thousands (the “if you build it, they will come” sales philosophy). But that rarely happens. So you need to get out there. You need to show them exactly how and in what way it’s awesome. You need to know—for yourself first and foremost—what makes you better than the rest. You need a clearly defined and articulated unique selling proposition (USP). Positioning is key…what makes you special? You should have a dynamite elevator pitch that explains it perfectly. Skip this and you have no real idea who you are, who your ideal customer is, or how to market to them. And if you’re not sure, why would a customer be? In a global market, you’re competing not only against similar businesses in your town or city, but also the rest of your country, if not the rest of the world. You need to stand out. You need to show and convince prospects that you’re the best choice because [insert your USP here]. How do you do that? It’s tricky but worth it. A few starting points:

In order to effectively market anything, you have to understand everything. Your product or service needs to offer or provide or boast something that no one else can. And you need to know exactly what that is. Do. Not. Skip. This. Buy our pizza because you’re hungry? Nope. Any pizza will fix that problem. Buy our pizza because it’s made by artisanal pizza fairies from Naples? Now, that’s unique!

Mistake #5 – None, Not Enough, or Too Much Marketing

Like Goldilocks, you have to find the perfect porridge. The easiest marketing mistake to make is not having any (ice cold), not having enough (lukewarm), or having too much (piping hot). When you’re just starting out, you may believe that you can’t afford it or that marketing will come later, but in truth, you can’t afford not to market. And in the digital age, thankfully, it’s nowhere near as expensive as traditional outbound methods (which is generally pricey and less effective, anyway). Not doing anything or only a little? You’re missing out. Yes, having a quality product to sell is important, and the satisfied customers you do have will likely spread the word for you. But as they say in the business world, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. The money you spend on marketing now—provided you work to see a positive ROI—will come back to you and then some. So invest in yourself.

“I have enough money/customers already.” ~No One

You gotta spend money to make money, but you can’t be constantly pitching your product either. Consider how annoying it is when you see the same television commercial all the time, hear the same radio ad multiple times each hour, encounter the same pop-up banner online, or receive dozens of e-mails hawking the same service every week. Ever feel compelled to buy whatever that annoying company is selling? Exactly. Too much is never a good thing, as you run the risk of becoming over-exposed and completely irritating to those people you’re trying to entice. So what’s the right marketing mix model? Depends who you ask. In social media marketing, there are plenty of sharing ratios to choose from:

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Pick your poison. No matter which you choose, the amount of self-serving promotional posts should be small. The bulk of your social media or content marketing should be useful material for your fans and followers. Too many e-mails, too much self-promotion, or too many sales pitches, and your audience will leave you. Figuring out exactly how much to spend can involve numbers, customer acquisition costs and lifetime values, and good old-fashioned math. If that makes you want to hide under the bed, just remember that it doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated (yet). Inbound marketing is the most effective and cost-friendly route to get started. The 9 Marketing Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making(4)

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The bottom line? You have to do something. But not too much. Find the “just right” porridge temperature. Let your e-mail subscribers select their own frequency (daily, weekly, monthly). Pick a sharing ratio that works for you and your goals. Talk more about them and less about you. Like salt, alcohol, and Tex-Mex food…everything in moderation.

Mistake #6 – No Specified Target Market

It’s tempting to aim your marketing efforts at everyone. Don’t. You need to be specific. Who’s your ideal customer or prospect? Grant Leboff of Sticky Marketing Club suggests these six steps to identify him or her:

  1. What problem or need does your product address?
  2. Create a perfect customer (or “buyer persona”) profile of people affected by the problem or need, including demographics, goals, values, interests, motivations, lifestyle, and beliefs.
  3. Who suffers the most?
  4. Think about your market (competitors, overall value)
  5. Look closely at your company (what you can and can’t do, who you most want to attract, areas of expertise)
  6. What makes you unique compared to your competitors?

If you can’t answer everything, ask! Talk to your existing customers to fill in some blanks. And remember that you may have more than one ideal customer…and that’s okay. It’s fantastic, actually. Wide appeal and all that jazz. Create a buyer persona for each of them. Once you’ve identified the relevant buyer personas, you can market directly to them, where they hang out, and speak to them in ways that resonate with them on a visceral level. Marketing today must be personalized and feel tailor-made to have any shot at success, and that starts with knowing exactly who you’re targeting. It’ll save you time, money, frustration, and countless nights spent wondering why no one is buying.

Mistake #7 – Believing that Marketing Ends with the Sale

Marketing is not just about getting the name and e-mail address that leads to the sale. Yes, it’s a big part, but there’s more to be done after they sign on that digital line. Too many businesses fall into this trap and believe that marketing ends when money is exchanged. Big mistake. Huge. In the digital domain, the follow-up is equally—if not more—important. A typical buyer decision process includes five steps:

  1. Problem or need identified
  2. Research
  3. Evaluation
  4. Decision
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

After we slap down the dollars (or pounds, or euros, or yen…), we usually evaluate our experience from start to finish. Did we make the right decision? Does the product actually address the need/problem? And how well did the company meet our expectations? You need to exceed the customer’s expectations. And you do that with the sales follow-up. Send a thank you note via e-mail. Check in a day or two later to see if they have any questions or issues. Establish channels of communication (e-mail list, social media, customer service phone line) and keep them open. Offer tips and tricks to enhance their purchase. Depending on your product, there may be opportunities for upselling and/or reselling. But the bottom line is that you have to stay connected and available. A bad experience, or a customer who feels abandoned or forgotten, can kill you with negative social proof. Everyone has a potential audience of millions today, what with blogs and the myriad of social networks. Bad word-of-mouth will damage your reputation, guaranteed. Consider:

Follow up, follow up, follow up. Take steps to identify and fix bad experiences before someone has the chance to air their grievance on a very public forum.

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Mistake #8 – You’re a Pantser

As in you fly by the seat of your pants. The opposite is a planner. Now, before anyone writes angry letters extolling the virtue of an unplanned life, let me just say that I agree with you. Except when it comes to your business and your marketing. Your marketing must have a plan. Otherwise, you’re quite literally throwing money away (much like anyone who invested in Trump Steak, or Trump University, or Trump [blank]). And it doesn’t matter whether you prioritize inbound or outbound techniques. A plan should be step #1. A good marketing plan explicitly states:

Content marketing, for example, can be used for a wide and far-reaching number of different goals. Just be sure to make them smart goals, goals that you can actually achieve. Spread brand awareness, generate leads, increase revenue, maintain and develop customer relationships…no matter what the goal, make it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. The 9 Marketing Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making(5)

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Remember that the most effective marketers track the ROI of their efforts. In fact, those who checked at least three times each week were a full 20% more likely to see a positive return. There’s no shortage of metrics you should be checking. It all depends on the particular goal of a particular campaign.

Mistake #9 – No Website

This one seems incredulous in 2016, but many businesses still don’t have a website. Nearly half (46%) of U.S. small businesses don’t have one, with the majority listing either “Not relevant to my industry” (32%) or “Cost” (30%) as the principal reason. But guess what? It is relevant to every industry, and the cost is negligible compared to the potential lost revenue from not having one. If you don’t have a website, you’re losing money. Period. And here’s why:

Key Takeaways

What’s the takeaway here?

  1. Offer more value than discounts.
  2. Don’t neglect customer retention.
  3. Don’t abuse the 6 principles of influence.
  4. Have a clearly defined unique selling proposition (USP).
  5. Find the sweet spot between too much and too little marketing.
  6. Specify your target market.
  7. Follow up, follow up, follow up.
  8. Make a plan.
  9. Have a website.

The potential mistakes are many. But before you drop to your knees, eyes skyward in anguish, and release a heart-wrenching “Why God, why?!”, know this: most mistakes are easily avoided. And most are easily fixed (although avoided is better than fixed if we’re ranking). Follow these steps to know what to watch out for and then market like a pro.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a digital marketing agency.

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of link building and SEO guides focus on creating high-quality content. There’s a good reason for that: it’s far easier to build links to top-quality content because that’s what gets shared. Businesses and individuals are in search of quality material to link to so that they have something of value to offer their website visitors, and if you’ll notice, few people link to a homepage, product page or shopping cart.

Of course, there’s a difference between creating content that is simply stuffed with keywords and links, and creating top-notch blogs and articles that are specifically geared towards helping you build authoritative links to your website. And just to be sure that we are speaking the same language, here are two important definitions:

Content marketing is when you create and share content (articles, blogs, infographics) for the purpose of driving traffic to your website and navigating visitors through your marketing funnel in order to acquire new customers.

Link building is when you get other websites or blogs to link to your web page in order to improve your search engine rankings. The engines crawl the web looking for links between your web pages and other websites to decide how valid your content is and thus where your page should rank in their search results.

As far as the search engines are concerned, if your website or blog contains a lot of authoritative links plus receives a lot of links to it, then you are not only considered popular, but valid, too. And search engines are constantly evolving their algorithms to discern the spammy links from the trustworthy ones, which means that valuable content and inbound marketing are more important than ever.

Because 93% of marketers use content in their marketing strategy and 42% of them regard their content marketing skills as effective, this is an area where you don’t want to get left behind! In this guide, we’re going to share tactics that will help you create linkable high-quality content for your website as well as use that content for link building to your website.

Part 1: Creating Linkable High Quality Content

In the introduction, we explained that linkable, well-crafted content is that which is specifically geared towards helping you build links to your website. But let’s step back for a moment and explain what exactly quality material is.

High-quality content is made up of:

By incorporating these five points, your work will stand heads and shoulders above the crowd.

The first thing to do is start the process with in-depth research. Find the top pieces of content about your subject and determine what each one of them is missing. You’ll probably find that out of ten posts, each one covers something different. If you combine all those ideas into one piece of content with your own unique take on the subject, you’re already well on your way to success!

In addition, aim for meaty posts with over 1,000 words. Studies from analyzing a million articles have shown that content that is 1,000+ words tends to get the most social shares and backlinks.

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If you’re not a writer, don’t worry. There are plenty of freelance writers that you can hire to create content for you. Just be sure to find someone who is an expert in your particular niche and who loves writing (trust me, you’ll be able to tell the difference in the finished product!). The fastest way to do this is to look at the top online publications in your niche and see if any of the bylines belong to freelancers. Or just do a search like this on Google:

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

This search will give you the top writers in your niche along with some samples from their portfolio, which you should definitely read to ensure that their style of writing is appropriate for your brand. Run the search for sites that produce the type of content you are looking to create in order to find writers who already have a handle on the topic and are experts at crafting high-quality content.

Once you have hired someone to create some really cream-of-the-crop writing, it’s time to add the elements that will transform it into linkable material. Here are the elements that you will need in your content and how each will help you get links:


It’s one thing to say that Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet, but without the numbers to back it up, it just comes off as opinion. But when you write that with 1.55 billion active monthly users, 83.5% of which are outside of the US and Canada, Facebook is the most popular social network on the planet, this is no longer opinion; it’s fact-based writing with the statistics to back it up. This is what separates the experts from the amateurs.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

Cite specific sources for every one of your claims throughout your article so that readers instantly get that they are looking at a well-researched piece of content. This gives them a reason to trust you and link to your content rather than content written by others. It also allows the readers to dive deeper into the subject to which you sourced if that interests them.

Expert Opinions

Another way to add credibility to your writing is by using quotes. For example, I could say that link-building methods of the past will no longer help your website. But again, that’s just opinion, and unless you already consider me an expert, you won’t necessarily pay heed to it.

On the other hand, if I say that John Mueller of Google suggests that webmasters should focus less on link building as it’s been done in the past and instead focus more on creating high-quality content that is easy to link to, I have now added expert opinion from Google, a source that most people trust. All the better if I can use word-for-word quotes that are hyperlinked to the source.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

Even if someone has never heard the name John Mueller, the fact that he is from Google makes him an instant expert in the area of SEO. When you can’t find specific research or statistics, expert quotes are the next best thing to back them up.

In addition to making your content higher quality by adding in expert opinion, you have also added influencers to the article who might actually help you promote it. Even if Mueller doesn’t link to your content, he might share it with his 14.4k Twitter followers, which may in turn prompt one of his fans to share it with their own audience or link to your content.


Last, but not least, are resources. Look for opportunities throughout your content to mention specific resources. For example:

Better yet, don’t just include links; include images that show what people will find when they click through to one of your recommendations, like this quick peek at a report from SEMrush.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

For the average reader, this adds more value to your content because you are giving them additional resources that provide substantial information. Remember, you’ll stand out from the competition by doing this because so few people take the time to give their readers this kind of value.

You have also added more opportunities to connect with people to let them know that you have featured them, their resource or their product in your latest piece of content. Resulting shares based on “ego-baiting” (creating content that features an influencer for the purpose of getting a link or share from them in return) have the potential to result in links.

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Part 2: Building Links to Your Linkable High Quality Content

Once you’ve published your linkable high-quality content, your next goal is to actually build links to it. You’re going to do that in 4 steps:

Each of these steps plays a vital role in getting links to your linkable high-caliber article.


The first step is playing the numbers game. The number of social shares, the number of votes, and the number of comments you receive on your content all play a role in convincing people that your piece is valuable, popular and, ultimately, link worthy.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

This is why the second after you publish your content you need to start building up these numbers. Begin by sharing it to all your social media networks. Then encourage those social shares to increase by using networks like Fiverr, ViralContentBuzz, JustRetweet, and CoPromote. All these sites offer ways for you to effectively pay for social promotion.

The key is to build up your numbers somewhat evenly across all networks. In other words, don’t buy 1,000 tweets and nothing else. Look to get an even distribution of tweets, likes, +1s, shares, stumbles, and pins.

Then get it on popular voting networks like for marketing content, BizSugar for business content, or subreddits for any kind of content. It’s best that you reach out to people you know on each of these networks in order to get votes on your content as soon as it gets published.

The faster the votes build up, the better the chances of it getting to the homepage and driving more traffic. Just don’t do anything like buy 100 votes for a network where the top content only has 20, or you’ll likely get bumped off the homepage for voting fraud.

Finally, get comments. You’ll want to aim for a little higher quality on these as you don’t want to encourage spam on your website. The best place to start is your own email list. Send out a broadcast announcing your post and at the end of the email provide a clear call to action: that people stop by and share their thoughts on your blog post. From there, try out the groups on Facebook that are built specifically for bloggers to reciprocate one good comment for another.


The next step is exposure. The more people that you reach with your content, the greater the number of links you’re likely to get from them. The fastest way to get exposure with your target audience beyond simply sharing it on your social accounts is through social media advertising. Specifically, create ads for:

Next, do some Twitter outreach by finding people who have shared similar content using the pro version of BuzzSumo.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

If you can find direct contact information for these people, trying emailing them. Otherwise, send them a simple tweet to let them know that you noticed they shared a particular post and that you have a good one on the same topic you think they’d be interested in. Start with those sharers who have the most followers and retweets and work your way down the list.

Just in case your outreach is ignored, you can also combine tactics by exporting lists of people from BuzzSumo who have shared similar content and then create Tailored Audiences for Twitter ads using their usernames. This is a great way to craft a relevant remarketing campaign for your target demographic.

Since Twitter takes a while to create Tailored Audiences, you might want to do this research prior to publishing your content so that your Tailored Audiences are ready when the content goes live.


Now it’s time to reach out directly to the people who are most likely to link to your content. These will typically be bloggers who are already linking to similar pieces. BuzzSumo also offers a feature that allows you to view the articles that link to this piece of content, so as you are viewing sharers, look at the linkers too.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

BuzzSumo makes your backlink research valuable by showing you only content backlinks—i.e. links to content from other pieces of content. Seeing the social share potential of the blog will also help you determine if it’s a quality website that will drive traffic to your own site.

Using the results from that report, reach out to the blog author as well as the author who created the link to the similar post and let them know about yours. You’ll have a higher rate of success if you aim for the most recent posts, as they are more likely to be recently updated, as well as posts from authors who write link roundups, like Marketing Day (shown in the search results above).

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From here, start looking for additional link roundups in your industry. They will usually have keywords like:

Reach out to those people directly so that they can include you in their next edition.

Also be on the lookout for people who do roundups by email. In the SEO world, the holy grail is the Moz Top 10. Subscribe to their emails (preferably in advance), familiarize yourself with the content they share, and then reply to the latest one to let them know about your suggestion for their next email. Subscribers to those emails might have blogs of their own and might link to yours.


Last, but not least, look for ways to answer questions with links to your content. Search for these opportunities in Q&A networks like Yahoo Answers and Quora, forums, and social media groups.

Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Content

Not all of these arenas will create SEO links per say, but they will allow you to gain more exposure for your content in a helpful way. And more exposure has the potential to lead to more links.

In Conclusion

Here is a quick rundown of the steps to building links with content:

If you follow these steps each time you write an epic piece of content, you will ultimately create a library of linkable high-quality content on your website that drives up the overall authority of your domain with great, editorial links.

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