10 Free Ways To Get Your First Customers

May 23, 2023

I’ve spent thousands on paid ads in the past to grow my first SaaS startup, but it was only after I has acquired hundreds of customers, knew the LTV and was confident in my CaC.

I know many founders who absolutely hate paid ads and just the mention of it makes them turn red 😡.

Their experience was something like:

  • Spend a few thousand on Facebook or Google ads
  • Get a sad -100% ROAS.

The thing is - when you’re looking for your first few customers, you likely don’t have a great pitch so spending a bunch on paid ads will likely go nowhere fast.

So today I’d like to share with you 10 completely free ways to nab those first customers.

1. List your business on 100s of sites.

I found a great resource on Github for finding all the places you can do this. If you actually go through this list and post it everywhere you can, you’ll either get your first several customers, or know you need to rethink your product.

2. Related Free Tool

I did this recently for a small investing site I co-own with some friends. It’s just a simple ROI calculator with a nice graph. It brings in a good bit of organic traffic from Google.

3. Create a viral free mini product that will get linked to a lot and bump your SEO

Kapwing (which is a video editing startup) did this by adding a free tool to their site for tracking fires (??!). They got featured in local newspapers and their site got some sweet SEO juice which in turn helped their relevant content rank higher. Weird hack…

4. Cold Email

Gumroad & Alibaba did this to start. Gather emails from relevant potential customers (ala web scraping?) and send them a short email. If you use a custom domain email, you’ll want to warm it up beforehand so your mail doesn’t go to spam or promotions (or just use a different domain, that’s what I do).

5. Cold DMs

Figma did this when they started. Just direct message people with decent-sized followings (a few hundred can work well) and ask if they want to use your product for free in exchange for just posting their honest feedback on it. Make sure your product is good though or 💀

6. Influencer affiliates

Very similar to the above, but offer them money as well. This helps you be able to reach out to even larger accounts and get listed on various affiliate platforms too.

7. Partner/Integrate with a complementary product

Zapier gained traction doing this. In fact, it is their core marketing strategy. Just connect and integrate with other, larger tools that more people use. If your SaaS is integrated with Mailchimp in a relevant way, that can bring you customers.

8. Twitter bot

A little shadier of a strat, but Mixpanel (an analytics tool) did this early on. Essentially just follow/unfollow the followers of a competitor or thought leader. Get noticed and get traffic.

9. Build a personal brand.

This is actually the best one right now IMO. The climate and economy are ripe and ready for creators to absolutely dominate.

You don’t have to be an eThot posting duck faces on IG all day. Just flesh out your LinkedIn and start posting useful information.

Do it long enough and people will come to you wanting to buy anything you have. This will outlive any SaaS or business you have. The only thing it won’t outlive… Is you 💀

10. Give away free information

Leadpages did this very well and got 16k customers in a year. It’s similar to a personal brand, but it’s ‘branded’ as the business. Just pump out useful reports, case studies, webinars etc and require email optins to get them. Follow-up and sell to those leads.

If you actually put in the work instead of watching earlier mentioned eThots on tiktok, you can blow up your SaaS very quickly with just one of the above strats.

Next week, I’ll go even deeper into one of these strategies so stay tuned for that 😃


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