Q: How do you acquire customers on a zero dollar budget?

You use “sweat dollars” instead:

  • Get any press and PR you can. It doesn’t have to be TechCrunch. Get every blog, every publication, anyone with any on-point audience to write about you. Anyone with an audience, even a small one, in your target industry can get you at least a handful of leads if they write about you. Make the pitch amazing; take your time to make it great and unique. It all adds up.
  • Write a really, really good blog. Yes, no one is reading your blog today. But SEO works in a mysterious way. Don’t have an Upworker write 100 generic pieces. Instead, just write 2–3 amazing blog posts. That teach potential customers how to solve a really big problem, and adds tons of value. Even if just 4–5 potential leads find it, that may be enough. More here: Corporate Blogs Always Work. But Only If You Do Them Right. | SaaStr
  • Go to all the top events in the industry and work the event / room. We aren’t all extroverted enough to do an A+ job here — but it does work. The top 2–3 events in your industry are full of buyers. It’s a Top 3 reason they go to events. Find a way to meet them before you have the $$$ to sponsor. Put yourself out there in the mobile app. Join cocktail parties. Lead Braindates and other mentoring sessions in your space.
  • Get into every ecosystem, every partner program, etc. that you can. Even if an app store only gets you 2–3 leads, at least that’s some. Just be patient here. This can take time.
  • Do 100 great cold e-mails. Really, really, really great cold emails. Don’t buy some list off the internet. Instead, figure out the 100 top prospects. And spend 100 hours — 1 hour per email — writing the best, personalized email to each of them. I bet you get a few real leads out of it if the email is truly awesome, and you are solving a problem they have today with a true solution.

You can basically run the full sales & marketing toolkit for $0 if you have to. It’s not as good. It’s painful. But you can do press, events, content marketing, SEO, and even outbound sales without spending one dollar. Paid ads will have to wait, but the rest you can do for $0, if you are willing to do all the work yourself for now.

Then do more of whatever works, even a little bit, once you have a few dollars to spend.

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