Acquiring Customers and Marketing Your Startup

What is the foremost reason for a startup failure? No, it’s not being unable to understand the market right. It is having high costs of customer acquisition. So how to acquire customers in a cost-effective way and what digital marketing strategies to use? This is the question that is asked by all the startups all over the world. We had Nikhil Rungta from Google, Bhawna Agarwal from Seventymm and Anurag Gupta from DGM to answer this question for us.

There are various channels of customer acquisition — they’re different for every kind of business like B2C non-ecommerce, B2C e-commerce, B2B and so on. Pick a method to acquire customers wisely — on the basis of what you’re trying to achieve. And it should give a steady graph in customer acquisition, not ups and downs. Don’t try all the techniques at one go.

Internet channels

  • Search: SEO (free). If your product is solving a problem and is not based on content, SEO and other things might not actually work for you, as the user wouldn’t be looking for your product.
  • PPC: Can be for brand building and non-brand building.
  • Affiliates: Largely steady and controls acquisition cost. If you spend x amount on PPC, you’d be spending 0.8-1.25x on affiliates.
  • Display ads: 4-10x the amount on PPC.
  • Social
  • Email: Have a catchy subject — don’t try to sell in the email, offer information. Use your messaging effectively, have the user to enter some information than having him to buy.
  • Referrals (free): Try and target this. If a customer starts speaking about you, you’ve hit gold.


Mobile targeting involves low costs and can be used if you think you can target the appropriate audience.

Always remember that the target audience might not be the user. Target each audience with a different message. For example, while buying a car, an adult might be interested in fuel efficiency and specs, but children would be interested in the music system and other features that appeal to them.

Cross posted on the GSF blog. The GSF Accelerator is a 7-week program designed to foster innovation in India’s fast-growing digital economy. It aims to provide select, promising start-ups with unparalleled access to venture and business networks, personalized and intensive mentoring, and initial capital. Coaching is provided to each of the GSF startups by a mentor pool of over 200 cofounders and digital entrepreneurs from across the world. This article is a part of the series of the mentorship sessions held for the startups in the winter 2012 iteration of the accelerator.