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Startup User Acquisition Channels for SaaS Marketing

Last Updated April 26, 2021

There has been a timeless question on every entrepreneur and marketer’s lips:  How do I get more followers? 

Oliver Twist Gif

It’s as if there is a surefire potion or formula that works with a kitchen timer and produces thousands of loyal followers from a certain demographic as the timer goes ding!

I mean, a digital marketer can dream right? 😴💭

While there isn’t an exact formula, fellow blogger Darko Gjorgjievski believed there could be a better way to figure out the “secret sauce” — or at the very least identify patterns among acquisition channels favored by entrepreneurs for their SaaS marketing efforts. He set out to find the best startup acquisition channels by going straight to the source(s) of the tried and tested: founders of successful businesses.

Gjorgjievski has been part of the digital advertising and SaaS marketing community in the startup world for 14 years. It took him 479 interviews and 2 years to figure out what has worked for small and medium-sized businesses that started with zero users. We’re going to discuss the top 10 channels we ❤️ based on Gjorgjievski’s research. 

If you’re working on boosting those followers and user numbers in your SaaS marketing, here’s 10 acquisition channels recommended by startup founders.

1. SEO (search engine optimization)

Darko found 83 founders swear by search engine optimization. He mentions that there are two ways founders went about this to achieve success. They would either start the very first marketing campaign with SEO and keyword targeting, or they would use it further on after testing out a few other acquisition channels. 

In the second strategy where founders pivoted their efforts they found that SEO took a while to take off but when it did it really showed some impressive results. 

If you're curious about SEO but not sure how to get started with content development, we swear by the topic cluster content model

2. Platform Specific Marketplaces

Widgets and extensions for platforms is another way to get users. For example, Tettra is a tool that allows teams to document projects. They started out by making a Slack bot and then listed their brand on the Slack app directory to be found by new users. 

By using an already-established marketplace to gain trust and appeal to users, SaaS brands can avoid that “having to start from scratch” dilemma. 

3. Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a website that allows you to search for new items, especially for the techie set. It is great for getting that brilliant spike in visibility for your business, but not necessarily sustained business. However, it is not a customer acquisition solution that should be used at all times, as it does little to sustain that traffic. 

4. Targeted Reddit Posting

Currently, there are over 500k subreddits on the discussion platform. You’re pretty much guaranteed that there will be more than a few that are related to your industry, with active users who will be interested in your solution. 

You can always start with engaging a small subreddit and climb up the ranks of reputable subreddits. All you have to do is post a description about your product, answer questions, and just generally hype it up to those audiences that are going to be pretty receptive to what you’re offering. 

5. Cold Email Outreach

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Turns out you cannot underestimate the power of reaching out to potential customers who you have not engaged with in quite some time or never at all. No one has the time to open obvious promotional emails; a good idea would be to make your subject line witty and personalized so their interest is piqued. 

6. HackerNews

Posting on the biggest tech community on the planet is like hijacking the attention of their following, especially if most of your target audience is on there. Now, HackerNews might not be the best place for your product, but we see a pattern here: smart startup marketers use established channels to generate buzz for their product and get users. Take note!

7. Building a Media Brand

38 founders reported that it served them well when they built an audience through marketing before they developed the product. 

This is an age-old question...which comes first, the product or the brand? Honestly, the answer to this question is up to you.

You can find arguments for establishing amazing branding from the jump, and you can find arguments for smart marketing regardless of brand strength. And you really don’t even need the product ready to go if you can validate your solutions upfront. Take Kickstarter projects for example: these brands are able to get paying customers upfront based on a strong story and innovative solution. 

Regardless of how you approach your media brand, keep in mind that if you're going to wade into the choppy waters of social media marketing, take some time to determine which platforms are the best fit. 

8. Personal Network and Connections

Using your personal network is an art (and an act of bravery, depending on your particular circle). Your family, friends, and colleagues are a part of a network that could boost your user base...if this channel is used appropriately. Founders often use meetups and seminars they have attended as a way to touch base with people they probably only met once in their life, but who offer a lot of potential value to their work. 

One easily accessible tool to get the word out to your personal network about your SaaS startup is LinkedIn. Hey, maybe you’ll even go viral!

9. Google Ads

If you have the budget to spare, Google Ads (or really any paid search platform) is an excellent tool and should be a part of your long term digital acquisition strategy. 

10. Affiliates (and referrals)

Affiliates help you get more people to sign up. Remember your competition, your favorite newsletters, and even your favorite techie influences have access to an audience you’re trying to reach. On top of that, your audience also has an audience, and it’s a perfect opportunity to leverage referral programs for user acquisition. 

SaaS marketing sometimes feels like the Wild West, doesn’t it? There’s so much opportunity out there, but you have to seek to find. Many thanks to Gjorgjievski for this research!

For any startup SaaS entrepreneurs out there, do you have any secret weapon acquisition channels you’d add to this list?


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