A lot of noise is being made lately about the trend that venture money is flowing away from consumer startups and flowing into enterprise startups. As a B2B company, I am personally excited about this, but I am here to tell my fellow early-stage (seed-funded or unfunded) enterprise startup entrepreneurs that acquiring enterprise customers is no joke.

This article is intended for enterprise startups that want to get their first few high-caliber customers without having to burn through cash and resources hiring salespeople. At Scripted, we’ve been able to acquire almost 1,000 paying business customers without hiring a single outside sales representative. Here are some of the things that are working for us.

Tip 1: Companies Google for things, just like you

Often times, the first instinct for folks running customer acquisition programs at early-stage enterprise startups is to start a bonfire under Google Adwords.

We’ve experimented with both organic and paid search and found (across every search term we care about) that organic is 3x more effective and converts 2x more customers. Redirect your resources to focus on organic search initiatives such as:

  • Generating more content – At the end of the day, there’s no getting around the fact you have to create your own content initiatives to rank high in organic search.
  • Buying websites that are crowding search terms you care about – We bought a website that ranked number one in a search term we care about for $500. Suffice to say the ROI has been extremely high.  Similarly there are a lot of search terms that are non-obvious that your customers care about – find out what they are, and you may be able to buy out domains and re-direct to your own.

Through organic search, companies like Intuit and Salesforce registered for our product and paid for content.

Tip 2: You should be using email marketing

Email marketing – buying lists and effectively pitching people on your product “cold” – is thought of as being old-school, annoying, and worn out by many. People screw up email marketing by not being disciplined and process oriented.

Use marketing automation software like Marketo, Hubspot or Pardot to run your campaigns, test your email copy, and run multiple campaigns on the same list (and in the process, comply with anti-spam laws).       

  • The big takeaway on this technique – do not give up after one email. You may feel like you are being overly aggressive, but some perspective – our open rate on first emails is 7%, and on second emails it’s more than double that (correcting for unsubscribes). Companies such as Verisign registered and paid for our product thanks to email marketing.

Tip 3: No free trials

We’ve heard different schools of thoughts on this, but I recommend against giving away your product just to get your foot in the door and get logos on your website. Giving away free trials starts any negotiation off on the wrong foot, and it generally will not end well for you.

We experimented with this a bit and found that our trial-to-long term customer conversion rate was much higher once we started charging for trials (as we would normally). I hope some of these tips help, and please feel free to reach out to me if I can shed more light on some of these techniques.

Good luck hunting for more customers!

Image Credit: Joe Klamar/Getty Images