Inbound User Growth is the Best Kind of Growth — Here’s How to Get It

Brad Hanks
Brad Hanks

People queuing up

I work at an accounting software startup, ZipBooks, and we have had a lot of success with acquiring new users through inbound marketing efforts. In the early days of any startup, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and lots of bumps that will get ironed out along the way.

It is pretty great when user acquisition growth isn’t at the top of the list of problems that need to be solved. User growth can cover a multitude of sins at an early stage startup.

Inbound User Growth is the Best Kind of Growth

There are all kinds of ways to get new users, but the best kind of growth is where users proactively seek you out. Setting up inbound customer acquisition channels that build upon themselves can quickly add up over time. Here are the top four reasons I’m bullish on inbound marketing.

Inbound users are the cheapest kind of users

Inbound marketing means that you have channels in place where people come to you. You aren’t bidding on keywords against your competitor and you aren’t spending money on media buys. When people find you, acquisition costs get low — real low.

Spending less per user gives you greater flexibility to try new things, and it also means a longer runway to figure out how to make those users profitable.

Inbound users are the highest quality users

When people come to your site looking for a solution to a problem, they are much more likely to stick around long-term. It is common knowledge that organic users have a longer average lifetime value (LTV) than paid search users. Do you really want to build a growth strategy around what may amount to spurious clicks on banner ads that users run across?

Inbound marketing lets you target niche users

Identifying new, profitable niches is my favorite part of inbound marketing. Regardless of your industry, there are going to be low-volume, low-competition terms that you can start ranking for today that lead to highly profitable users. Over the long haul, long-tail keyword terms can really add up. Just ask Amazon.

Inbound marketing builds its own momentum

We have gotten some great news coverage in a short amount of time because we were able to leverage our inbound user growth to demonstrate relevance and staying power in a very competitive marketplace. How many companies can say that their seed funding was covered by the Wall Street Journal?

Inbound User Growth Starts Now

You know the benefits of inbound marketing, so why aren’t you doing more of it? Maybe it’s because the results are not as immediate as outbound marketing, but outbound fizzles as soon as your ad budget runs low.

Commit today to making inbound marketing a core part of your growth strategy with these four tactics.

Use reviews to create a virtuous word of mouth cycle

Once you know who likes your app, you can reach out to them and ask them to leave a review. Reviews are a great way to support informational searches about your brand and the problem you are solving.

Software review sites do a good job of ranking for software related terms, for example. Review sites take the additional step of making de facto recommendations based on user feedback that makes it onto the site.

If you have a great product and a scalable approach to getting people to leave reviews, you can start a user-generating engine that feeds on its own growth.

Build into more users through meaningful integrations

Integrations are an overlooked method for driving inbound marketing growth. If you are new, a great place to start is to look at the integrations your competitors have.

Which of those technologies have the most users? What problems haven’t been solved with newer platforms?

Early on we identified Google Apps users as a group of people that would really appreciate a free small business accounting software program. Your product is the most powerful marketing tool you have. Use it to make introductions.

Leverage the power of the press

Let me first say that you can’t really “use” the press. Donald Trump might be the exception that proves the rule, but for the rest of us, we need to have something worth saying.

Here’s how I evaluate whether something is worth writing a press release about:

  • Will the news fundamentally change the way someone would perceive your brand, even if they were already familiar with your company?
  • Have you added a new product or feature that has broad appeal beyond your existing users?
  • Do you have something to say about current industry or marketplace conditions that substantially contributes to an ongoing discussion?

If you can answer yes to one of the preceding questions, then press coverage is worth pursuing.

Journalists are the most overworked, under-appreciated segment of the working population. I am a voracious reader of online news and I usually don’t stop and think about how many hours worth of work it takes writers and editors to produce the amount of content I read every morning — but I assure you that it is a lot.

Thinking about how you are going to be able to save someone else time on a story that they were planning on writing anyway is a great way to start getting coverage.

Time-tested SEO tactics will always have their place

Do keyword research. Write regular content on your blog that is ten times more engaging than what others are doing. Spread the word and introduce yourself to new audiences by writing for other well-respected blogs in your industry.

All these efforts add up to the whole of a more authoritative site. Working on authority is stopping to sharpen the saw. It is going to make all your other ranking efforts more effective.

Have you had success building inbound user acquisition for your startup or project? Share your tips in the comments, and let us know how you go with these strategies.