Beyond LinkedIn: Effective Strategies to Acquire Your First Clients for Your B2B Startup
By Enrico Quaroni
June 5, 2023

Navigating the labyrinth of client acquisition methods can feel like an odyssey for fledgling B2B startups. With an endless amount of ways to reach out to potential clients, knowing where to start and what strategies to employ can be quite daunting.

The obvious place to start is with LinkedIn connections and your personal network. But once you’ve exhausted those, it’s time to think outside the box. 

Here are some powerful strategies that can help you attract those crucial initial clients.

1. Cold Email Outreach

Never underestimate the power of a well-crafted cold email. The key lies in personalization and research. Understand the recipient’s needs, pain points, and how your startup can address them. Start with a compelling subject line, keep the email concise and focused, and end with a clear call-to-action. Remember to follow up politely and timely, since people might miss or forget to respond to your first email.

How to get started:

  1. Define Your Target Audience: Conduct thorough market research to build an accurate profile of your ideal client.
  2. Gather Contact Information: Utilize resources like LinkedIn, company websites, or lead generation services to find potential clients’ email addresses.
  3. Create a Customized Email: The subject line should be compelling, and the body should be concise, focusing on how you found them, what you can offer, and its relevance to them. Use a personal touch so your recipient knows you’re not simply copy-pasting emails. 
  4. Provide a Clear Call-to-Action: Clearly communicate the next steps. Including a consultation call booking link, using tools such as Google Workspace Appointment Booking or Calendly, can simplify the process.
  5. Follow Up: If you don’t receive a response within a week, send a polite follow-up email. Persistence can often be the key to success.

2. Trade Shows and Conferences

Trade shows and conferences provide an excellent platform for networking and showcasing your products or services. Attend relevant events, and if possible, participate as a speaker or panelist. This positions you as a thought leader and enhances your startup’s visibility in your industry. Don’t forget to follow up on the contacts made during these events.

How to get started:

  1. Research relevant events: Find trade shows and conferences your target audience attends.
  2. Apply for speaking slots: Your presence at an event is much more likely to be authoritative and generate leads if you attend as a speaker or in another position of authority. 
  3. Coordinate with organizers: Depending on the event size and your budget, you may be able to get a hold of attendee lists or contact information for your target audience ahead of time, allowing you to begin sales work before the event even starts. Some events require you to purchase a sponsorship to do this, but some merely require a specialty ticket purchase.
  4. Network: At the event, take the time to engage with attendees and fellow exhibitors.
  5. Follow up: Make sure you or your sales team follows up with contacts to keep them engaged and moving through the sales process. 

3. Content Creation

Creating high-quality content can significantly boost your startup’s visibility and credibility. This could be in the form of blog posts, white papers, case studies, or even infographics. Focus on topics that resonate with your target audience and provide value. Promote your content through various channels and remember to incorporate strong SEO practices to increase your online visibility.

How to get started:

  1. Understand your audience: Identify what kind of content could enhance your audience’s life. The best way to do this is to ask your clients directly what they would like you to produce; another good way is to brainstorm what kind of educational materials your clients will need to utilize your product or service. 
  2. Choose the right type of content: Depending on your audience and business, this could be blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, etc.
  3. Promote your content: Share your content through social media, email newsletters, and on your website.

4. Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to engage potential clients. By offering a lead magnet – such as an ebook, a white paper, or a free trial – you can convert website visitors into email contacts. Make sure that the lead magnet is genuinely valuable and relevant to your audience. Once you’ve captured their email addresses, nurture these leads with further valuable content and offers, thus increasing the chances of conversion.

How to get started:

  1. Choose an email marketing service: There are many email marketing services. We recommend ConvertKit for businesses that want rich automation features with a good customer service geared towards small teams. 
  2. Build your email list: Offer a lead magnet, a piece of content visitors can download in exchange for providing their email address. This will dramatically increase the number of people who sign up to your list. 
  3. Create a campaign: Design emails that are appealing, personalized, and valuable to the reader.
  4. Monitor results: Track open rates, click-through rates, and conversions to understand what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Optimize: Use your findings to improve your future email campaigns.

5. Paid Advertising

Paid advertising can be a quick and effective way to reach your target audience. To make the most out of your paid ads, consider using a lead magnet. Instead of merely showcasing your product or service, your ad can direct people to download a lead magnet in exchange for their email address. This allows you to capture the lead, even if the sale doesn’t close immediately. Keep in mind that successful paid advertising requires a well-thought-out strategy and continuous optimization.

How to get started:

  1. Choose the right platform: Depending on your audience, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or LinkedIn Ads could be a good fit.
  2. Set clear objectives: What do you want to achieve with your ad? More website traffic, lead generation, or increased sales? One particularly effective strategy is to advertise a lead magnet that appeals to your client base. 
  3. Create a compelling ad: Make sure it catches the eye, clearly communicates your offer, and includes a strong call-to-action.
  4. Measure and optimize: Use analytics to understand how your ad is performing and make necessary adjustments.

6. Referral Program

Referrals can be a powerful way to acquire new clients. Establishing a referral program that rewards your existing clients for referring others to your startup can provide a steady stream of potential clients. The rewards could be discounts, freebies, or other benefits. The key is to make it a win-win for both the referrer and the referred.

How to get started:

  1. Define the incentives: Referral partners appreciate financial incentives, but sometimes your startup can’t offer financial incentives large enough to make it worthwhile for referrers. Other effective incentives include reciprocal referral agreements or free services.
  2. Promote your referral program: Make sure your clients know about the program and how it works. Include an invitation to the referral program with every onboarding package.
  3. Make it easy to refer: The easier it is for your clients to refer others, the more likely they will do it. The most common method is to provide clients with a referral link.
  4. Track referrals: Use a system to track referrals so you can reward those who refer others. This also enables you to understand which clients and sources end up providing the most referrals. 
  5. Say thank you: Always thank your clients for their referrals and follow through on the promised rewards.


While the initial client acquisition for your B2B startup might seem challenging, implementing a mix of these strategies can yield rewarding results. Remember, consistency and persistence are essential. So, start laying the groundwork today and watch your client base grow.


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