Your Competitors are Clueless (initially)
If you are creating a new market (as is often the case for tech startups) your best chance of success is taking the time to figure out how to become relevant to the right people. Most startups spend way too much time obsessing over their clueless competition. If the competition is going for a land grab, they feel compelled to do the same. The likely result is mutually assured destruction.
Take the Time to Understand Early Users
It’s OK to passively monitor your competition (in case they figure something out), but spend the majority of your time getting to know your early users. They hold all the answers for reaching your full market potential. If you don’t have any users, get some. Acquiring several hundred users is relatively easy for a funded company. Don’t worry too much about the acquisition cost on these initial users (but don’t go too crazy either).
Once you have around 1000 users, shift all your energy to engaging/understanding them. Who is most/least satisfied with your product and why? What is the primary benefit they are getting from your product? Why did they decide to try your product? Did they have a problem that they thought you might be able to solve? Or are they early adopters that often try interesting new software even if it isn’t likely to have a real practical application?
Context Creates Relevance
The key to effectively scaling customer acquisition is applying this understanding through the entire customer acquisition process. And remember, a person isn’t actually acquired until they have a gratifying experience with your product. Start by trying to reach prospects when they’ll be most receptive to your message. Obviously the most receptive users are the ones that are actually searching for a solution like yours. Of course if your solution is truly creating a new market, don’t expect much relevant search volume.
Next, look for other contextually relevant ways to reach prospects. Getting their attention through the clutter is much easier if you reach them at a time they are likely to be experiencing the problem you are solving.
Be sure to have the relevant messages through the entire acquisition process (from landing page to actually using the product). This post gives more insight on getting the full user acquisition flow right.