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The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Customer Acquisition

October 30, 2020

marketer

This ultimate guide has everything you need to know about customer acquisition. In simple language. 

What is customer acquisition, how to measure it, best strategies, tactics, tips, and more. This knowledge will help you understand how to acquire more customers, regardless of your industry or niche. Most importantly, you’ll know how to get started with customer acquisition today. 

What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition is a process of gaining new customers for your business. It’s a carefully planned strategy, which can – and should – be improved on a consistent basis.

A customer acquisition strategy is effective when it generates business opportunities, keeps customers loyal, and increases revenues in a cost-effective way. Achieving this is possible with on-point, customer-focused acquisition marketing. 

Acquisition marketing is promoting products and services to customers who are already aware of them. This approach targets people who might be interested in a specific product. This makes acquisition marketing different from other marketing types. 

Choosing relevant customer acquisition channels is the first step to engaging the right prospects. 

Main customer acquisition channels

Depending on the type of business you run, there are several different channels through which you can acquire new customers. A customer acquisition channel is basically where your marketing “meets” your customers. 

Social media, organic search, cold calling, paid advertising – the list goes on. Choosing the right channel depends on your business, marketing budget, and customer preferences. Here are the channels for acquiring customers online and offline. 

Let’s discuss offline acquisition channels first. 

Events

Hosting an event to gather potential customers in one place is a great way to communicate with them directly. Events can be educational, informative, and lots of fun. 

Customers love events because they give them an opportunity to experience brands. Remember: people coming to an event are already familiar with your brand. So you should take it to the next level by giving them an idea of how their experience with your product/service will look like. 

You can host both in-person and online events. The latter are a better option now - you’ll make it easier to attend regardless of the attendee location plus keep everybody safe. 

TV and radio

Many people consider these two outdated, but that doesn’t make them ineffective. For businesses targeting local markets, TV and radio could be perfect to generate and increase brand awareness and interest. 

With these customer acquisition channels, the biggest advantage is the reach. Hundreds of thousands can hear or see your ads in just several days. There’s one disadvantage of TV and radio: there’s no way to determine how many customers you acquired with those ads. 

Print ads

These include advertising in newspapers, magazines, and direct mail. They, too, can help reach wide audiences on both local and national scale. 

Print ads are a great investment because you choose the publication. For example, if you’d like your ads to be seen by HR professionals, there’s plenty of HR magazines and publications to choose from. But much like with other offline customer acquisition channels, calculating the ROI from print ads is extremely challenging. 

Cold calling

Cold calls are at the bottom of the most liked user acquisition strategies list. Still, 69% of buyers said they received them last year, and 82% of them accepted meetings after a series of contacts. 

So cold calling remains a strategy to acquire customers. But it needs a lot of persistence. Hardly anyone agrees to a meeting after a call - or five, for that matter - so it’s a highly time-consuming method. 

Tip: A G2 integration like Buyer Intent and LinkedIn Sales Generator identifies people who are likely to be interested in your product. This automation minimizes time investment in cold prospecting.

Now, let’s go over online acquisition channels. 

Search marketing

Search marketing is the practice of promoting websites in search engine results. It consists of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEO is an organic method, while SEM is paid.

To effectively promote with SEO, you need to create optimized content based on keywords and needs of Google users. With SEM, paid advertisements are the driver of engagement. Similarly to content, the ads also have to be keyword-based. 

Paid advertising

Often called pay-per-click advertising (PPC), this one gives more guarantees than SEO. Since you’re in charge of choosing keywords to target, your ads are likely to be seen by motivated customers. Many companies, however, find PPC management difficult. That’s why there’s a bunch of PPC services providers available to help with maximizing the ROI of campaigns. 

Social media

You can share your content such as blog posts (organic) or advertisements (paid) on social media. The organic promotion is a method for advertising to existing followers, and ads are a way to reach new ones. 

Be careful when choosing a social media platform for customer acquisition. LinkedIn, for example, works best for B2B businesses while Facebook and Instagram yield better results for B2C. 

Affiliate marketing

An acquisition tactic where companies reward partners (affiliates) for each customer they bring. Essentially, the affiliates act as an extension of the team, helping to sell products online. 

Affiliate software is a must to create, track, and manage affiliate campaigns. With this software, you can find and recruit partners, create affiliate links, and track sales. 

Crafting a winning customer acquisition strategy

Creating a strategy for acquisition is a must. With one, you’ll have an organized acquisition plan for bringing customers to the final stage of buying. 

Funnels vs. loops: a modern approach to acquisition

For a very long time, businesses have been using funnels to acquire customers. While a good starting point, this traditional approach offered limited growth opportunities, so many switched to a novel one: acquisition loops. Here’s what you need to know about both. 

A customer acquisition funnel, or sales funnel, is a framework for understanding the progress in acquiring customers. 

The funnel typically has six stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest 
  • Consideration
  • Intent
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase. 

Here’s how a typical funnel looks, from UpLead: 

sales funnel

It’s wide at the top and becomes more narrow closer to the bottom. The lower the customer is “in the funnel,” the more likely they are to buy. The funnel approach has been a go-to strategy for understanding customer journey for over a decade. 

Now, it’s not as popular as it was. One reason is that the funnel excludes customer retention. New customers “cost” five times higher than repeat ones, so many businesses are turning to other acquisition methods. One of them is acquisition loops. 

Acquisition loops are closed systems that drive both customer acquisition and retention. Besides acquiring new customers, they also drive exponential growth by encouraging existing users to attract more new ones. 

Here’s how a typical acquisition loop looks, from Reforge: 

acquisition loop

The best acquisition loop depends on the business type, product, market, and business model. In fact, you can create a loop based on:

  • Product feature
  • Integration
  • Referral program
  • Incentive
  • SEO
  • Ad campaigns
  • Partnerships 

Below, see an example of a user acquisition loop based on referral programs. Dropbox encourages existing customers to invite friends to get more space for free.

dropbox invitation

Regardless of the user acquisition loop, the success depends on the product/service value. A successful loop maximizes the ROI of marketing and reduces the cost of finding new customers. Acquisition loops are a way to grow a business quickly and exponentially. This is something that the traditional funnel-based acquisition model doesn’t consider. 

5 steps to designing a powerful customer acquisition model

A customer acquisition model helps maximize ROI by focusing your efforts on prospects who are likely to convert for a reasonable cost to you. 

1. Define an ideal customer

No acquisition tactic is going to work well if you don’t understand who your customer is. Your product or service is the perfect solution for a problem faced by a certain group of people. 

Find who those people are with customer research:

  • Online surveys. With free survey software, creating custom forms to capture customer insights is simple and fast.
  • Sales data. Check transactional data to learn about characteristics, buying behavior, and interests of existing customers.
  • Chatbot. Bloggers, for example, use Wordpress chatbots to inquire visitors about preferred content topics and interests.

The result should be a user persona – a description of your ideal customer based on real insights and information. 

2. Set clear goals

Set customer acquisition goals to manage expectations and guide your effort. Make them specific by including the desired number of new customers and a time period. This means getting 2,000 new customers in three months (a quarter) is a well-defined goal. 

Use customer acquisition metrics to monitor your performance:

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Churn rate
  • Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) 

3. Select acquisition channels

Acquisition channels are platforms, strategies, and sources through which you bring in customers. 

They include:

  • Email marketing 
  • Content marketing and SEO
  • Paid advertising campaigns
  • Affiliate marketing 
  • Social media marketing
  • Influencer marketing

How many should you pick for your customer acquisition model? A couple would be a great start. This number is perfect for keeping your effort targeted and focused (and spending lower).

The choice of an acquisition channel depends on your resources and strategy. Small businesses, for example, tend to invest in more affordable channels like content and social media marketing.

4. Collect and use data

As with all things marketing, a customer acquisition plan works when data informed. Data helps to understand trends and patterns, which is a must for minimizing CAC. 

Keyword research is a great example of using data to improve customer acquisition tactics with content marketing. By using keyword research tools, you can get the data you need to understand the search intent and likelihood of conversion. 

5. Track progress and adjust your strategy

Look for ways to improve your customer acquisition strategy. This is the only way to grow your business in the long-term and keep new customers coming in. Tracking is key to continuous progress. So monitor the performance of chosen customer acquisition strategies by using metrics and stick to the ones that perform best. 

Track these metrics to evaluate email marketing:

  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Spam complaints
  • Number of unsubscribes 
  • ROI

Metrics for referral programs:

  • Participation rate (Number of active users sending invites)
  • CAC of referrals 
  • Customer retention rate (from referrals)
  • Conversion rate
  • CLV

Sometimes, even the simplest things like tweaks in PPC ad copy or CTA placement in content can make a lot of difference. Once you get used to continuous improvement, it’ll become like a culture. That’s when a lot of breakthroughs happen, you know. 

4 popular customer acquisition tactics and examples

These four tactics are applicable to most businesses.

1. Produce SEO-optimized blog content

SEO is a tactic of boosting a website’s position in Google results. Most people don’t go past the first results page, so the real estate there is precious. Getting there requires you to do SEO, i.e. follow Google’s recommendations and best practices. 

google accounting software

To acquire customers with SEO, optimize your blog content to be more friendly to Google and its users. This strategy doesn’t require you to buy advertising space while allowing you to reach a precise audience. 

For example, people looking for mobile marketing tips would be interested in reading this wonderful piece of content.  

mobile marketing page

The most important things to make SEO content work:

  • Keyword optimization. Use keywords throughout articles to help Google rank content.
  • Content value. Make your content useful for solving a target customer’s issue or achieving a goal.
  • Link building. Link to your content across social media and other websites to make Google value it more. 

SEO is a great customer acquisition strategy because it targets people searching for your products or services. If you optimize blog content and website to target the keywords they’re using, you can drive traffic and conversions. 

2. Launch a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign

This is a prime tactic for bringing new customers to your business. Instead of creating content to reach Google SERP, you can pay to create a search result – an ad – to show up alongside organic results. Google charges you for every click made on that ad. PPC allows you to reach quality leads in Google fast. This tactic works like SEO in the sense that you need to base ads on specific keywords. 

Here’s an example ad targeting the keyword: “Buy glasses for computer use.” 

Create a PPC campaign to drive traffic to websites immediately after the launch. Keep in mind that you can set ad campaign budget limits in your Google Ads account to avoid overspending. 

3. Send out an email newsletter

Almost every business today uses email marketing, and for a good reason. Emails are a way to connect with potential customers directly and nurture the relationship for a long-term engagement.

The fact that someone subscribes to your email newsletter means they’re interested in receiving content. It could be product newsletters, sales, discounts, news, industry updates – anything related to your business.

This email newsletter, for example, shares travel tips.

newsletter

Create an email newsletter related to your product or service and produce content that shows how it helps your target audience. In the travel email above, the travel business shares tips to make every trip better. 

You can also think of email marketing as a content distribution channel. This makes it perfect for companies doing content marketing, too. 

4. Launch a referral program

Ask your existing customers to refer their friends for a discount or perk. This way, you can acquire new customers for no extra cost and improve the experience of the existing ones. 

Here’s an example. Payoneer, a global payment system, offers a $25 reward for referring a new user.  

payoneer

Getting the bonus is easy: just copy the link and share it with friends. 

Launch a referral program and encourage your customers to invite more people to try your product or service. To make the offer irresistible, dive into your customer research to find out what drives them to purchase and what kind of incentives they prefer.  

Calculating Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC is the cost of acquiring a customer over a defined period of time. The lower CAC is, the more effective an acquisition method is for the business. 

Use this formula to calculate CAC:

CAC = (total cost of marketing and sales) / (number of acquired customers). 

Example: if you spent $20,000 to get 4,000 customers, you CAC equals $5. 

The total cost of marketing and sales also includes such expenses as:

  • Employee salaries
  • Cost of using online paid tools
  • Publishing costs (TV, print media, etc.)
  • Content production content
  • Cost of advertising campaigns. 

6 ways to minimize CAC

CAC is a direct reflection of customer acquisition campaign performance. To keep this indicator at a minimum level, try these strategies:

  • Focus on best-performing acquisition channels. Invest money into channels that have generated most customers
  • Start a referral program. Referrals cut down the CAC, so implement a program with generous incentives
  • Fight eCommerce cart abandonment. Unfinished purchases add to CAC, so businesses use Shopify abandoned cart and similar apps to recover sales
  • Minimize onboarding. For SaaS companies, effective and fast user onboarding is important to turn free trial and first-time users into regular 
  • Invest in content marketing. It’s an organic strategy that focuses on building customer relationships by providing value and advice
  • Make your sales cycle more efficient. With a tool like CRM (customer relationship management), you can keep information about prospects and customers and track interactions with them in one place. 

Takeaways

Customer acquisition is the strategy to draw in new customers. A carefully planned and data-informed strategy should keep your marketing expenses lower and ROI higher.

To make your customer acquisition strategy work:

  • Choose effective customer acquisition channels.
  • Have a good understanding of your ideal customers to create effective marketing messages.
  • Collect data and make adjustments to your strategy regularly.
  • Track progress to focus on the best-performing acquisition tactics.

With time, you’ll realize the most effective customer acquisition methods for your business. They will help you to sustain your business’s growth and be more customer-focused.

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