Many startups struggle with finding and retaining customers. Having a sustainable and systematic customer acquisition strategy is an essential component of success for any organization, especially as a startup. Once you’ve implemented the basics to identify and attract new customers, you need to continue growing.
Why is customer acquisition important?
If you have a product or service to sell, you need a customer acquisition strategy. A good strategy will help you grow in a targeted and cost-effective way to attract the right customers.
Your customer acquisition strategy is the link between your marketing and customer relationship management. It provides the framework to grow your business by helping you to gain new customers while you retain the ones you have.
Building a customer acquisition strategy
Once you’ve defined your target market segments, you understand their needs and desires. You know where they are and how to access them, whether online or offline. And if you haven’t completed this step yet, do that first — it’s an important foundation.
Next, you need to establish your growth goals and determine the channels you’ll use to further engage your existing customers and to connect with new ones.
Establish your goals
What goals are you looking to achieve over the next quarter, six months or year? Are you seeking revenue or profit by a specific amount? Do you want to increase subscriber count by a certain percentage? Would you like to expand into a new market? Target a new market segment?
Having a clear understanding of the goals you want to achieve will help you to stay focused on your target for your acquisition strategy.
Define your channels
There are many marketing channels to use to engage with your audience. It can be challenging to decide which channels to focus on, but the key is to look at where your potential and existing customers are and what platforms and websites they’re using.
For example, you’ll want to identify the social media platforms your customers use and make those a key component of your strategy. If your customers engage with email (who doesn’t?!), include email marketing.
While there are hundreds of marketing channels, they each fall into seven broad categories:
- Your website and blog: Make the most of your website and blog by sharing educational, helpful, and/or entertaining content with your audience. If you create “premium” content, you can gate it behind a form and ask prospects to supply their email addresses in order to access it. Gating allows you to follow up with emails on the same topic, engaging prospects’ interest and keeping your company top of mind.
- Earned media: “Earned media” are the platforms that you gain access to by providing value to their audiences in some way. This may take the form of traditional PR, guest blog posting or podcast appearances, to name a few.
- Email marketing: Provide continued value to your email list to create a sales funnel. If you have the data to do so, consider sending emails with a different subject line to people who didn’t open your first email.
- Paid ads: Leverage paid ads to target specific customers or those you have engaged with before on social media platforms. Use remarketing to target the people who previously liked something on your social pages or visited your website.
- Online and social media marketing: Engage your audience through your company’s content and user-generated content. Consider collaborating with influencers. Continue to build a following by establishing expertise in your social media networks and on industry forums.
- Search engine optimization: Improve users’ ability to access your content by optimizing your site to appear in the search results. Ensure your site is built in a way that makes it easy for search engines to navigate. Improve your website speed and usability. Provide consistent, valuable material on a regular basis. Create a strategy to attract high-quality links.
- Offline marketing: Speak at conferences to demonstrate expertise. Join local events in your community to increase word-of-mouth.
Keep in mind that not everyone will make a purchase on the first interaction, and you want to build an ongoing relationship that provides value for them, in addition to sales. Even better, prospects and customers will tell their friends and coworkers about your company.
10 customer acquisition tactics
Now it’s time to get creative with your customer acquisition. Here are 10 ideas to get your creativity flowing.
Give away free products or services
Offering a bit of your product or service for free does a couple of things for you.
First, it provides potential customers the opportunity to try your product or see what it’s like to work with you, at no cost to them. Second, it can create word-of-mouth.
This free item shouldn’t cost you much, or it will impact your cash flow. Provide one month of free access to your app, offer a free brainstorming call that will let prospects experience your expertise, or offer something related to your product that’s creative and fun.
Video content is a great way to establish and build a connection with your audience. Your videos should be both educational and interesting to your audience. Bonus points if they’re entertaining, as well!
Create a referral strategy
Once you have happy customers, make it easy for them to refer you. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them gift cards or a discount if they refer you. Monetary rewards can work well with some products (like coffee shops or e-commerce shops). But for referrals that come from people who are sharing your company because they truly like working with you, a financial incentive can backfire.
People may be reluctant to recommend you because they worry that their friend or colleague may think you did it just for the money. Instead, think of ways to make it easy for people to refer you. Design a creative card, use “forward to a friend” links in your marketing emails, etc.
Offer amazing content
Establish yourself as a go-to source of helpful information. Publish blog posts, e-books and other downloadable content, as well as an engaging newsletter. Cultivate your social media marketing content, focusing on building a tribe and providing value.
Create a beginner’s guide
Establish your expertise while attracting people at the top of the marketing funnel by creating a beginner’s guide to the topics your product or service has expertise in.
Host an event
Host your own event to frame your message. This event can take the form of something big, like a conference, or something small, like a meet-up group.
Partner with a complementary company
Is there a well-loved company that complements your products without directly competing? Create a partnership and join with them to access their audience. Partnerships can come in many forms, including guest podcast appearances, webinar hosting, social media takeovers, or email marketing.
Be the source for trend information
Stand out in your industry or among your market by becoming the go-to source for information on trends. Being seen as “in the know” also helps you establish your company as the experts in your subject matter.
Improve your website
Consider the user experience on your website. Can you make popular information easier to find? Improve the content? These will help your search rankings and will also draw more people to visit your site regularly.
Repurpose your content
Did you get a lot of engagement from a particular social media post? Expand it into a blog post or an e-book. If your blog post was shared a lot, write an email newsletter about it, and share it out on social media. Continue providing value across your channels.
These are just a few ideas to boost customer acquisition. Get creative and be sure to test the results of your campaigns to see which are most effective with your target audience. Then, do more of those things!
Customer acquisition will continue to be an ongoing effort for your startup, but having a focused strategy will help you to build on your success and continue to grow.
Originally published Nov. 20, 2019.