Without customers, businesses wouldn’t survive. Heck – they wouldn’t even exist in the first place! So it stands to reason that acquiring customers is just about the most important thing your business can do. It is.
And the data backs this up. According to one Zenith Media report, global ad spend will exceed $873 billion in 2024. Whichever channels they use, companies are pumping more and more money – and effort – into acquiring customers.
And if your business wants to keep up, you’ll need to wise up to a particular important pair of words – customer acquisition.
Below, get to grips with what customer acquisition is, why it’s important, and how it’s different to marketing. Then, explore our six-step guide to creating – and executing – a world-beating customer acquisition strategy for your business.
Ready to acquire some knowledge – and some customers? Read on!
Customer acquisition (also known as client acquisition) is the process of turning people into paying customers.
It’s the set of strategies, activities, and techniques you’ll use to get the world to buy your products and services. (Then keep buying them – again and again!)
Customer acquisition is important because – no matter how fantastic your business is at satisfying its clientele – some loss of customers is inevitable.
Your customers might, for instance, be lured to a competitor by a cheaper deal. They could return to a company they previously did business with for loyalty or familiarity reasons. Or they might have fallen on hard times, and become unable to afford your wares.
All this means that you can’t rest on your laurels, or rely on your existing customers. You need to be finding, engaging, persuading, and converting more – all the time.
And that requires a strategy.
Plus, a solid client acquisition strategy is catnip for potential investors, suppliers, influencers, and partners. It shows you have a plan for generating leads, nurturing prospects, and converting your audience. And can do it sustainably – perpetually.
Though customer acquisition and marketing do share common strands of DNA, they’re different processes – with differing goals. Put simply:
- The goal of marketing is to build awareness. To put your brand in front of potential customers. To share the features and benefits of what you’re selling, and articulate the kind of positive impact it’ll have on your audience’s life.
- The goal of customer acquisition is to elicit action. It’s the set of strategies that, once your customer is aware of your brand, convinces them to become a customer. To click that button, sign up, enter their credit card details. Hit “Buy”!
Through this lens, marketing and customer acquisition aren’t two sides of the same coin, but two steps in the same process.
Marketing grabs an audience’s attention – it’s the fruit market hawker yelling about how low the prices of their strawberries are, and how delicious they taste.
Customer acquisition, however, is that hawker’s patter once you’ve wandered over to their stall. It’s everything that happens until you’ve handed over a fistful of crumpled dollars – and walked away with those succulent strawberries in your grasp.
Okay – now we know what customer acquisition is, and why it’s important. But that all-important question remains – how do you create one?
Well…read on! Below, we’ve pulled together our top six steps for creating a compelling customer acquisition strategy. One that actually converts!
#1. Define Your Goals
The first step? Figuring out exactly what you want to achieve with your customer acquisition strategy.
We know what you’re thinking. “Surely my goals are simply to acquire more customers – and lots of them!”
Well, yes – that’s the ultimate goal. But to plan a truly effective client acquisition strategy, you’ll need to get specific. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Which type of customers am I looking to acquire? Are they people of a specific age? Do they identify with a particular gender?
- Once they are customers, how will I re-engage them so they stay that way? An acquisition strategy doesn’t focus on attracting new customers alone, after all – but on re-acquiring their business through nurturing and relationship building.
- How many customers will I need to gain, accounting for churn and my current growth rate, to hit my business’ revenue targets? This one is the million dollar question. You’ll need to set goals that are ambitious enough to drive growth and profitability, but not demoralize yourself (and your team) with unrealistic targets that are simply too lofty to hit.
- Which levers will I pull to gain those customers? We’ll discuss this in more detail later, in step 4. But it’s worth starting to think about which channels and strategies you’ll use to funnel potential customers into your brand’s ecosystem.
- How often will I reassess my strategy and make changes off the back of it? For more information about optimizing your strategy, head to step 6.
#2. Identify Your Customers
In the first step, we talked about the need to define your goals. The next step? Defining – and understanding – your customers.
So grab your computer – or go vintage, and pick up pen and paper – and jot down answers to some key questions:
- Who is my “ideal” customer? Think demographics here – age, gender, location. These details will go a long way toward deciding how you plan and structure your marketing efforts, so it’s important you have them!
- What are my customers’ pain points and struggles? Understanding the kinds of issues your audience grapples with will help you ensure all your brand’s communications – from those initial ads, to how you write and set up your website – reflect their struggles. And show how your business can solve them.
- What does my customer want? Similarly, you’ll need to get to grips with exactly what drives and motivates your audience – before you can call them customers.
To this end, user personas are a fantastic tool. They’re a set of archetypes – ideally based on actual information, obtained via market research, about your target audience – that reflect your customers.
User personas – ”Cautious Clark,” for example, or “Time-Poor Timothy” – detail a typical customer’s name, character traits, goals, pain points, social media footprint, and more. When it comes to knowing which kind of people your customer acquisition strategy will be targeting, user personas are an invaluable tool.
#3. Set KPIs
Next, it’s time to set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are key success metrics which will tell you if your client acquisition strategy is on the right track.
With the right set of KPIs, you’ll know which aspects of your customer acquisition strategy are hitting home – and which ones need a little extra work. With that in mind, here are some of the metrics you can focus on:
- Impressions: how many pairs of eyes your marketing messaging lands in front of. It could be the number of times your business’ ad was shown in someone’s social media feed, or the number of visits a person made to your landing page.
- Click-through rate (CTR): the percentage of the people who saw your ad that actually clicked on it. If your impressions are high but your CTR is lagging behind, you may need to tweak your ad’s messaging.
- Conversion rate: your ecommerce site’s number of conversions, divided by its amount of visitors. Unsurprisingly, conversion rate is a customer acquisition strategy’s most important metric – it’s what separates the best from the rest.
(Could your business benefit from more conversions? Check out Website Builder Expert’s top tips for increasing your conversion rate!)
#4. Note Your Customer Acquisition Channels
A customer acquisition channel is a platform via which you can locate – and obtain – new customers.
Now, it’s time to choose yours. Popular customer acquisition channels include:
- Paid search. This approach – also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – involves paying to place an ad on a search engine, such as Google.
- Organic search. This method involves optimizing content for search engines (SEO) by targeting keywords specific to your industry and customer pain points. High-quality, relevant content increases your legitimacy in the eyes of Google’s algorithms and your audience, and helps the latter find your content online.
- Social media (paid and unpaid). Posting regularly, engaging with your followers, and curating content your audience will love are all excellent, free ways of acquiring customers. To complement your organic efforts, engage influencers – or sponsor your posts to expand their reach.
- Email. Building up a reliable list of contacts, then reaching out to them with news, exclusive updates, and tailored discounts, is an ideal way to acquire customers – then lock in their loyalty.
Got to grips with your customer acquisition channels, but need a hand utilizing them? We’ve got you. Check out our top digital marketing tips for the full scoop!
#5. Highlight Your Strategy for Each Channel
Now you know which channels you’ll be focusing on, it’s time to shape your broader client acquisition strategy by homing on more specific strategies.
Bear in mind, though, that there’s no “one size fits all” guide here. The customer acquisition strategies that are right for you will depend on your business’ goals, audience, and KPIs – plus your preferred customer acquisition channels.
But for some inspiration, here’s a select few channel strategies you can harness:
- Sending abandoned cart emails to re-engage customers who’ve been close to making a purchase, but didn’t follow through. By offering them a special deal or discount on that item, you can convince them to buy at the second – or third – time of asking.
- Creating gated content – that is, comprehensive ebooks or whitepapers that your customer can download from your site, in exchange for their email address and contact details. On top of a constant supply of warm leads, gated content can help you build up your email database.
- Produce and promote video content. Videos can be shared across social media, placed on your website, used in blog content, and even support your PR efforts. As well as serving concrete commercial targets – generating leads, funneling customers to your website – videos also serve softer, longer-term goals. Like cultivating a community, building your brand’s “personality” and tone, and helping foster a sense of consumer loyalty toward your business.
#6. Assess KPIs and Update Strategies
With your customer acquisition channels selected and strategies in place, it’s tempting to stretch out. Put your feet up. And relax.
But don’t – because there’s still work to do.
As we touched on earlier, a client acquisition strategy isn’t a static endeavor – something to “set and forget.” It’s a living, breathing part of your business – a perpetual process of optimization and iteration.
So after a set period of time – which you’ll have specified earlier, when defining your customer acquisition strategy goals – take time to audit the efficacy of your campaigns. Are people actually downloading that gated content? Is anyone opening the emails – and out of those who are, how many are clicking the links inside them?
With this information, you’ll know what’s working, and where you need to go back to the drawing board. From here, you can make the right tweaks to your strategies, and run even better campaigns – setting your business up for sustainable success!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling strawberries on the street or enterprise software to hedge funds. One thing remains the same: your customer will always be the lifeblood of your business. So be sure to pay plenty of attention – and funnel plenty of time, effort, money, and resources – into acquiring them. We also have an article that showcases customer acquisition examples.
Be sure, too, to let us know how you found this article in the comments section below. We’ll leave you with a couple of FAQs, and a recap of the six key steps to bossing your customer acquisition strategy:
- Define your goals
- Identify your customers
- Set KPIs
- Note your customer acquisition channels
- Highlight your strategy for each channel
- Assess KPIs and update strategies
When you pay to place an ad at the top of Google’s search results, for instance, that’s marketing. Everything that happens after a person clicks that ad, though – from the second they arrive on your online store, to the moment they complete a purchase – that’s customer acquisition.