“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”–Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s
Once you have a sell-able product, the first thing you need to do is to make a solid customer acquisition strategy. Having a proper strategy in place is essential to achieving sustainable long-term growth. Without it, you will undoubtedly struggle and eventually fail.
With that said, why is it important to have a customer acquisition plan from the very start? Can’t you just focus on marketing your startup to achieve exponential growth?
Sadly, just like every other thing, a startup needs proper planning to grow. This requires audience refinement, goal setting, and multi-channel marketing.
Customer Acquisition Strategies
In this article, we will discuss strategies to attract more customers and retain them while growing the startup. But before we get to that part, it is important to understand what constitutes customer acquisition?
What is Customer Acquisition?
For every startup, the meaning of the term ‘customer acquisition’ is different. But it more or less relates to three factors of growth. Get, Keep, and Grow.
Get: When you get new customers for your business. This is the first part of the acquisition process. You market your product or service through multiple channels and then you get a customer.
Keep: How many of these customers can you retain for your business? It depends on the value you provide to the customer. The churn rate of customers varies from industry to industry but on an average, it is between 5% to 7%. If you want to keep your customers, you will have to provide them with something new. Take an example of Facebook. Facebook offers new ways of engaging its users. More of it is related to user-generated content, but the whole business model is developed in a way to keep users coming for more.
Grow: How many of your customers actually help grow your business? Or, to how many of the customers can you up-sell or cross-sell your products? Some of them might become your referral, or recommend someone else to your business, some might not.
Collectively, these factors are the building bricks of the ‘customer acquisition’ concept.
Once the startup reaches the growth stage, the whole customer acquisition cycle is complete. Now, to repeat the same process, the startup needs to create a loop. This means the old customers/users of the startup can refer new users that will form a growth loop.
Now, as you know what customer acquisition strategy is, let’s discuss what you need to know to get started.
Channels, Goals, and Audience
You need to understand your targeting channels, your desired audience, and your goal before starting the customer acquisition process. Read below to know what they are and how to set them.
Define your Audience
Suppose your startup offers fitness and gym tutorials on a daily basis for a subscription charge of $1 per month. In this case, the audience of the startup will be:
People who work out on a daily basis.
If we refine it further, this can be people including gym subscribers, home gym users, fitness enthusiasts, and athletes.
Define your goals
Now, let’s suppose you want 10,000 members in the first three months. This is your quarterly goal. Your yearly goal is to reach 50,000 subscribers who pay $1 per month. Now let’s turn our imagination one notch up. Your customer’s LTV is $12. Means each of your customer will only remain with you for a year.
Define your channels
Let’s see what types of channels are available to you for customer acquisition. Online marketing channels that are most often used include:
- Paid Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing and SEO
Let’s see what strategies you can use for getting more customers using these marketing channels.
Customer Acquisition Strategies for Startups
Now the question is: What type of strategies you can use to step up the startup’s marketing on both online and offline channels.
In online marketing, we have multiple channels available for customer acquisition. First one is paid marketing. It is a refined channel to get customers because it offers targeted marketing to an audience.
The second channel for customer acquisition is email marketing. It helps target visitors who had engaged with your ecommerce store before. You have their email addresses and you can target them through emails.
The third channel of customer acquisition is organic marketing. It is completely free and long lasting. Organic marketing is further divided into social and search marketing.
The fourth channel of customer acquisition is affiliate marketing. For startups, the best way to penetrate a competitive market is through affiliate marketing.
1. Paid Marketing
Most startup founders tend to highlight the importance of paid marketing because it leads to high conversions. Here are some customer acquisition strategies that you can use for paid marketing.
- Seed Engagement Metrics to Drive Down Ad Spend
One proven way to get more conversions through paid marketing campaigns is by boosting an already engaged post to your targeted audience. First, create posts for your social media platforms and then boost them with ‘engagement’ ads to get more comments and likes. You can even get engagement through low-converting countries like the Philippines.
We have taken the above two pictures from Growth pilot. They compare two identical posts and show how higher engagement can lead to more conversions.
1. Promote marketing content in social media groups and communities.
2. Run engagement ads that can lead to higher engagement and then to sales
3. Target countries with low CPC costs just to get initial engagement. Some countries to target include the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and a few others. You can test the ads to target even more users.
Remarketing is another customer acquisition strategy that works when you show ads to the same audience that initially liked your content. This content can be on social media, website, or even in emails. Remarketing ads can also be shown to visitors who visited your website and have an account on Facebook.
For remarketing strategy to work, first, create a remarketing advertising campaign for your startup. Take leads that you have collected through social media and lead funnels. Now, add them to paid marketing platforms for remarketing.
You can run remarketing on all paid channels including search and social.
Take this ad from Whistler. It is a remarketing ad. As you can see, the caption includes ‘time is ticking…’
It was shown to the person who opened the Expedia website and searched for planning a trip to whistler. The ad searches for cookies of Expedia within the browser. When it detects those cookies, it then shows users the ad.
You can develop similar remarketing strategies, by testing various ad sets. Remarketing ads have a higher conversion rate because the leads are already warm. They have either visited your website. Or, they know about your business in some way. By remarketing them with the offers they were interested in, you can increase conversions for a much lower cost.
Tip: Segment remarketing audience based on their journey. For example, those who were on the checkout page might be interested in discounts or trial offers.
- Similar/Lookalike Audience
Another strategy to grow your startup and acquire more customers is by searching for similar or lookalike audience. First, identify those customers who have already bought from your website. Now, create their lookalikes. This means you now have a potential customer base. Target them with relevant ads. Another better way is to do Micro Split Tests (MST) – a strategy that was introduced by Jason Wardrop.
According to this strategy, you first select a target audience and then test your ads. Once you have conversions rolling in, split the test with lookalike audience. You then have to repeat the first step again and see if it leads to conversions. Keep drilling down to see which type of ad set is bringing in the most leads.
See how we found a winning ad set using this strategy. Our cost per lead was $15.85 and we gained 50 leads this way.
- Segment your ads by demographics and geographics
- Test strategies for a week and ignore those that don’t perform well
- Those that are performing well, keep their audience and then create their lookalikes.
2. Email Marketing
Most ecommerce store owners tend to opt for an email marketing funnel to create email marketing campaigns. These campaigns are helpful in reminding people about a product or a service that they have forgotten. Email marketing is also a clever way of remarketing. Here are a few customer acquisition strategies you can use with email marketing.
- Give Value to Your Subscribers
Email marketing is an outdated method. But the reason we have added it to our startup customer acquisition strategy is that it still works! People buy products if they are reminded through emails. That’s why landing your message in their inbox is important. It makes them feel that you went an extra step to reach them and this makes all the difference.
Moreover, you can monitor their behavior through email analytics. You can track when they open your email, when they click a button within the email, and when they land on your website through email marketing. You can track almost every action they take and this helps with retargeting.
- Increase Engagement from Unopened Emails
When you have the data available, you can target only those who didn’t open your previous email with another subject line. This trick was first introduced by Noah Kagan. He experimented by sending one email message twice to customers who had not opened it earlier.
From his first email campaign, the open rate was around 70 percent. Almost 30 percent of people had not opened his email. So, he took the same email, waited for a week, and then sent it to those who had not opened it earlier.
The process is simple:
- Take the SAME email you sent and CHANGE the subject line to something new
- Email it out a week later JUST TO YOUR NON-OPENS (Source)
By adding a completely new subject line, the users who have not opened your previous email will never know if you are re-sending them the same email. This gives you a chance to increase the open rate of your emails without looking like a spammer.
3. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is one organic way of gaining customers for your website. Some strategies to acquire customers using social media are mentioned below:
- Q&A Websites
Quora is a social Q&A website that allows users to answer questions about almost all topics. You can make a profile and start promoting your brand by answering relevant queries of the users. For example, if you provide SEO services, then simply start answering SEO related questions with a link back to the services page of your website.
You can use a paid tool like SEMrush to search for top questions on Quora. For example, go to SEMRush and select organic traffic for Quora. Now, filter the results by adding your own search term i.e. Cloud hosting. Or, go to Google search and type ‘quora.com: cloud hosting’ to search for top ranking pages related to this query.
- Collaborate with Influencers
Another way to get more customers through social media is by bringing influencers onboard.
Who are influencers? Anyone who has a large following on a social media platform and is willing to sponsor your content is an influencer.
Influencers will charge you a small fee to promote your product or service to their audience. But the benefit of bringing them onboard is that they can easily increase your credibility and help convert more visitors. You can read more about influencer marketing and how to improve conversion through it.
- Capitalize on User Generated Content
Another clever strategy to increase your reach is by promoting user-generated content. Look how Wendy’s is doing it.
Wendy’s twitter account is highly active. Whenever a user posts something related to Wendy’s, its official account is the first one to talk about it. This not only gives Wendy’s users a sense of being heard, but it also promotes the company’s goodwill.
User-generated content doesn’t guarantee customer acquisition, but it will surely increase your brand’s reach to people who didn’t know about it before. Moreover, the person whose content you shared will then share your post in his or her circle.
4. Organic Search Marketing
In organic marketing, you don’t pay anything to market your products and services. For example: When you post something on social media and get traffic. Or, when you rank posts on the search engine and you get traffic through it.
Here is how you can get customers organically.
- Rank for Paid Keywords
The best way to beat the competition is by searching for keywords that you want to target through paid marketing. Now search for opportunities to rank for those keywords organically. This way you will reduce your ad spend and get more conversions. Keep looking for new converting keywords and rank for them organically to boost conversions at a lower spend.
See the above example. Amazon is trying to rank for the paid keyword that costs some price. For us, it is completely free to rank for this keyword organically. However, it did cost us some hard work to rank using search engine optimization tactics.
- Improve User Experience on Your Website
Another way to acquire more customers is by improving the user experience on your website. This means, make your website more attractive to visitors. Start tracking user-journey and find out why visitors are leaving your website.
You can also check the same by tracking bounce rate and average page session duration. If you want more data, then integrate heat maps on your website.
- Republish and Repurpose
Most of the content you publish today will become old in the next few months. This means Google will reduce its ranking and you will receive less traffic. To increase its ranking again, simply update it with newer facts.
Similarly, you can increase its reach even further by repurposing the content to other formats. For example, you have written a blog post. Now turn this post into a slide and share it on Slideshare and other slide sharing websites. Turn it into an infographic and share it on Flickr and Visual.ly Also, you can turn it into snackable images using Canva and share it on Pinterest and other image sharing social media platforms.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another solid way of acquiring new customers. Amazon is one company that grew its business completely through affiliate marketing. Many other companies are now using affiliate marketing to get a solid edge in acquiring more customers. Here is how you can use affiliate marketing as a startup to get more customers.
- Build a Small-Scale Influencer Referral Program
You can easily set up an affiliate program for your website using an affiliate tracking software. One of the best affiliate tracking software is Affiliatly. It integrates with WooCommerce. You can use it instantly after signing up for the service.
Once you have the affiliate program setup, convince bloggers to promote your products on their blogs. You may have to offer them better commission rates. Therefore, you must keep the LTV of your customers in mind and then offer commissions accordingly.
- Introduce Incentive Based Slabs
We at Cloudways have an incentive-based slabs system for our affiliates. This means, we increase the commissions of affiliates who provide us with more customers. You can also introduce this for your startup.
First, craft a strategy that works for you and then make slabs for various sales numbers. You are welcome to get more ideas from Cloudways affiliate program.
One of the best ways to get new customers for your startup is via offline marketing. While all online marketing ways are great, startups need multi-channel marketing to prosper.
When Facebook was first launched, it started an activation drive. It went from school to school to get more people to sign up on the website.
Here are a few offline marketing tactics you can use to get customers for your startup.
1. Local Event Marketing
Local event marketing is one of the best ways to acquire more customers. If your startup is targeting local community, it is better to host an event in the area. You can also entice users to use your product / service through prizes and free credits. Giving promo codes is also a good idea. It helps you track the acquisition count and user’s journey.
2. QR Codes
Most ecommerce stores now use QR codes to take visitors directly to their websites. If your startup sells products or services, then promote your QR codes through offline marketing.
3. Banners, Billboards, and Stickers
You can also go for startup promotion through banners and billboards. They are hard to track but great for awareness and building credibility . Most digital companies resort to offline marketing to build credibility and trust among their users.
This is the complete list of customer acquisition strategies. You can use it to step up your growth. The best way to use these strategies is by testing them all. See which of these works for your startup and then stick with it.
Have something to add to this article? Comment below.
Arsalan is a business graduate and digital marketer by profession. He works as a Startup Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves to create value for the Startup community. He is a big fan of cricket and does Netflix and chill in his free time.
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