Customer Acquisition Strategy for Startups

Jan 26




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In this guide, you’ll learn customer acquisition strategies that can apply to any industry. By the end, you’ll have a customer acquisition strategy that is evergreen and will start your business off on the right foot. But first, let’s understand what customer acquisition is, and how it differs from other digital marketing strategies.


In the beginning stages,Customer Acquisition Strategy for Startups Articles many startups struggle with implementing a customer acquisition strategy. However, this is a vital component, since few people are familiar with your products and services, much less your brand. 

Not to mention in the last five years, the cost of acquiring new customers has increased by over 50%. 

As a new business, you need ways to acquire customers in a cost-effective manner. That’s where this article comes in.

In this guide, you’ll learn customer acquisition strategies that can apply to any industry. By the end, you’ll have a customer acquisition strategy that is evergreen and will start your business off on the right foot. 

But first, let’s understand what customer acquisition is, and how it differs from other digital marketing strategies. 


What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition is the process you use to bring in new clients to your business. This isn’t a one-time process, but one that must be sustainable and continuously adapt to changing trends.

Customer acquisition is not to be confused with lead generation. Consumers follow a purchasing journey, from the time they first learn about your brand to when and if you can successfully convert them into a customer. Lead generation makes up the top part of the sales funnel, where customers first learn about your brand. Customer acquisition, however, is the entire process that involves all of these stages: 

  • Gaining awareness and interest in your brand 
  • Considering your products among the competition
  • Deciding to become a customer of your business

As such, your customer acquisition strategy will need resources and tools to continuously lead customers through the entire cycle. Start by defining the target customers who will use your brand, and only using customer acquisition methods for this audience. However, keep the methods diversified, since targeting customers in multiple areas will give your business a higher chance of securing more.


Understand your customers

Before you even implement any strategies, the first step you need to do is to understand your customers. 

Your product is likely the perfect solution to a problem faced by a certain demographic. Therefore, if you can discover this demographic, you can focus your acquisition efforts primarily on them. 

One method many companies use is to seek out your ideal audience and ask them to try out your products and services. Then, once you’ve received some feedback, you can tweak your products to better suit the needs of your customers. 

It’s not enough to know who your ideal customers are. It’s equally important to know where to find them. Finding out this information takes a lot of experimenting, but having clear goals set will help you see which channels work.

Know that every customer’s journey is different. People who have an immediate need for an inexpensive product are going to have a much shorter purchasing journey than someone who wants to buy a car. This point goes back to having a diversified customer acquisition strategy. 

Now that you understand who you’re trying to target and where you can find them, it’s time to put your customer acquisition strategy into action.


Drive traffic to your site using SEO

Search engine optimization or SEO makes your website more discover-able to your target audience.  This is a popular customer acquisition method for a couple of reasons: It’s relatively easy, and it’s very cost-effective. 

SEO is important for having your business and any content you produce to rank higher in search engine results. When you Google something, you typically click on one of the first results. Having your site in these spots makes users want to click.

SEO best practices involve creating content that search engines can read and index on search engines. The easier it is for a search engine to read your content, the higher the chance you have ranking on keywords used by your target audience. 

In your customer acquisition strategy, you will want to optimize your content to include keywords related to your business, as well as gathering backlinks from authority websites. 

Here are some steps you can follow to get started on SEO:

  1. Start with Keyword Research
  2. Check Current rankings for your keywords
  3. Review Competitors Ranks and Backlinks
  4. Check Website Audit to find existing errors
  5. Create a list of SEO-focused content topics for your blogs
  6. Create a list of local business listings
  7. Reach out to other website owners to submit a guest blog for back-linking opportunities
  8. Create a master dashboard to review the metrics every week


Article/Blogging – Create content that gets people talking

Content marketing is one of the most effective and evergreen customer acquisition strategies there are. This strategy allows you to pull customers in with resources that provide value. 

Content marketing is three times as effective and 62% less expensive than outbound marketing. Along with blog writing, even whitepapers and sharing content on social media are all great ways to establish your company as a thought-leader in your niche. Having valuable and engaging content will gain consumer trust. 

First, you will want to take a look at your website analytics to see which content is ranking the highest. Then you can see the keywords people searched for to get to those pages. This will give you an idea of what your audience wants from you. 

Using Google Analytics, you can take a look at how each page of your website is performing.

On the left side of Google Analytics go to Acquisition → Search Console → Landing Pages.

This shows you which pages are being visited the most, as well as how long visitors stay on the page. By knowing the services that attract the most visitors, you gain a better understanding of customer needs. 

Double down your efforts on these pages, or perhaps see what is working on those pages versus others, and you can enjoy higher click through rates on more pages. 


Generate Publicity & PR

For startups, the benefit of public relations or PR is to have people with high credibility and influence talk about your company. In the beginning, you need to let your customers know that you exist and explain why they should care. PR provides the opportunity to tell your story.  

A public relations firm may work directly with influencers and thought leaders or may try to create a general buzz. 

PR firms can take care of the following:

  • Writing press releases and blogs
  • Arranging appearances for company executives
  • Generating media interest with news organizations
  • Promoting your product via social media and handling any negative responses

To help the process, your company can start by identifying what’s newsworthy in your company. This could be anything from a funding announcement to a product launch to a milestone. Next, research publications and channels you want to cover it. Always engage with these channels continuously, not just to ask a favour. Choose wisely, as the right journalist, channel and audience can make a huge difference in the success of your campaign. 

Another PR strategy is to encourage word of mouth marketing from customers. Make referrals easy for users by including some incentives, such as Dropbox offering 500mb of storage when a user refers their friends. The new user also receives 500mb, pleasing both parties. Encouraging users to tell their friends is a simple but effective way to increase publicity for your product. 

Having a PR strategy laid out will maximize the potential of your product. Getting people to talk about your company cuts your work in half and is cost-effective. Also, users will likely trust their friends and influencers over any company statements. Receiving praise from highly influential people increases your chances of establishing trust early on.


Increase Brand Visibility Using Social Media

Social media marketing is comprised of two methods: organic and paid. Organic social media is most useful for boosting brand awareness, developing a company personality, and sharing content you’ve published elsewhere (like from your blog or videos). 

Marketing on social media may seem like shouting into a void, but the key is to access the right networks. Having a well-defined audience helps with this, as you’ll have an understanding of the sites they frequent. 

The first step is to determine where your ideal audience spends the most time. Social media platforms are typically used to direct traffic to your website, where users will complete conversions. We talk more about paid social media ads later in this post, but organically, here’s how each social media site helps drive traffic to your website:

Facebook: has buttons to easily share content from third-party sites. Facebook is also the preferred network for social media ads as well. 

Twitter: gives you an accurate view of what your audience is engaged with at any moment. You can also enter threads of people looking for solutions or are interested in your industry. 

Pinterest: can add a “Pin It” button to images on your website to encourage engagement on the platform. Lots of engagement and great potential for driving traffic to your site. 

Instagram: has great engagement, and includes a “View on website” feature for products. Some features, such as a swipe up direct link to a website, are reserved for accounts with large followings. 

LinkedIn: sends a notification when a user views your profile, helping you find interested candidates. You can then send them a personalized message through the chat system.

Social media networks are meant to be for two way communication. Listen and learn from your ideal audience and offer solutions when appropriate. 


Collaborate with Influencers

Going a step further than publicity and establishing an online presence, you’ll want to understand who influences your audience into making a purchasing decision. Customers will often turn to someone in your industry that they have made a connection with online. If you can earn the trust of those influencers and facilitate collaboration, you can convert their audience. 

The steps to setting up a successful collaboration with influencers include:

  • Having the influencer get to know your brand or product. They can’t recommend your product if they don’t know about it. Have them use your product to get first-hand experience and understanding. 
  • Making sure the influencer sees the real value your product will provide for others. It’s likely that the influencer will know their audience best and will pick up on solutions your product offers that will work for them. Use this as a guide to see what users want. 
  • Making it easy for influencers to share the love. Having a referral reward for both influencers and their audience makes it more likely that the partnership will continue. Providing the extra incentive to share the product will drive more conversions. 
Influencer Marketing at Work: H&M

Fashion retailer H&M partnered with TheWeeknd to showcase their clothing. H&M chose an influencer who is both fashion-forward and appeals to their target youthful audience. Here they created a full spread on their Instagram page showing TheWeeknd wearing their clothes. The influencer marketing campaign garnered more than 50K likes on each post, and likely reached TheWeeknd’s audience in addition to H&M’s.


Use the Power of Email Marketing

Unlike social media, search or content marketing, email provides a direct line into your consumer’s inbox. However, there is no guarantee they will end up opening your emails. 

The best way to gain more customers is to first segment your email list and write targeted emails for each group. The list can be broken down demographically, by the user’s stage in the customer acquisition process, or their engagement with previous emails.  

For example, when segmenting your email list based on the user’s stage in the customer acquisition process, the type of email changes. Users at the top of the funnel benefit most from emails with product information. This type of email will help them make informed purchase decisions.

On the other hand, users in the final stages of the process respond more to actionable emails. Users on the verge of making a purchase can be tempted with an email offering a discount code. By paying attention to your user’s needs, you are more likely to send the right message at the right time. 

Another tip is to send a follow-up email to users who didn’t open your first email. In an email marketing service such as ActiveCampaign, you can send an email to the group that did not open the first email with a different subject line. This provides a second chance at increasing your open rate, without spamming users. 

Pay attention to what your subscribers are most interested in by what they click on in your email. You may find they like certain products over others or specific deals. Crafting your message according to user needs is a surefire way to add more satisfied and engaged customers to your list.  

Email Marketing at Work: Sephora

Interactive emails and contests are another great way to engage customers. Sephora sent an email to their list promoting a contest for a free trip to Paris with a friend. The contest reroutes users to Sephora’s Instagram, increasing engagement on both platforms. Open rates are high because of the promise of a contest, and engagement on Instagram also increases too with users following and commenting to try and win. 


Run Paid Ads and Other Paid Campaigns

The main reason that marketers are drawn toward paid ads is that it produces immediate results. Several other strategies employ the waiting game while you build a following, but paying for advertisements can get your content in front of an interested audience, even if you don’t currently have one. Let’s breakdown the most common paid campaigns used by marketers. 

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads can be used to promote your Facebook page, but can also promote landing pages. The one disadvantage when using Facebook Ads is that there is no shortage of restrictions on things like ad graphics, copy and URLs. To help you out, take a look at our social media image guidelines here.

Sponsored Posts

Mattress brand Koala created a sponsored post on Facebook to promote their Easter sale. The ad creates a sense of urgency and a clear call to action. They also make great use of casual language, knowing that their ad will appear directly in a user’s newsfeed, where it will be surrounded by posts from friends and family. Above all, the ad delivers on customer needs and has them in mind in the messaging.


On the other hand, pay-per-click or PPC ads show up on search engine result pages. These ads allow you to place your company at the top of the page when someone searches for a keyword related to your industry. The prime location increases your chance of being found by users ready to learn more or make a purchase. 


AdWords allows you to choose between display ads and search ads. Display ads are often called banner ads and appear on websites relevant to your company. They are graphic-focused and among the most popular types of ads. Search ads are found beside Google search results. You bid on keywords used in search, showcasing your ad to interested parties. 

All of these paid ads may seem intimidating, but they often lead to high customer acquisition because of the data used to target the right audience. As long as you know who you are trying to target, paid ads can help you get your company on their radar.


Track & Optimize

If you don’t know what’s working (or what’s not), where people are visiting, and how your pages are performing, then you could be heading toward failure and not even know it.

Monitoring the right metrics can tell you which of your efforts acquires valuable customers. It saves time and resources spent on campaigns that do little to entice new customers.

Start by identifying your goals and work backwards. In this case, your goal is to acquire customers. What are the steps that will get you there? Email sign-ups? For each stage of the process, pick metrics that show that stage is working. For example, the number of website clicks in an email. Remember that if a metric cannot be directly tied to customer acquisition, get rid of it.

Throughout your customer acquisition strategy, test every component, but make sure to do so one at a time. Test your copy on ads, test your call to actions on your website, or test the photo you use in ads. Over time, your customers’ needs will change and evolve. At some point price alone may be the most significant factor when buying a product. At other times, the expertise a company has may trump price. 

As mentioned earlier, Google Analytics tells you what’s happening on your website. You will only know what to optimize if you keep track of what you have been doing so far. You can track the main sources of your traffic or where you receive referrals. Start with the channels that drive the most traffic and figure out what’s working on those.

Some metrics you can track are:

  • The number of unique visitors
  • The number of unique visitors from SEO & social media
  • How people find your website: organic, referral, direct
  • Which social networks send the most traffic
  • Referral websites (other than Google and social media sites)
Customer Retention

Most businesses focus only on a customer acquisition strategy and not so much on customer retention. But the two are important, particularly with the cost involved in generating new leads. 

Retaining your customers is an acquisition method in itself. It can cost up to 25X more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

Here are ways you can nurture customers. Although they may seem obvious, it’s important to cover the basics before moving into more involved customer retention strategies. 

Have a Great Product

If your product doesn’t solve a problem faced by customers, it’s unlikely they will stick around. Before anything else, make sure your product or service is the best it can be with the knowledge you have. Then, keep refining it based on what your loyal customer base has to say. 

Have Good Customer Service

People will remember how your company treated them throughout their purchase journey. Was the journey smooth or rough? Did they feel taken care of, overwhelmed, or like they couldn’t get a hold of anyone on your team? The better the experience they have with your company, the more likely they are to return. Which brings us to the last point.

Have Satisfied Customers Market Your Product

Turn your best customers into promoters by giving them easy ways to share their experiences. You should aim for customer delight, rather than the only retention. You can ask satisfied customers to promote your product through a client testimonial or story. Additionally, you can make your content shareable, giving customers an incentive to share your expertise and your solution.

Customer retention works on the notion that people need several touch points with your company before making a purchase. Actively working on a strong connection that goes beyond the purchasing journey will inspire others to follow suit. 

Customer Testimonials at Work: K9 Sport Sack

K9 Sport Sack, a carrier bag for dogs, chose to make a customer story into a sponsored post. This establishes social proof, which lets customers see real people with the product and in turn, trust the brand more. The ad copy also works well within a user’s feed, as it doesn’t feel like an ad from a company, it’s an authentic story from a fellow dog lover.

Experimenting With Your Customer Acquisition Strategy

Customer acquisition is an experimental process. Creating the plan is a must, but you’ll continuously build from there to create your steady stream of new customers. 

The stages of a great customer acquisition strategy start with a deep understanding of your customers: who they are, what they need, and where they are online. Once you have a sense of the fundamentals, you can begin to shape the rest of your strategy.

Content marketing and SEO work hand in hand to establish authority in your field and place your business on relevant channels. Using social media, public relations and influencers, you can further your reach and educate people on your business offerings. 

From there, you move to more direct methods such as email marketing and paid ads. Finally, tracking essential metrics and optimizing based on the results leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention. Use your resources wisely and cut costs by keeping your existing customers happy. 

The tactics listed above are ones you can use at any time and will work for any business. To learn more about customer acquisition strategies, give us a call. 

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