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Elizaveta Shutova

A Complete Guide to Customer Acquisition in 2020 [Expert Tips and Tactics]

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Elizaveta Shutova
A Complete Guide to Customer Acquisition in 2020 [Expert Tips and Tactics]

Customer acquisition is needed to prevent stagnation and regression in business. All businesses have natural churn rates, even if your product is excellent and your customers are happy. 

If you are not acquiring new customers, your business will quite simply struggle to improve and succeed. 

This is where active customer acquisition comes in - it can lead to significant growth for your business and allow you to scale more effectively.

How Do You Get More Customers?

Customer acquisition can be very time-consuming, but with the right strategy, analytics, and optimization tactics, getting new users can be much easier. 

Your first step is learning how to get more customers to grow your business - at a cost you can afford. 

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Some of the strongest minds in marketing have provided their tips for you here, but let’s first define customer acquisition in this context.

What is Customer Acquisition?

Customer acquisition is the process that businesses use to attract new customers via a variety of tactics. 

It often involves inbound and outbound marketing to reach new audiences, and nurture them through the customer acquisition funnel until end-goals are achieved.

Why is Customer Acquisition a ‘Process’?

Multiple stages are involved in reaching and then connecting with a single customer. It is not a single step.

When you see an ad on Facebook for the first time, you might not be willing to convert, even if the product and price are right. Brand trust is absent. It has to be built over time. 

This is why the customer acquisition funnel can prove to be very useful. It breaks down the stages individuals go through before they are ready to become customers by making decisions easier along the way. 

There are multiple versions of the customer acquisition funnel, but the key stages are usually:

  • Awareness: When a customer discovers and becomes interested in you. 

  • Consideration: When a customer begins research with the intent to buy.

  • Conversion: When a customer makes a purchase.

  • Retention: When a customer buys again and a loyal relationship is developed.

customer acquisition funnel

Truly successful customer acquisition can require multiple campaigns and touchpoints for users at each stage of the funnel. They can combine to nurture them through to the point of conversion.

User Acquisition Starts with Your Audience

The first step of your customer acquisition strategy is to fully understand your target audience. 

That means understanding each audience segment, and even developing buyer personas for them.

Everything from the messaging you use on every platform to the pain points you focus on needs to be based on audience insights.

Some brands may struggle to connect with B2C clients on LinkedIn, for example, while B2B businesses can thrive there. 

Take some time to look at your existing customers and the types of people you want to attract in order to refine the targeting for your ads.

Customer Acquisition Strategies 

Customer acquisition strategies consist of both paid and organic tactics. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, so many businesses tend to use a tactical combination of the two. 

Understanding the facets and variety within each is key. Let’s take a deeper look:

Paid Customer Acquisition Strategies 

Paid strategies with a direct cost include:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns

  • Affiliate marketing

  • Referrals

This form of acquisition can be faster acting and wider reaching than the organic alternative. They allow you to reach hyper-targeted audiences who may never have otherwise discovered you. 

Rob Watson explains why paid advertising can be valuable for niche products:

Rob Watson
Rob Watson
MD and Founder at Freewheeling

"The more niche the product, the more likely you will have higher repeat customer rates. Then the PPC strategy can become more aggressive, as we can accept making minimal profits on that initial sale. 

“I have utilised this approach the most with my experience in the sports supplement world. Where often the first sale will be at a loss, but then the customer is re-engaged across a variety of other channels including email, social, and video."

Tracking is of critical importance, too, as Amy Bishop explains:

Amy Bishop
Amy Bishop
Owner and Digital Marketing Consultant at Cultivative

"It is essential to have conversion tracking set up to get as much visibility into campaign performance as possible. If the sale happens offline, it is important to be able to connect the dots from lead to sale in a back-end system (usually a CRM).

“Monitoring multi-touch attribution models, assisted conversions, and conversion paths help you monitor whether campaigns are meeting their performance goals within the stages of the funnel they are designed to support."

Here are a few of the most effective kinds of paid strategies:

PPC Ad Campaigns

Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns allow you to bid to show your ad to certain individuals, and you will pay for specific actions. These actions might be views of your ad, clicks, or conversions.

There are two primary types of PPC ads: display ads, and search ads.

  • Display ads are shown to users as they browse online - banner ads on news sites, for example. They are great for retargeting, reaching users who are in the consideration stage of the funnel, and generating demand. 

  • Search ads are shown to users in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when they search for a keyword you are targeting, typically, through a campaign with Google Ads or, perhaps, Microsoft Advertising (Bing). They are great for harvesting demand, allowing you to capture high-intent users who are looking for products or services like yours.

PPC campaigns allow you to reach large audiences very quickly, even if they have no connection to you. 

Close monitoring is important to make sure they are cost-effective and productive in terms of results.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is the process of paying someone else to market your product or service for you. 

It is common to ask notable industry experts (including bloggers) to become affiliates. They receive a payout when someone they directed to you then converts, which is often tracked through individual promo codes or trackable URLs. 

Entrepreneur Manu Cinca shares his thoughts:

Manu Cinca
Manu Cinca
Founder of Stacked Marketer | Entrepreneur

"You have to make sure you have proper attribution for your customer acquisition funnels to measure the direct impact. Make sure you use a tracking tool that can correctly show customers for each affiliate. 

“When you have an affiliate program, and your affiliates promote it consistently, you should see a sizable uplift in your organic traffic and sales, too.”

Referrals

Next up, we look at what can be a very effective method of customer acquisition: referral marketing.

Happy customers can refer others to your business, and, in many cases, both parties will get a discount code or similar incentive when the person becomes a customer.

Organic Customer Acquisition Strategies 

Organic strategies for customer acquisition are free to use, except for the costs of the software, employees or contract workers used to execute the campaigns. 

Organic acquisition includes:

  • Content marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Email marketing

  • Social media marketing

Organic acquisition strategies are slower burners than their paid counterparts. They do, however, focus more on relationship building with your target audience and should be incorporated into all customer acquisition strategies. 

If executed correctly, you can connect with users who are in the market for what you offer, and connect with them naturally without increasing ad spend.

Below are the most common platforms for organic customer acquisition:

Content Marketing 

Content marketing utilizes the likes of articles, guides, graphics, videos, and much more to attract new users, leads, and potential customers. 

It is often a core part of a brand’s SEO strategy, since it is concerned with building natural, organic relationships with users who might become customers. 

Lead magnets like ebooks and webinars can be used to attract these potential customers. 

Content marketing can be cost-effective with a comprehensive and calculated strategy in place, but it rarely provides what you might call ‘quick wins’. 

Consistency and originality are the keys to producing high-quality content on a regular basis to see an impact from your campaigns.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the practice of optimizing your web presence and your site for search engines like Google and Bing. 

When people search for a keyword related to your industry or what your company offers, you need to be visible and prominent in the SERPs to encourage them to click through to your site. 

All pages on your site, including blog posts and contact pages, should be optimized in such a way that appeals to the needs of these potential customers.

SEO can be tricky, because there are some factors out of your control, such as competitor activity. If you are as optimized as you can be, however, the results can directly impact your bottom line.

Email Marketing 

Email marketing can be an effective way to connect with your target audience. 

Once you have lead and customer information, you can reach them regularly with relevant messages. 

It is not only a valuable relationship-building tool, but showing up in someone’s inbox also gives you the potential for direct access to target customers. 

Mayank Agarwal of SendX illustrates it with an example:

Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal
Co-Founder at SendX

"In 2015, Campaign Monitor started rolling out onboarding emails to the newly signed-up customer. 

“They focused on highlighting the features of Campaign Monitor through a series of emails. These were automated to be sent out at the perfect time, like the email which highlighted recommended features that went out 15 minutes after a user created their first campaign. 

“This was a huge success and helped Campaign Monitor increase paid user acquisition by 22% per month."

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing allows you to connect with your target audience and nurture relationships with them through natural interactions. 

Millions of people follow brands and discover new products via social media, but they also use these channels for customer support by sending questions through private messaging.

Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang
Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang
Professor Turned Entrepreneur | Adobe Education Leader

"Just a few days ago, one piece of content I shared on LinkedIn went viral. It gained almost 40,000 views within two days, 350-plus reactions, and almost 200 comments. 

“This growth is completely organic, and it cost me zero dollars. This particular post has also generated a warm lead for me.

“Like content marketing, this can take up a lot of time, and organic reach can be difficult, but you can’t afford to not be active on at least a few social platforms."

How to Determine the ROI of Your User Acquisition Strategy 

Not all customer acquisition strategies will work for you. You need to keep a close eye on your campaigns to ensure they are not costing you more than they earn. 

Calculating your return on investment (ROI) should be a crucial part of customer acquisition if you are to ensure your campaigns remain profitable. 

To calculate your ROI, you will want to start with your customer acquisition cost (CAC). This is the spend it takes to acquire a single individual customer, either overall or from individual marketing channels.

How to Calculate Customer Acquisition Cost

  1. Choose a period of time that you want to use as a baseline. A month is a standard period for some businesses.

  2. Divide the total amount of money you spent on your customer acquisition campaigns during this period by the number of customers acquired.

  3. The number will tell you the average cost to acquire a single customer. 

Finding your CAC for each and every platform can be difficult, but it can also help you assess which platforms are most valuable to you so you can adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Craig Campbell explains how it works for his team:

Craig Campbell
Craig Campbell
SEO Trainer and Consultant at Craig Campbell SEO

“It is all good to be ranking well for a bunch of keywords and get some traffic, but it is important to monitor your ROI, too: does the campaign get results and what exactly are those results?

“Using Google Analytics, you can create goal conversions, and you can set up organic keyword conversions tracking within your dashboard; that is one simple way to decide if your SEO campaign is worth the time that is being spent on it.”

Don’t Forget the Big Picture

You will want to be careful with your CAC and ROI, as they can be tricky to calculate and may not always account for the full funnel.

If, for example, you ran a retargeting Facebook ad campaign that delivered a great customer acquisition rate, it will not necessarily mean that it was all down to the Facebook ads. 

You might have also paid a copywriter $2,000 to write a great lead magnet to get the emails for retargeting. You might have also run initial $3 per click campaigns to promote the ebook. 

It is important to note, too, that ‘good’ CACs will vary heavily based on your industry. 

It may cost a real estate agent several hundred dollars to acquire a single customer, but they can see tens of thousands in profit. In contrast, a small coffee shop might not be able to afford more than a dollar to acquire each new customer. 

To optimize for high ROI and low CAC, try to identify your lowest-cost and highest-yield platforms. 

When to Outsource Customer Acquisition 

Customer acquisition is a major task, and it should be an ongoing one. As platforms change and your business grows, you will need to adapt accordingly.

In some cases, it can make more sense to outsource customer acquisition than to try to do it all yourself. 

If your team is short on bandwidth or resources, for example, full automation could be an option. Tools like SEMrush’s Traffic Jet will automate complicated advertising management processes and save the time and resources for other important tasks. 

How Will You Grow? 

Customer acquisition is key to the growth of your company, no matter the size of your client base. Consistency, strategy, and measurement are all critical to making this work.

Identifying particular audiences and tracking how you have landed them in the first place is a great place to start.

As long as your campaigns are consistently focused on your audience - where they are, what they need, and what you can do for them - you will be heading in the right direction.

Elizaveta Shutova
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Elizaveta is the Head of Marketing at SEMrush Traffic Jet. She has over five years' experience in IT helping international companies generate more traffic, leads, and sales from various channels.

She is passionate about SEO, PPC, Social Media, and Neuromarketing. When not optimizing everything around her, she loves to play tennis, practice yoga, and snowboarding.
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