By Sweta Patel

What’s the best way to acquire new customers and keep them? Most business owners struggle with customer acquisition, and companies I’ve worked with say it’s easier said than done. Marketing growth can be painful, especially when it is unplanned.  Here is a guide to help with startup customer acquisition:

1. Set Goals and Metrics

The first question to ask is: who is the ideal customer for your product or service? This is not focused on the customer’s characteristics or personalities of our customers just yet. The ideal customer should fit a startup’s identity. Most startups fear missing out, and so target many customer segments. The goal here is to make one connection with one ideal type of customer, and avoid making the connection with no one.
The best way to start is by creating a situation analysis. Ask yourself:

San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur Sweta Patel.
  • What situation are you solving?
  • Who is this product or service for?
  • What is the timeframe for reaching the goal?
  • Where are you today?
  • What are your main objectives?

When considering objectives, think about having one or two goals at first and expanding objectives once they are met. For example, for a start-up, the goal may be to get more traffic, convert visitors into qualified leads, and then convert them into paying customers.

Best Practice: Figure out what your current customer acquisition cost is and then align it with your goals. Then create a validation process to test out your ideal customer. The three qualifying questions to ask are: Are they ready to see the opportunity or solve their problem? Are they willing to find a solution? Are they able to get the tools they need now to solve their problem?

2. Understand the Process

What does your customer journey look like? What does it take for you to move your customer from an unhappy state to a happy state? How would you characterize customers after they solve their problem? This will help you identify what the biggest wins are and where they occur in the customer-acquisition process. Most business owners feel overwhelmed when creating a marketing process for acquiring new customers. However, if you think of it as a bunch of smaller funnels, then the process becomes more feasible.

For example, say that your startup created seven different landing pages and you are using Facebook ads to send traffic to those pages. Then each one of these can be its own marketing funnel, but combined it is the marketing process for the startup.

The initial part of the marketing process is the most difficult. This includes paid acquisition, growth hacking tactics, and bringing people into the funnel.

Most business owners think they have a traffic problem, when more likely they have a metrics problem. Figure out the customer-acquisition cost and the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer. Ad Spend Calculator is a great tool to find the LTV. The tool’s best feature is that it actually generates the budget required to acquire a new customer.

I use the ad-spend calculator with the SaaS Start-up KPI Dashboard to figure out the main metrics to be measured and determine the monthly recurring revenue.

Best Practice: Create a hypothesis and test it. Check which landing pages are converting and which ones aren’t. My favorite tool for tracking is Kissmetrics, because it is simple to use and full of in-depth information about your ideal customer. 

3.  Create a Growth Strategy

The way to reach success with a customer-acquisition strategy is to be sure to track your biggest goals, and whatever needs to be measured to determine growth for your company? The AARRR metrics are vital for every startup. Of course, validate every strategy and tactic you decide to use before creating a marketing campaign to ensure there’s a need for it in the marketplace.

The next step is to create a growth process using the goals and the metrics you have put together.

Marketing Growth Action Plan:

  1. Brainstorm ideas, tactics and strategies as a team. These should align with your goals.
  2. Rate and compare all the ideas, strategies and tactics. Then prioritize the ones that have the biggest impact on your goals.
  3. Execute on your ideas, strategies and tactics and test them to see what is working and what isn’t.
  4. Analyze the results and retune and refine the marketing campaign.
  5. Optimize the campaign for better results.
  6. Repeat the process.

Best Practice: You may want to structure your whole growth strategy around 30-90 day experiments. This will help you determine which tactics work and which are ineffective.  Asking yourself what is going to drive growth?

4. Choose Your Tactics

Now we know how we want to grow at each stage of the funnel. For example, your strategy could be to use blogger outreach, and tactics may include:

  1. Creating a list of the top 100 people to reach out to
  2. Create a core message
  3. Contact different bloggers
  4. Send follow-up messages to bloggers
  5. Send swag to each blogger
  6. Write thank-you email messages

There has to be a to-do list for every strategy.

Most of the time we get so caught up with how many things there are to do that we fail to see real growth for the company. So prioritize the ideas that matter most. Start by creating 30-day experiments because anything less than that won’t yield viable Information.

At the end of every campaign you want to track everything you have learned and assess how it measures up against the hypothesis.

Best Practice: Use the Segment tracking plan to digest the metrics you gathered.  

Did this guide help you? What is your biggest struggle when it comes to customer acquisition? Tell us in comments below.

Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.