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The Startup’s Friendly Guide to Customer Acquisition

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Written by Flying Saucer Studio

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So. You have your product, you’ve put in the emotional labor to establish your why and the essence of your brand - it’s time to pat yourself on the back, right? Time to finally celebrate and take a rest.

 

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You can take a rest, but don’t pop the cork on that bottle of dom just yet, young padawan. Your work here isn’t done.

Sure. You’ve laid the groundwork and put the word out about what you have to offer, but need we remind you that you don’t have any actual customers yet? At least, not if you don’t count your mom and those true-blue/crazy friends who have supported you since day one.

So, how do you get said clients? How do you actually get people through the proverbial door and converting?

We like to think of it as being a bit like dating. Now, we realize that might not be comforting at all for those of you out of the dating stream and feeling like rusty teenagers, but worry not: we’ll help you pick the right outfit for your date and give you concrete steps for building your own unique customer acquisition strategy. Here’s what we’ll cover.

 

 

But first – the why.

Some of you might be wondering if a solid, well-documented customer acquisition strategy is really worth all the fuss and effort. Why can’t you just focus on building something great and getting your brand out there, then sit back and watch the money roll in?

Because doing that is a bit like swiping right on Tinder over and over again, and then praying one of them is a genuine match.

Don’t. Don’t do this.

You will expend a lot of unnecessary energy. And we’re willing to bet you will have… regrets.

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What you’ve done to this point has been mostly personal prep and grooming. You’ve gotten your haircut, you’ve gotten a full night’s sleep, you’ve landscaped, you’re well hydrated and you have a decent idea of what you’re looking for in your perfect counterpart.

Now you have to set the stage for the perfect first, second and fiftieth date. Make the reservation. Order their favorite wine. Light the candles.

That way, when you do manage to cross paths with that special person, you’ll be feeding each-other chocolate-covered strawberries and planning big introductions by dessert time.

With a solid customer acquisition strategy, you’re able to identify and attract leads with a good fit, then guide them up the funnel to the next stage of your relationship. After all, you can’t stay at bat forever - let’s get you on base.

So without further ado: here are the three basic stages of customer acquisition – the three bases, if you will.

 

First base: attention (the right kind)

There’s no passing go and collecting $200 on this step, because it’s at this stage that you get to know your audience, define expectations and find common ground. Because of course, you don’t want to just settle for any date. You want the keepers - the people you’d be willing to bring home to mom and dad, or who will at least sit with you through an entire season of Queer Eye.

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Get acquainted with your audience

Just as a cynical millennial hipster is relatively unlikely to find the perfect fit in a baby-boomer goth bar, marketing your “next best thing for moms everywhere” to a room full of dudes isn’t going to give you the results you’re hoping for. You need a captive audience to truly get excited about your business and product. But to capture their attention and trust, you first need to know what tickles their fancy and drives them up the wall.

 

Want to take a deeper dive into identifying and understanding your audiences? Check out our Ultimate Startup Guide to Brand Awareness.

 

But to get you started, here are a few tips on how to do just that:

 

1. Gather Information from a wide range of sources

  • Surveys

  • Website traffic

  • Time spent on pages

  • Traffic sources

  • Search metrics

  • Social media engagement

 

2. Find your shared values

  • Shared emotional narrative

  • Clear and compatible mission

  • Key differentiators

 

3. Never stop repeating steps 1 and 2.

  • Stay current, creative and intentional

  • Keep your target audiences engaged and feeling heard

  • Keep your finger on the pulse of your market and industry

  • Experiment with new audiences, messaging, features, value propositions, and more

 

Case study: The Dollar Shave Club.

These folks initially set up to market themselves to men who were sick and tired of buying crappy razors that left them looking like a preteen discovering razor burn. Men who had no patience for the frantic pharmacy trips and endless aisles of pricey, confusing blades.  

And it worked. They nailed their marketing campaign, their brand awareness was on point, and they were crushing it.

The market they weren’t counting on? Women.

Women were just as sick of paying for crappy razors, and to top it all off - they were sick of paying more for crappy razors. Plus, most women shaved a far greater percentage of their total surface area, which meant they had more skin in the game (see what I did there?)

By keeping its finger on the pulse, the Dollar Shave Club team realized that women were buying their products too. Their ads started showing up on women’s social media platforms, and voilà - a new target market ripe for the picking.

What’s your Dollar Shave Club moment? Could you be capitalizing on a market that you’re not aware of by digging into your existing data? Most teams have a data-nerd in their squad who would love nothing more than to go digging into the gold mine of data at your disposal. So go ahead. Set them free. Watch them do their nerd thang.  

 

Define Your Expectations

Though we’re not big fans of the 57-point must-have dating checklists, we do think it’s important to walk out the door with a basic sense of what would make your date feel like a success. Perhaps you need someone to make you laugh, perhaps you want them to suggest an outdoor adventure or you’re hoping they’ll challenge you intellectually with an obscure indie movie.

As you prepare to map out your customer acquisition strategy, ask yourself: what are your metrics for success at this point? Here are a few of the basic metrics to consider:

 

  • Customer acquisition rate / cost per acquisition

    • How quickly do you need to acquire clients, or sales, in order to satisfy investors, make the rent, or impress your mom?

    • How much did it cost you to acquire each new client?

 

  • Social Media Engagement

    • Look at how well your social media posts are landing with your target audience through click rates, reach, shares and comments. If you’re falling flat it might be time to reinvestigate your material or overall strategy.

 

  • Conversion Rate

    • Take a gander at how successful you are at turning leads into actual sales, or new clients. It’s all well and good to bring the clients to your door, but if you can’t convince them to stay, or part with their hard earned dollars, you’re only bringing them part way.

 

Pro tip: One important conversion metric? Your cart abandonment rate, which is money literally left on the table. If running into this particular problem, check out this article featuring 25+ templates of powerful abandoned cart emails.

 

A few other questions to ask yourself.

 

  • Are you looking to cast as wide a net as possible, or targeting a niche?

  • What financial goals do you need to hit to keep the lights on?

  • What value does an average customer represent over a lifetime?

  • How many people do you need to onboard in the first month, six months, year and five years in order to be on track for your overall goals?

  • How much revenue are you projecting over those same time periods?

 

Having clearly defined and well-communicated goals and KPIs is an integral part of keeping your team focused and effective as it implements and improves your client acquisition strategy. Be sure to document your objectives and hold regular meetings to update stakeholders and adjust strategy if need be.


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Finding Your Common Ground

When you picture bumping into your dreamboat for the first time, are you in a pub, at a rave or at your nephew’s little league game? Where you and your ideal client cross paths in the real or online world can drastically change where you invest your energy and resources. Are they already engaging on social media, in digital forums, through newsletters, or at a yearly convention?

Knowing where your clientele actually prefers to engage and find information allows you to skip out on the fumbling, procrastination-prone phase of trying to be on every platform at once. We’ve all seen it: odd, corporate brands with sporadic IG posts that constantly feel ill-suited for the format, community, and audience.

Knowing where you can find your clients –  be it physically or online – gives you a place to focus your attention to make sure you’re fishing in the right pool, so to speak. Here are a few lovely ponds you might consider casting into:

 

  • Facebook

    • For people who really want to connect with your why, your brand, and your story - which should really all be the same thing by now, right? *eyebrow wiggle*

  • Twitter

    • For audiences looking for real-time insight into what you’re working on, what’s inspiring your team and what to expect next.

  • Instagram

    • As Gary Vaynerchuk might say: “document, don’t create” is the motto here. Leverage IG if you believe your clients are looking to connect with your team, and feel a part of your day-to-day projects.

  • LinkedIn

    • For B2B communication, LinkedIn can be a gold mine of great leads and talented pros. Focus on projects, opportunities and thought leadership content.

  • Quora

    • Here’s where you show off your industry expertise by providing unique insights into your niche. Go on with your bad self, this is the right time to show off and geek out!

  • Medium

    • Getting your story out can be a big part of establishing your brand, and Medium is a great place to do just that. Here audiences expect a behind-the-scenes understanding of your mission, process, and progress.

 

For a full list of potential platforms, check out chapter 3 of The ultimate startup guide to brand awareness.



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Second Base: nurturing

There’s no getting around it: acquiring clients is damn hard work. According to a survey by Invesp, acquiring clients is up to five times as expensive as keeping an existing client, so a big part of your client acquisition plan needs to focus on how to keep the ones you’ve acquired nice and happy. One they’ve chosen to trust you and fork over their cash, it becomes your job to keep them engaged and returning to you for valuable products, services or experiences.

 

How can you do this, you might ask?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

 

Keep them happy

  • Invest in excellent customer support staff: they’re the backbone of your client-facing organization and your touchpoint for all questions, comments, or concerns
  • Experiment with chatbots - the cleverer the better! These can make clients feel heard and supported even at 2 o’clock in the morning when your staff is getting some well-earned sleep.
  • Launch referral and loyalty programs: clients love being rewarded for telling all their friends and family about you. As far as they’re concerned, they would have done it anyway, so being rewarded is just icing on the proverbial cake!

Keep them engaged

  • Use your social media accounts to let your community know what you’re up to, and what cool new thing they can expect on the horizon - it’ll foster loyalty and make them feel like part of the journey.

  • Provide genuinely helpful, value-added content. As in, stuff they actually need and want in order to feel informed and make better decisions. How about a detailed how-to guide with step-by-step instructions like this one? That’d be helpful, right? We can help.

  • Experiment with surprising mediums! Have you been thinking about a podcast? Now’s the time to get serious, as it’s a reliably effective way to capture the attention of new and existing clients, and keep them in your brand space. Considering an offline event? Now’s the time: you have their attention with your product, so spend a little time, energy and yes, money, keeping them invested in your brand.

We’re willing to bet you won’t regret it.

 

Keep them coming back for more

  • Loyalty programs. Need we say more? OK - we will, just to drive the point home. Similarly to rewards programs, loyalty programs are a simple way for companies of all sizes to turn clients into ambassadors. If you’ve done your job well so far,  customers have fallen in love with your product/service and would likely be coming back for seconds anyways. But now of course they’ll return, because you’re offering them the chance to earn points for that fab Fendy purse or those high-performance headphones they’ve been eyeing (but can’t justify purchasing.)

  • Set up smart, automated reminders to stock up on your products or services. There’s little worse than turning to your go-to product only to remember that the last time you used it, it made that elegant flatulence sound that politely announces it’s dead empty. Automatic reminders help spark that “Oh right!” moment and avoid the catastrophe of going without. Or worse yet – gasp – the possibility that they might buy another product to suit them in the meantime.

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If we return to our dating analogy (because who doesn’t like a good narrative throughline...) this phase is basically like making sure that your witty repartee and polite charms can extend over a second, third or sixtieth date. Because if you can’t hold and maintain the interest of that wonderfully quirky blonde you met at a local trivia night, then you’ll have to start over from scratch. Instead, wine and dine your customers and audiences: keep up your A-game flirting and you’ll be having a Hogwarts-themed wedding before you know it.

 

Third Base: growing

Once you’ve acquired a client, and you’ve nurtured your professional relationship, it’s time to consider what else you can do for them. This tends to break down into three categories: complementary products, or services, improved customer experience, and incentivizing referrals.


Complementary Services

Stats show that the odds of selling to an existing customer average at about 60-70%, while they cap at 5-20% for new clients. Need we say more about the importance of developing new products and solutions that further serve the needs of existing clients?

 

Think about how much effort you feel you need to put in on the first date versus the amount of effort you need to put into a sixth, seventh, or tenth date. If you’ve made it this far, you know that you check more than just the superficial boxes. You also know that they have a deeper knowledge of Star Trek: The Next Generation than you do, and that they don’t wear socks to bed (you can’t date a psychopath, now can you?).  So to make sure you’re upping your game, you might consider picking up tickets to Comic-Con and a pair of cozy slippers for when they sleep over at yours.

 

Example

  • Starbucks. They started with basic, customizable coffee - and are now known for their Starbucks merch like their reusable coffee cups, water bottles and more.

  • Fitbit. They started with wearable fitness devices, and now offer a whole host of health-related gizmos, including the Aria scale.

  • MailChimp. Once a straight-forward emailing platform, Mailchimp now lets you create landing pages, retargeting services, and marketing support.

 

Improved Customer Experience

 In his fantastic podcast Unthinkable, Jay Acunzo speaks of the paradox of exceeding expectations: how consistently going above and beyond can lead to a dangerous and exponential increase in expectations that becomes impossible to sustain. The solution, he says, lies in improving complementary elements of your customer’s experience. If you’re a valet service, for example, you might consider adding coffee and cucumber water stations in the waiting section as opposed to focus exclusively on shaving time off waiting time. We love this idea of thinking creatively and holistically about improving your customer’s experience.

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Of course, if you’re a startup and you’re putting advertising dollars into client acquisition – be it paid marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing, or social media marketing – you want to make sure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck. Taking a look at the quality of the leads you’re receiving from each one of your marketing campaigns and channels is an important part of identifying the most relevant ways to connect and nurture potential leads. Lead quality is also one of the biggest reasons to launch a referral program, as eager customers make for the best filters and help kick-start and maintain the relationships for you.

 

Here are just a few basic UX elements you might be able to improve.

  • Speed

  • Support availability

  • Design

  • Simplicity

  • Integrations and plug-ins

  • Tone and voice

  • Purchasing process

  • Exit-intent emails

  • Abandoned cart pop-ups

  • Compatibility

 

Incentivizing Word of Mouth Referrals

According to a report by Nielsen, 92% of consumers around the world trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising. They’re also four times more likely to buy from a company when referred by a friend.  And it makes sense. If someone told you that you were four times more likely to get a person’s number if you share a close friend, would you be surprised? Then let’s focus on making sure your existing clients have a clear reason and simple process to tell everyone just how happy they are with what you’ve done.



Want to see referrals done right?

Check out this Forbes article on five companies that made incentives work for them in all of the best ways.

 

Hopefully, you’re now feeling confident in your ability to knock out a few home runs per game, but let us give you a few more date ideas to reach, inspire and delight your existing and potential customers. After all, you can’t just take them out for a movie every single time! So let us tickle your imagination and find the right activity for your unique romantic type.

 

Mix-and-match date ideas for daters of all stripes and sizes.

 

1.The Practical Couple: Paid Marketing

Grab a quick coffee at a cute café around the blog.

This approach is perfect for the no-nonsense couple, as it boasts a high and fairly predictable conversion rate that turns lead into bonafide paying clients. A great way to go about this is to select a social media post that already has good organic engagement, and boosting it to your target market using the platform’s paid ad functionalities. This approach also allows you to do some basic remarketing - showing similar ads to people who have already engaged with your post. Lastly, it affords you the ability to play strategically with your target markets. Who do you get the best response from? Which demographics converts the most? The results can surprise you.

 

2.The Grand Gesture Couple: Content Marketing

Go on a wild scavenger hunt or send elaborate love letters across continents.

For the romantics in the room, this strategy prioritizes craft, thoughtfulness and quality. Find yourself a wordsmith who understands your voice and tone as well as you do, then get creating. Now, you’ve heard us say it before, but it bears repeating: consistency is key, so make sure all of your content carries the tone and voice you’ve worked so hard to establish and document in your branding guidelines. A great way to get started with content marketing is simply to update and polish up existing blog posts or templates. In the industry, it’s called repurposing content, and just like that story you always pull out about the monkey stealing your ice cream in Thailand, you’d be amazed to find how much of it is still relevant and resonant for your audiences.

 

3.The Gregarious Couple: Social Marketing

Snag tickets for a sold-out concert or attend a new gallery opening.

For the social butterflies out there, dating and marketing can be a blast. Capitalize on existing forums where your target market is already hanging out – be it Reddit, Quora, Pinterest or Instagram – then speak their language and adapt to the crowd.

Oh! And make sure you leverage #Hashtags and strategic tagging to get their attention. Here’s how we like to do it.

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Better yet, if you can get someone of influence that your target market trusts to support you and your product, you’ll hit that social sweet spot and generate an impressive amount of brand equity along the way. Win-win!

 

4.The Pragmatic Couple: Email Marketing

Cook a quiet and simple meal at home with a weeknight bottle of wine.

Straight-forward and simple couples: here’s your bliss. Email marketing campaigns can be incredibly effective simply because of the fact that everyone uses email. According to statistics, 99% of people surveyed check their email at least once a day, and email marketing campaigns have a deliverability rate of 98%. When you combine those numbers with your ability to make small, incremental changes to different elements like a subject line or call to action (CTA), and then carefully experiment, analyze and iterate based on key metrics like open rate, click rate, and conversion rate, you’ve got yourself a rather powerful medium

 

“Your email newsletter is a direct connection between you and your customer. Everything about it (voice, visuals, vibe) is all you. And only you. Those who read your post on LinkedIn are on there interacting with LinkedIn. But when they read your words in your newsletter, they are interacting with you.”

Ann Handley, Wall Street Journal & Bestselling author

 

5.The Adventurous Couple: Audio Marketing

Head into the wilderness for an afternoon of ziplining or rock-climbing.

This is for the adventure-seekers in the group. Why? Because podcasting is a fairly new medium, but it’s havings quite a moment. According to Podcast Insights, as of February 2018, there were over 660 000 podcasts, and over 28 million episodes out there, and 51% of Americans say that they’ve listened to a podcast. That’s a lot of attention to grab with your product, or service. When you add to that the loyalty factor - 80% listen to all or most of each podcast episode – and a whopping 61% conversion rate for well-targeted and crafted audio ads, you have a lot to gain by getting there early.

 

 

6.The Perfectionist Couple: Search Engine Marketing

Pack a picnic and straight-up compare those extensive must-have lists.

I see you, perfectionists. I see you looking for the ace in the hole, the sure thing. Of course, in business there is no such thing as a “sure thing” and this is no exception, but focusing your advertising dollars on Adwords, improving your user interface design and your overall user experience is rarely a dollar wasted.  When you pair this with content marketing and an original content hub, SEM can keep driving clients to your door long after the advertising money has been spent.

 

Did you know that Google offers free training and certifications for both Google Analytics and Google Ads? Check them out here!

 

Well, once again, you made it – and perhaps even picked up a few dating tips along the way. We built this guide as a simple mix-and-match of tips and ideas you can always turn to in order to inspire or bolster your own special cocktail of customer acquisition campaigns and strategies. So make it yours, build meaningful relationships with customers big and small, and tune in soon for more tips on growing and converting your community!

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