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How to create the best customer acquisition strategy to attract new buyers

A strong customer acquisition strategy will steadily attract new shoppers to your organization and convert them into customers. Get a full breakdown of successful customer acquisition strategies, including tips and examples for B2C and B2B organizations.

Ariel Aguilar Gonzalez

Ariel Aguilar Gonzalez

Businesses can't afford to wait for customers to come to them. 

Given inevitable customer churn, marketing teams need to attract a steady stream of new customers to sustain (and ideally grow) their business. But without the right strategy, you could be caught in a cycle of wooing leads who won’t stick around for long — or fail to convince anyone to convert.

To help your organization strengthen its pipeline and reach the best new buyers, let’s examine how to develop a customer acquisition strategy, including examples to inspire your approach. 

What is a customer acquisition strategy?

Customer acquisition is about building awareness and converting new prospects or leads — or anyone who may show interest in your product or service — into paying customers. And like all marketing activities, you’ll be more successful with a strategy driving your efforts.

B2B and B2C customers follow a unique journey from awareness to consideration to purchase. A customer acquisition strategy seeks to optimize and expedite that customer journey

The goal is to meet potential customers at their stage and provide them relevant and targeted offers or information to get them closer to becoming a paid customer. 

A strong customer acquisition strategy will:

  • Continually attract new customers across the many channels and devices they use
  • Create replicable campaigns and outreach that can be tested and refined over time
  • Provide more reliable sales forecasting and ensure a healthy business pipeline

Where does customer acquisition fit in the marketing landscape?

Sales and marketing teams both play an important role in customer acquisition as they seek to drive awareness, promote products and services, and encourage people to make a purchase.

Looking at the customer journey as a sales funnel, customers must first become aware of an organization to enter the funnel. Customers will often seek a product or service based on a challenge or need they have, such as wanting new software to make work easier or buying new clothes for their big event.

Organizations must secure customer details like an email or phone number to enter them into an acquisition cycle. That cycle will involve a mix of channels and outreach (we’ll discuss those next) to build interest, help customers consider their choices, and ultimately convert them to paying customers. 

Note that new customer acquisition is different than recovering lost customers, which requires a winback campaign.

How does customer acquisition differ for B2B and B2C organizations?

B2C and B2B marketers will tailor their customer acquisition strategies in different ways to appeal to their unique audience needs and buying behaviors. 

B2C marketers generally manage a large customer base. Retailers, for example, often have a lot of impressions with website visits or in-store foot traffic. From a tactical perspective, these marketers will use tools to convert at scale because they likely won’t interact with each customer personally. Luckily, B2C companies usually have a lot of data points they can use to retarget potential customers with ads and drive engagement across channels.

B2B marketers, on the other hand, typically manage a smaller pool of potential customers, but each prospect is high value and has a longer conversion cycle. These buyers need more materials and interactions to influence the purchase decision, so marketers will deliver educational resources like white papers and webinars. B2B customer acquisition methods also commonly involves demos and trials so prospective buyers can get a hands-on experience and see how the product fits in their workflow. 

Should I always have an acquisition campaign running?

An optimal customer acquisition strategy will create a sustainable and replicable process for your team to continually attract and convert new buyers. It should always be part of your larger marketing strategy and your team should keep an eye on how many new customers you acquire each week, month, or quarter. 

Ideally, you will automate pieces of the acquisition strategy so you can collect customer information and immediately enter them into a personalized outreach cycle without needing your marketing team to work around the clock to deliver timely messages. 

Because acquisition is an ongoing priority, your marketing budget should include a minimum acquisition spend for each quarter. This ensures a consistent baseline for your campaigns and allows you to provide more reliable forecasts of your acquisition pipeline. 

What channels do you typically use in a customer acquisition journey?

There is an ever-growing selection of channels you can use in your customer acquisition strategy. However, these three are the most common because of cost, scale, and ROI:

  • Digital ads - Place ads on platforms and sites your ideal customer frequently visits or interacts with. If someone is searching on Google for a product or service in the your category, for example, you can place search ads to get in front of them.
  • Social media - Social media channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube have millions of users and activate their customer data to help companies target audiences with relevant ads. 
  • Email marketing - Don’t write email off as an old-school and irrelevant channel. When it comes to personalization, emails are one of your best channel options, and it can be incredibly cost-effective to target prospective buyers. 

But don’t limit yourself to just those three. Any channel your customers use could be viable for customer acquisition, such as: 

  • Blog - Blog content can draw people to your website and position you as a trusted resource in your space. 
  • Events - Exhibit at or attend an industry conference or event, or consider hosting your own.
  • Media outlets - Pay for advertising in newspapers and magazine, or pursue earned media coverage in these outlets. 
  • Organic search - Search engine optimization can help your content and website rank higher on search results pages. 
  • Podcasts - Create or join a podcast to discuss topics relevant to your industry or category. 
  • SMS - Text messages have some of the highest open rates and are powerful for creating a sense of urgency. 

Keep in mind that digital channels are the most valuable for measuring your campaign results and gathering customer information. Physical channels like magazines, newspapers, and billboards can be difficult to measure, unless you orchestrate a blatant transition to a digital channel (such as including a QR code or unique URL that you can measure traffic for). 

No matter which channels you choose, the key is to approach potential customers with personalized and relevant messages that align across channels. To do this, your marketing organization will need to adopt a cross-channel marketing strategy or, ideally, an omnichannel marketing strategy to ensure customer data is recorded and activated across channels and devices.  

How to create a successful customer acquisition journey

Because your product or service and the competitive landscape will inevitably change over time, your customer acquisition strategy should be seen as an iterative process that you gradually adapt and refine. The cycle involves these four steps: 

Step 1: Detail your customer personas

The number one factor that will make or break your customer acquisition strategy is how well you understand your customer personas

Who are your distinct groups of shoppers? Where do they get their information? What motivates them? What challenges do they face? Why should they choose you? 

It can be pretty simple if the product or service is something that you, the marketer, might purchase. But many of us aren’t our company’s target audience.

A business might have three or four personas, or maybe just one key buyer persona or core customer. Revisit (or define) your customer personas based on your existing customer pool, and then you’re on to step two.

Step 2: Map your customer journeys

Each customer persona will take a different path as they get to know your organization and offering. These paths may have subtle differences like using similar channels at different times, or major differences like using completely different channels or requiring specific content and information. 

Start a customer journey map for each persona by detailing the steps they can take to engage with your organization and the key touchpoints on that journey. For each touchpoint, ask yourself:

  • What is the customer seeking in this moment?
  • How can we fulfill the customer’s need efficiently?
  • Is there an opportunity to learn more about our customer here?

Customer journey mapping is a collaborative process, so be sure to involve your sales counterparts as you create your maps. 

Step 3: Establish your core acquisition tactics

With your customer journey maps ready, you can introduce interventions at key points in the journey to remove friction or encourage action.

Look back at your customer channels. How can you leverage each channel to attract leads and encourage them to make a purchase? What sequence can you create to drive action? 

This step is truly never finished, so focus on getting a few tactics in place and optimizing them as best you can. 

Step 4: Create an experimentation framework

There are a lot of variables that determine the success of your customer acquisition efforts. And there are endless opportunities to iterate on individual elements, such as an email’s subject line, body content, and call to action.

Isolate and experiment on key areas spanning your channels, content, messages, and timing to gradually improve those elements. 

This will take time, but the effort is well worth it. You’ll develop a stronger understanding of what works and use your learnings to launch new campaigns that increase your reach and exceed your goals. 

Customer acquisition strategy examples

As you review which customer acquisition tactics are right for your organization, consider these B2B and B2C examples:

  • A streaming provider could promote a sweepstakes where people provide their email address for a chance to attend an exclusive meet-and-greet with the star of a new movie. The sweepstakes acts as a lead magnet, so entrants begin receiving targeted emails promoting the service and specials for new subscribers. The emails are complemented with social media advertisements.
  • A local basketball team could pay for advertising on search engines and target people who search for “entertainment in [city]” or “fun things to do in [city].” Or, the team could pay for billboard advertisements across the city promoting the upcoming season. 
  • A bike retailer could write blog posts for its website sharing bike maintenance tips and recommending products for specific needs (like competitive mountain biking or casual riding for entertainment). Visitors receive a pop-up inviting them to sign up for the brand’s email newsletter.
  • A fintech company could publish an ebook explaining how accounts payable teams can automate their payroll practices. The ebook is gated behind a form where prospective customers enter their phone and email for future outreach. A week after downloading the ebook, the prospect could receive a one-month free trial offer of the provider’s software. 
  • An ethical skincare brand could enter a marketing partnership with a popular wellness influencer who uses their products and aligns with their values. The influencer could promote the products on their channels and provide a unique discount code for their followers. 

How to measure the success of a customer acquisition campaign

A primary way to measure your customer acquisition campaign success is to measure your customer acquisition cost (CAC). Calculate CAC by dividing the total costs of your acquisition efforts by the number of new customers acquired. 

CAC measures how much money your organization spends to acquire a single customer. This includes all costs that went into converting the customer, including marketing and sales team member time and technology costs. 

Successful customer acquisition strategies should gradually lower your CAC to show you are most effective with identifying and targeting potential customers. However, there are other KPIs that can gauge your success or provide a complementary lens to understand how effective your marketing strategy is:

  • Conversion rate - Conversion rate shows how many prospects became customers, based on the total number of people you reached out to. A high conversion rate implies you’re effectively targeting distinct personas, whereas a low conversion rate could imply your outreach is not personalized to the specific buyer’s needs. Consider testing different customer segmentation models if you have low conversion. 
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV) - CLV measures how much money a customer spends across all of their purchases with a company. You may achieve a low CAC, but are you driving maximum value from each purchase?
  • Customer churn rate - Churn rate measures how many customers became inactive during a specific period of time. If customer churn is outpacing customer acquisition, it could imply that customer journey orchestration is needed for post-purchase activities.

Challenges to customer acquisition campaigns

Your organization is constantly competing for your potential customer’s attention. This means the bar is high to stand out and resonate emotionally, which goes back to the importance of understanding your customer personas deeply.

You’ll likely face other common challenges when optimizing your acquisition campaigns:

  • Resource allocation - It can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts to drive the greatest return, especially when you’re early on in your customer acquisition journey. Because advertising costs are rising and teams are operating on tight budgets, it’s crucial to find ways to implement AI to augment your capabilities and cover more ground.
  • ROI measurement - Customer acquisition campaigns can be difficult to track, especially if you use physical media channels to reach potential customers. B2B brands are challenged, too, because buying cycles take significantly longer and can span dozens of touchpoints before converting a buyer. 
  • Siloed information - If organizational teams operate independently and don’t share data, then you’re likely targeting customers with redundant or irrelevant messages. This is why a data warehouse is a must-use tool, which we discuss further below. 
  • Unknown audiences - Because third party cookies are being phased out, it’s challenging to identify and track audiences online. Your team will likely have a harder time targeting relevant prospects and may be targeting redundant or irrelevant audiences.

Tools you need to launch effective customer acquisition campaigns

Marketers can activate a customer acquisition strategy with a relatively lean martech stack. The essential tools to consider include:

  • Data warehouse - A data warehouse is an essential company-wide solution for all data. It stores your customer information, including contact details, recent purchases, product preferences, and brand interactions. 
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) - CRMs are a popular B2B tool to capture customer data and information during their journey. CRMs are especially common in B2B because the acquisition journey can include frequent and personal touchpoints like in-person meetings, phone calls, and demos. Adobe, HubSpot, Salesforce, and Tealium are a few popular CRMs.
  • Customer data platform (CDP) - A customer data platform stores and organizes customer data and is tailored to marketing and sales team needs. Marketers often use a CDP alongside a CRM. 
  • Composable CDP - Composable CDPs are an advanced type of CDP that sit on top of a data warehouse and connect your data to all the marketing and sales tools you use. Composable CDPs like GrowthLoop empower you to build intelligent customer segments and apply generative marketing techniques to improve campaign effectiveness and ROI. 

Using a data warehouse with GrowthLoop specifically can also unlock customer journey tools, allowing you to create cross-channel campaigns with any of your preferred marketing destinations. 

Increasing every customer order value

By prioritizing your customer acquisition strategy and investing in the tools you need to create a seamless, automated journey, your organization will start to attract more relevant leads — some of whom will become your new best customers.

But that’s not all you can do to boost your bottom line. There are many situations where it’s appropriate to cross-sell or upsell customers, helping them gain more value from your product and make their connection more sticky. Check out this deep dive on cross-selling and upselling to learn how to increase every customer order value. 

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