Customer acquisition; the practice of bringing in new customers/clients that fit the ideal customer profile (ICP) for your company.

A familiar business axiom is that as a business, you’re either growing or shrinking. There is no neutral. If we subscribe to this belief, then your customer acquisition strategy is the lifeblood of your company or organization.

Furthermore, suppose we are to believe in the grow or shrink model. In that case, one of the primary goals for your marketing efforts is to present your brand positively to potential customers/clients that represent who you want to do business with.

A CMO Survey from February ’21 found that marketing departments increased focus for 2021 over 2019 are highest for

  • Acquiring new customers
  • Improving marketing ROI

Customer Acquisition Strategy

We’re going to review four components that should be in every company’s customer acquisition strategy:

  • Audience
  • Messaging
  • Channels
  • Automation

Step 1: Audience segmentation for customer acquisition

This first step is the “who” part of your customer acquisition strategy. Who, specifically, are you trying to attract?

The best way to zero in on who you want your marketing team to market to is by developing your ideal customer profile (ICP). An ICP is a model of the company, not the person, that your company can provide the best level of product or service.

An ICP is a great tool to minimize wasted marketing dollars, wasted sales time, and overall energy chasing the wrong companies. Don’t mistake an ICP for a persona. Your ICP is wholly focused on the company, as opposed to personas which are focused on the people, within a company.

Ideal Customer Profiles are essential as they will help you:

  • Improve the precision of your marketing messaging
  • Improve the personalization of the content you use on your website, in email messages, and in social media posts
  • Assist your sales team and marketing teamwork in unison toward your company goals

Once you’ve identified your ICP, the next step is to segment the accounts and the people (personas) within the accounts into segments of commonality. By segmenting accounts and personas, you will be able to improve the personalization of your marketing messaging dramatically.

Here’s an example.

Let’s assume that your product or service solves problems that small manufacturers within the robotics industry typically have. With this scenario, here’s how you could expand on the ICP and persona strategy to improve your customer acquisition efforts.

Step 1: Identify the ideal customer profile within the robotics industry. For this example, your ICP is a manufacturer with a revenue stream of $20M to $30M annually, a minimum of 2 engineers on staff, and is geographically located within a 400-mile radius.

Step 2: Identify the personas within your ICP that are typically involved in the purchasing decision or who influence the purchasing decision. The decision influencer or decision-maker may be the CFO, an engineer(s), purchasing director, and someone from customer service.

At this point, you’ve started to build out a framework that you can use to target your advertising, marketing channels, and you can target the marketing messages that you use specifically for the interests of the different personas that you’ll be trying to get in front of.

Step 2: Messaging for customer acquisition

There are two considerations for your messaging as it relates to a customer acquisition strategy. The first is what channels to use, and the second is what type of message to deliver or what to say to the prospective customer.

With both the channel and the message, you need to consider who you’re trying to talk to and where they are positioned within their buying journey.

The buying journey can have several different stages, predominantly determined by buyer type, industry, and complexity of products or services. The buying journey for a new book is dramatically different from the buying journey for a manufacturer looking for a new vendor.

Generally speaking, however, there are three stages to a customer’s buying journey:

  • Awareness: This is when someone becomes aware that they are in need of a product or service. During this stage of the journey, buyers often use channels like search engines and/or contact with friends, peers, and even industry associations, trying to better understand potential solutions to their current situation.
    At this stage of their journey, the buyers are thinking “big picture.” They’re not ready to hear about your features/benefits just yet.
  • Consideration: During the consideration stage buyers evaluate all of the products, services, and solutions that they uncovered during the awareness stage.
    At this point, the buyer has a complete understanding of their situation, and they’re starting to formulate ways to take care of their situation.During this stage, they’re not deciding on the various options available to them. Instead, they are laying out all of their options to understand better potential ways to proceed.While buyers are in the consideration stage, they need help deciding which options will work out best. They’re looking at the solutions being offered; they’re looking at the companies providing them and trying to determine who they can trust to give them what they need.For buyers in the consideration stage, you want to provide the details of your products, services, and/or solutions, as this is when the buyer is deciding between all of the options he has.
  • Decision: At this point, the buyer is ready to buy. They’ve done their research, they’ve evaluated all of the options, and they’re now prepared to proceed.Unfortunately, or fortunately for you, this is the stage that most markers spend their energy and resources. By spreading your energy and resources from the beginning of the buyer’s journey, you have the opportunity to begin building a business relationship all along their journey, and you have more of a chance to demonstrate why they should choose you as their partner.
    Now is when you want to get into the features and benefits of your product or service/solution. Any specifications, details, case studies that you have assembled will be the content of choice for the buyer at this stage.

Step 3: Channels for customer acquisition

To get the right marketing message to your potential customer at the right time it’s important to know what your customers are looking for at each stage of their buying journey. We’ll take a brief look at the best channels to use based on your customer’s position in their buying process.

  • Awareness Stage:As we stated earlier, during this stage the customer is looking, very broadly, to get an understanding of the different potential solutions that are available for their situation. Because of this broad spectrum of information that they are looking for the best channels to market to this person are:
    • Search Marketing: Search marketing is going to be the best place for your marketing effort to attract these buyers in this earliest stage of their buying process. When buyers in this stage are searching they are looking for solutions. Make sure that you have organic (preferably) or paid ads running that talk about the big picture solutions that your company provides. Product or service specific listing or ads will not attract buyers in this early buying stage.Make sure that the listings and/or ads that you’re running for buyers in the stage are pointing to pages within your site that talk about your company, your solutions, and your commitment to excellence. Remember buyers in this stage are, most likely, unaware of your company and you need to make a good first impression.
    • Social Media: It’s nearly impossible to identify a potential customer that is in the awareness stage. Using social media to “target” ads to specific people or industries is not going to get you very far with people in the awareness stage. More often than not, a buyer in the awareness stage is going to be using social media as a secondary channel to learn more about your company, products, or services. Often this will happen after they’ve found you during their search efforts. For the buyers that will use social as a primary search tool looking for solutions, having posts that detail your solutions as opposed to products will help these buyers get an understand of how you could assist them.Remember, getting the attention of buyers in this stage it’s all about increasing your company’s visibility.
    • Display Advertising: Using display advertising works best for buyers in this stage of the process when it is put into a retargeting structure once this prospect visits your website. Retargeting can display a branded ad to this new potential customer as they visit other websites. This increases brand visibility and brand recognition. Exactly the goal for attracting customers in the awareness stage of their buying journey.
  • Consideration Stage: Again, the consideration stage is when buyers are evaluating a variety of options that will solve their current situation.
    • Videos: There’s nothing as persuasive as a video which makes this an outstanding channel for people that are in the consideration stage. Remember, during this stage the buyers are evaluating companies products, services, and solutions. Use videos to point out the features and benefits of your products. If your business is a service business, use videos to point out the value proposition of your offerings. Can you save the buyer money, increase their production time, or maybe reduce stress? One popular video type for service companies is to video a “whiteboard demonstration” of how you can make a buyers life easier.
    • Social: You can use your social media accounts to promote your products and services. The goal for using social media for converting buyers in the consideration channel is going to be to drive them to your website to get them to learn more about your product or service. Images are critical to gain engagement with your posts to be sure to use images of your products or images that are relevant to your services. Then, be sure to use strong calls to action to get these buyers to download some of your gated content within your website. This will be even more important if you’re using a marketing automation solution.
    • Email: Email becomes a critical channel for all business because this is the most adaptable marketing channel for personalization. Once you get a prospects email address, you can now proactively drip communications to them about products and services. This will keep your brand and your products or service in front of these buyers while they complete their buying journey.
  • Decision Stage: This is, unfortunately where the vast majority of companies spend nearly all of their marketing dollars. By focusing on the earlier stages of the buyers journey you’ll be able to better begin building a relationship with your prospective customers and improve your marketing ROI and there is typically less competition in the channels that focus on the earlier buyer stages. For the decision stage, these are some of the more potent channels to use.
    • Search-PPC: Because buyers are looking for specific products and services at this stage PPC make more sense in the search marketing channel. Just be sure to highlight the features/benefits of your products or the value proposition of your services.
    • Email: Just like PPC, use the email marketing channel to entice the buyer with the specifics of your product and/or service. This is where you can really drive home your sales message and use the email message to drive buyers back to your website for in-depth information that they are looking for during their time in this stage of their journey.

Step 4: Leverage Automation For Customer Acquisition

Marketing automation is, at its core, technology that efficiently combines multiple marketing campaigns to deliver highly personalized marketing messages that are relevant based on the user’s behavior.

Marketing automation does a wonderful job of delivering highly relevant messaging based on the behaviors of visitors to your website. Here’s how this works. In this scenario we’ll walk through how marketing automation can be used to improve your customer acquisition efforts. Here’s how it can all come together:

Because of your digital advertising efforts, you’re now driving quality people (icp) to your website. These people are coming from various stages of their buying cycle which means the information that they are looking for varies from very general to very specific.

You’ve also done an outstanding job of increasing the type of information that is available to your potential customers, on your website. Some of this information is gated content that requests a user to enter their name and email to receive the information. The type of information that a visitor to your website downloads starts to build a profile of interest about that person and it also helps to let you know where they are within their buying decision journey.

Now that you have someone that has proactively shown interest in your product, service, and/or solution you want to make sure that they don’t forget about you. With marketing automation, you can set up one or a series of informational emails be sent out to this visitor based on their behavior (downloading information) that is specific to the information that they were looking at.

Additionally, you can also set up your marketing automation to monitor what your website visitor does with the emails that you’ve been sending to them (nurturing) to determine the next marketing messaging that would be appropriate. That next message could be more detailed information on the product that they’ve shown interest in or it could be an alert to your sales representative to make a sales call on the person to begin a conversation about the product that they are interested in .

To put it simply, marketing automation takes care of the heavy lifting. There is no better tool than marketing automation to nurture your leads as it saves time, integrates well with your process and assists your prospective customers/clients through their decision-making journey.

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