It should come as no surprise that customers are what keep your business alive. In addition to the work it takes to hold onto existing customers and maintain those relationships, a successful business also needs a strategy for acquiring new customers.
Many businesses don’t consciously create such a strategy—they often just continue to behave in ways that appear to be working. Even if your business is doing pretty well with this acquisition strategy, there’s no telling how much better you would perform with a well-researched acquisition strategy.
Read on to learn all about acquisition channels and how they could be working for you.
Before getting into the details of what an acquisition channel is, let’s first understand what customer acquisition itself is. Simply put, customer acquisition is the strategy or method implemented by a company to get new business.
Maintaining loyalty with your existing customers and keeping their business is definitely an important part of your strategy, but you also need a way to reach new customers who have never heard of you. You can think of customer acquisition as the total journey—from first encounter all the way to eventual conversion—that a client takes in deciding to buy your product.
The more consciously you create a strategy for customer acquisition, the more likely you are to find the avenues that work best for your business. You can begin by trying some of the most common strategies that work for other companies and then invest more in the ones that perform well for you.
Strategies for Customer Acquisition
It might take you some time, research, and data analysis to figure out what strategies work best for you. Start with these common procedures for customer acquisition that have the best chance of setting you up for success:
- Set specific goals for acquiring new customers.
- Build a model of your ideal customer and specifically state what problems you are solving for them.
- Build in a method of analyzing your customer acquisition strategies so you can measure what is working and by how much. The more data you can get, the better.
- Put in the effort to understand your customer’s acquisition channels so you know where to invest your energy.
- Make an individual strategy for each channel so that they perform best.
Even if you invest more heavily in one direction, keep in mind that all of these procedures are important and related.
Now let’s dig into the specific details of what acquisition channels are and how to optimize them for your company.
What Are Acquisition Channels?
Now that you’ve put some thought into defining who your customers are and how you can acquire them, it’s time to understand the specific channels that bring them to you.
An acquisition channel is how your customers initially find you. It is the first time they encounter your business before eventually converting into a client. Think of the customer acquisition channel as a source through which a customer begins their journey with you. It is the process, sometimes gradual and sometimes fast, of them building trust in your brand.
Acquisition channels take many forms. To get an initial understanding of the concept of an acquisition channel, consider the most common ones below:
- Email marketing
- Events (both virtual and real-world)
- Social Media
- SEO and organic search
- Referral programs (use your existing customers to bring in new ones)
- Direct mailing
- Paid advertising
- Paid search (paying to appear first in internet search results)
- Word of mouth
As you can see, there are many channels to consider for your business, and they are each optimized in different directions. Most of the time, it’s wise to have a baseline commitment to all channels, especially before you have data on what works best for your company.
With all of these different channels to choose from, it makes it even more important to know your customers’ personalities. Knowing who your ideal customer is and what problem you are solving for them is key to understanding which acquisition channels will have the best return on investment for you.
Some of this will take time as you try out different channels and analyze the data to see what works best. However, some of this is purely logical and doesn’t even need all that much data.
For example, if your ideal customer is younger, let’s say in their 20s, then it goes without saying that investing in Facebook ads would be much less effective than investing in Instagram and TikTok, which are much more popular with that age group. And if your ideal customer is between the ages of 30 and 50, then TikTok would not be worth it since only 22 percent of this age group use TikTok.
All acquisition channels require an investment, even if that investment is just your time. But let’s further define what an acquisition channel is by separating them into paid channels and organic channels.
Paid Acquisition Channel
A paid acquisition channel involves promoting your business through any of the above acquisition channels by spending money. Running social media advertisements, paid search, and other paid advertising are all examples of paid acquisition channels.
For example, an Instagram advertisement will guarantee that your post appears on a certain amount of Instagram timelines. These appearances aren’t random because they can be targeted based on age, interests, gender, and many other factors. This will determine your click-through rate, or CTR, which is the percentage of people who click on your ads to find out more information.
Another example of a paid acquisition channel is Google Ads. In this channel, a business will pay per click to appear at the top or the side of search results. This is known as search engine marketing or SEM.
With paid search, your result will be at the top, but it will also be labeled as an advertisement. If you anticipate that your potential customers will click on whatever is at the top of the page, then paid search is a smart idea. Or maybe you just want the exposure so that people become familiar with your brand name.
These are all advantages to paid acquisition channels, and if you do them right, you can have a high conversion rate.
Organic Acquisition Channel
Organic acquisition channels are those in which you aren’t directly paying for the result. Instead of paying to appear at the top of search engine results, you rely on your website’s quality content to help you rank high. And unlike paid social media advertisements, you depend on the natural growth and sharing of your social media followers.
Both paid and organic acquisition channels are important, but organic reach has a few specific benefits. For starters, you are not directly paying for this outreach which makes it much cheaper. However, this does not mean that it is free—you will probably be hiring people to create content on your website and social media channels. And even if you do this work yourself, your time and energy come at a cost.
Another benefit of an organic acquisition is retention. For example, if a social media follower is already engaging with your content, then they are much more interested in your brand than someone who sees your ad—and they are more likely to become a customer who sticks around. Likewise, if a potential customer was searching Google for something that your website’s article answers, then they are a high-quality visitor who is much more likely to convert.
The last main benefit of an organic acquisition channel is that they don’t expire. Once you have an organic strategy that’s working—for example, a high-ranking blog post—it will continue to reach users for as long as it’s on your website. This fact is why SEO can be such an advantageous acquisition channel for you—one investment in ranking for specific keywords will continue to bring in new customers.
It is important, however, to consider that you might have to update content on your website, especially if you have an article or blog post that is ranking well. You don’t want to lose that ranking when your content becomes stale and outdated. So it is important to keep your articles updated by refreshing the content and adding new links to internal and external content.
The big takeaway is that paid campaigns only last for as long as you are paying for them. Organic acquisition channels, on the other hand, will bring in more customers over the long run. But if you want the most success, be prepared to use both of these approaches.
Why You Need To Use Acquisition Channels
Now that you know what acquisition channels are, let’s get into the details of why they’re important for your business.
In short, your business will suffer without them. If you aren’t understanding and leveraging your company’s acquisition channels, then you are hurting your business. Each channel is a unique medium that will require a unique and creative approach. And you will have to support that approach with strategic research.
But the work is worth it because once you understand what acquisition channels are working particularly well for you, you can invest more time and money into them. If Instagram ads and posts are having a great ROI (return on investment), then you can double down your efforts there while experimenting with similar social media channels like TikTok.
And if you’re seeing the most customer conversions from your SEO efforts—for example, people searching for an answer to something and organically stumbling on your product—then it is worth it to post similar written content on your website.
The Acquisition Channels You Must Participate In
While every company will have a unique situation, there are acquisition channels that have proven their effectiveness and stood the test of time. These are the places where you should invest the most energy in, especially in the beginning stages of your company.
In addition, you should be leveraging whatever information you can find about the different channels and how effective they are. Eventually, you will build up your own data, which will be more personal and will help you to focus on the best channels for your business.
But for now, consider some of the work to be already done for you with this list of the top acquisition channels that you will want to be sure to participate in.
One of the first social media platforms to take off seriously was MySpace. By 2004, MySpace reached one million active users per month. That number is impressive considering the year, but let’s put that into perspective with today’s numbers.
By 2016, it was estimated that 3.5 billion people were using the internet and that more than two-thirds of them were on social media. Today, Facebook alone has about 2.8 billion users, and you can only expect that those numbers to continue to rise.
So social media has a good chance at being one of the best acquisition channels for your company. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 72 percent of adults are using at least one kind of social media. Categories such as age group, gender, location, and many more demographics will help to tell you where you can expect to find your potential customers.
By posting consistently on social media, you will organically show up in potential customers’ feeds. This keeps your brand in their awareness and engages them to potentially visit your website. In addition, you can give a more personal and behind-the-scenes impression of your business.
And with Facebook and Instagram ads, aka paid acquisition, you can get a higher conversion rate by targeting exactly who you want.
SEO and Content Marketing
Content marketing involves creating blog posts, how-to guides, videos, podcasts, and several other content types to market your products. This is an organic acquisition channel because you are trying to solve your potential customer’s problems while naturally introducing them to your product.
Content marketing feels more personal than paid advertisements, and it generates trust with your prospective customers. Combined with SEO (search engine optimization), content marketing has the potential to be a great return on investment.
Those 3.5 billion people using the internet most often use a search engine like Google to find answers to their problems. And with the right SEO strategy, you can acquire much higher-quality traffic to your website. It will perform much better than users who arrive there via paid search campaigns.
Since you’re already doing content marketing and SEO, you can make use of that traffic by collecting email addresses. Email marketing is your chance to send updates, discounts, and other exclusive content to people who are already familiar with your brand.
Email marketing has been around a long time, and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a great way to connect with your audience one-on-one. You can even personalize your emails with things such as the recipient’s name in order to better capture their attention and create more of a relationship with them.
Referral programs are ways in which you leverage your current customers to bring in new customers. You can entice them to refer new customers to you with discounts and other rewards. The main benefit here is that people tend to trust companies when they are referred to them by a friend.
You also can reward both the referrer and the new customer. Remember, the point here is to get new customers to become familiar with your brand—and eventually convert.
As you can see, the success of your business depends on understanding not only the concept of acquisition channels but also which ones to use for your business and how to get the most out of those channels. These are the avenues by which new customers find you, and you want to be in charge of how that journey works.
While we have covered the top acquisition channels to start with, you should limit your brand to those. Explore other channels that you think might work, and collect data on their performance. Over time you will be able to build a strategy that works best for your specific needs.