Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
March 26, 2024 · 11 min read

How to do customer acquisition the right way in 2024

How to do customer acquisition the right way in 2024

You can build the best product in the world, but without a solid customer acquisition strategy (and the right team to pull it off), no one will ever use it.

But customer acquisition isn’t just about getting users for your product — it can be life or death for your company as a whole.

In the last five years, the average cost of acquiring a new customer has increased by a staggering 60%.

Whether you’re a product manager, team leader, or marketer, you should be aware of how customer acquisition happens, what channels your company uses, and how to measure the success of their projects.

Jump to a section:

In this guide, we’ll explain how to understand your customer’s journey to finding and using your product, the channels available, and how to create a winning customer acquisition strategy for your company.

What is customer acquisition? Why is it so hard to get right?

Customer acquisition is the strategy companies use to gain new customers, including how they attract new leads, nurture them, and eventually convert them into paying customers.

Ultimately, the objective of a customer acquisition strategy is to gain more customers while also setting the foundation for long-term retention. Your acquisition strategy could use tactics ranging from email marketing and social media to outbound sales or events.

Customer acquisition influences everything from how you prioritize features to your go-to-market strategy.

But while customer acquisition has traditionally been the focus of sales and marketing teams, the best strategy can’t make up for a subpar product.

Most customer acquisition strategies use free trials, system demos, or explainer videos to entice a lead to become a customer, so the product needs to be slick and easy to use to ensure it makes a great first impression.

But, knowing about customer acquisition is only half the battle. To guarantee success, you first need to get inside your customers’ heads and understand where they are in the buying journey — and how you can meet them there.

Top of the funnel: Creating awareness for new leads

The start of the journey is all about getting your brand in front of potential customers and piquing their interest. At this stage, most companies use broad tactics to drive exposure to large volumes of people in a cost-effective way.

This could include content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), or traditional advertising. For example, an accounting product may look to boost its product’s exposure by investing in its SEO rankings for the search term “Best accounting software in the US.”.

Illustration in blues and blacks showing an inverted triangle divided into slats. The stages of the buying journey of a customer are labled starting at the top; awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, purchase. The slats are grouped into groups of two starting at the top; leads, prospects, customers
Source: Shopify.com

Middle of the funnel: Showcasing value and building intent

Once a potential customer (also known as a prospect) knows who you are, your goal changes to increasing their interest and moving them towards a purchase.

This is the hardest part of the funnel to navigate, as prospects are often evaluating multiple options at once — so there’s a chance you may miss out.

To improve the odds in their favor, companies use techniques such as email marketing, retargeting via social media, and invitations to events (e.g., webinars) to improve customer consideration and demonstrate their product’s value further.

For example, having executed their SEO strategy, the accounting product’s marketing team may encourage prospects to sign up for an email marketing list so that they can send personalized email campaigns and invite them to online promotional events.

Bottom of the funnel: Converting prospects to customers

Once a prospect decides that your product is right for them, you need to convert them into a customer. While most of the work is done by this stage, you must ensure you don’t fall at the final hurdle by making the buying process as simple as possible.

Depending on your product and sales cycle, you may reach out directly to qualified prospects, leverage business partnerships, and offer discounts or free trials. This is where product teams heavily contribute to the customer acquisition journey by making product onboarding, navigation, and setup intuitive and easy to complete.

For example, the accounting product may offer a free 7-day trial to convert prospects into customers. During this trial, they’ll assign a customer success manager to help with onboarding and answer any initial questions.

How do you acquire users? 12 customer acquisition channels

While we’ve touched on a few in the previous section, the key to executing a killer customer acquisition strategy is to use the right mix of tactics and tools at the right time.

Illustration in blues and blacks showing the customer aquisition process
Source: Swoopnow.com

Let’s look at 12 of the most common ways businesses reach potential new users as part of their customer acquisition strategy:

How to create a winning customer acquisition strategy in 2024

For product companies, those who survive and grow are those with the best customer acquisition strategies. Now that you know what customer acquisition is, it’s time to put it into practice and create your own customer-winning strategy:

1. Identify your ideal customer

Before you head off trying to acquire new customers, you need to pause and determine who your ideal customers are.

Many businesses make the mistake of going after anyone who is willing to pay them money. Instead, you need to identify and target your product’s ideal customers as they’re the people who’ll gain the most value and stay loyal into the future.

How to do this:

Real-life example:

Roberta is a Marketing Manager for TimeHack-R, a mobile application that helps people plan their time.

Roberta and the team are preparing to launch the app and want to set their customer acquisition strategy. They know their app will help those who are tech-savvy and need to optimize their time to hit tight deadlines. They conduct research and establish students aged 16-25 are their ideal customers, so they create a customer persona to work from.

While customer acquisition has traditionally been the focus of sales and marketing teams, the best strategy can’t make up for a subpar product.

2. Understand the customer journey

Once you know who your ideal customers are, you need to understand how they act, think, and make buying decisions. This is crucial to determine the customer acquisition tactics you’ll employ and begin calculating your customer acquisition costs.

How to do this:

Real-life example:

Roberta and the team focus on their ideal customer to establish the best customer journey. They find that students aged 16-25 spend a lot of time online, especially on social media, where they follow influencers they like and trust.

Given the low cost of the app, the buying decision for TimeHack-R would be fast so long as the app was easy to purchase, download, and use immediately.

3. Set your high-level goals, targets, and parameters

A great customer acquisition strategy has to be right for the customers, but it also has to be right for your business.

Before you begin with the creative elements of customer acquisition, take time to set goals and define your parameters. This will help you build a project plan in the coming steps.

How to do this:

Pro tip: Using tools such as Planio are great for helping you store, track, and communicate project plans and objectives. Whether through task management, document storage, or in-built chat, Planio’s perfect for getting everyone on the same page and help you move forward as a team.

Screenshot of the Agile board in Planio colored by priority

Real-life example:

Roberta sits down with the Chief Product Officer to understand TimeHack-R’s growth strategy. To support the ongoing strategy, she needs to launch her customer acquisition campaign in the next six weeks, aiming to achieve 50 sign-ups per month.

She has a $6,000 per month budget, which she will manage solely as the company’s only marketing resource.

4. Choose the right customer acquisition channels & set KPIs

With all of the foundation work in place, it’s time to select the customer acquisition channels that align with your ideal customers and business goals.

You’ll want to choose a mix of tactics across the customer journey’s awareness, consideration, and purchase stages to ensure consistent support. Then, you’ll set KPIs to help you track whether each channel effectively engages prospective customers.

How to do this:

Real-life example:

Having reviewed the customer persona, Roberta chooses social media advertising, influencer marketing, and the website as her key customer acquisition tactics.

She allocates $4,000 per month to social media and $2,000 to influencer marketing, with a goal for each one to generate 100 leads per month.

5. Plan and execute your strategy

You’ve done all of the thinking and strategizing, and now it’s time to put your plan into action. This is where customer acquisition and marketing project management collide as you execute the individual tasks and actions to get your product in front of customers.

How to do this:

Screenshot of an Experiment issue in Planio in which AB testing of a red or green signup button will increase click rate by 10%.

Real-life example:

Roberta pulls together a marketing project plan to launch her customer acquisition strategy. She chooses a marketing project management software to clearly lay out the tasks to complete, storing design ideas for social media posts in the document repository. She uses communication features to engage and stay up to date with influencers and track the time they spend working for TimeHack-R.

6. Get customer feedback, adapt, and improve

You’re unlikely to get your customer acquisition strategy right the first time, so once you’ve launched, look for ways to gain feedback and improve for the future.

As your product develops, your target audience will change with new customer acquisition strategies available to maximize your growth.

In the last five years, the average cost of acquiring a new customer has increased by a staggering 60%

How to do this:

Real-life example:

After the first three months, Roberta notices the number of leads generated from the strategy is lower than the 100 she targeted.

She gains feedback from failed prospects, noting that the influencers and social media posts were too vague in their messaging. Roberta decides to use new influencers for the next three months and provides them with clear messaging guidance.

How to calculate customer acquisition costs (CAC)

Like everything in business, customer acquisition doesn’t come for free. While posting on social media or attending a local networking event may be free, higher exposure tactics such as organic search and PPC advertising come at a cost.

This is even more important when you consider the lifetime value (LTV) of each customer. To make a profit, you must ensure your customer acquisition costs don’t outweigh the amount of money a customer pays.

Let’s use an example to help you calculate your customer acquisition costs (CAC).

Imagine you spend $2,000 per month on social media advertising that generates ten new customers. This would mean your customer acquisition cost was:

Formula for calculating the Customer Aquisition Costs (2000 USD for 10 customers is 200 USD per customer)

But, as we mentioned above, this strategy only works if it’s profitable. So, you have to overlay your lifetime value and profit margin. Let’s say an average customer spends $500 with a 50% profit margin. This would mean your profit was:

Formula for calculating profits (Average customer spend 500 USD times 50%, minus the 200 USD CAC earlier calculated leaves 50 USD profit)

Knowing these numbers will help you decide which customer acquisition strategy is best for you and your business, and how many customers you’ll need to land to hit your financial goals!

How to find the right customer acquisition strategy for your product

With the costs of customer acquisition increasing year-on-year, it’s essential to define a strategy that’s both cost-effective and appealing to new customers.

It’s all about trial and error, working out the right blend of customer acquisition tools and tactics that work for your product. To succeed, you need to remain agile, set clear and measurable KPIs, and not be afraid to pivot if something’s not working.

If you’re still undecided on your customer acquisition tactics, here’s some pointers depending on your current market position:

If you’re completely new, remember that the best customer acquisition strategies start with thorough research to understand the customer and the market before diving into execution.

No matter where you are, tools like Planio are essential to keep you and your teams organized, aligned, and pulling towards the same customer acquisition goals!

Try Planio with your team, free for 30 days (no credit card required!)