The major cause of failure for most startups is most likely not finding the product/market fit. A close second would be when you find out that the cost of acquiring customers is a lot more than you expected, exceeding your capability of monetizing those customers.
How do you define acquisition?
The initial step of the funnel is the acquisition. It talks about visitors who come to your webpage and sign-up. These users that sign up are part of the acquisition process and activation, the next step, is when they actually begin to use your software. This blog focuses on the acquisition part, getting the people who visit your website to sign up.
What to keep in mind when charting a customer acquisition strategy?
Before starting with acquisition make sure you verify your value proposition. I repeat, do not begin your acquisition before finding the Product/Market Fit. Before starting to think about acquisition, get your product ready. Many entrepreneurs will advise you to start selling your solution as early as possible. We agree. Selling your solution will help you find your fit in the market. But creating a repeatable and scalable acquisition system in the initial days of your startup might harm your company as it limits your agility when it comes to pivoting. You will struggle to iterate easily when you pivot, after implementing your acquisition. Start with trying to satisfy few paying customers. Once you validate a fit between your customers and your product, then start developing & scaling your Acquisition.
Today’s SaaS marketers have a very broad communications toolkit including blogs, websites, ebooks, email, ads, videos, webinars, press releases, presentations and everything in between. It is easy to generate a lot of content. And even easier to generate a lot of the same content you find on many different sites. First, understand where you’re coming from. Understanding where your product comes in the spectrum is necessary to achieve SaaS customer alignment. Are you selling a commodity or a contraption? A commodity is generic product customers are familiar with. A contraption is a complex, innovative and not a well-understood product. If your SaaS product happens to be a commodity, ensure your content is easy to digest and is focused on pushing the user to the next step, the trial. Don’t try to educate them. Now, if you're working on a contraption, then the SaaS marketing will have to be a lot more sophisticated. Your goal must be to bring your user towards a commodity like understanding of your value. It’s a good thumb rule to almost always put your message in two words. However, contraptions cannot begin with that. Start with understanding your target customer, building their interest, then map out a journey which highlights their pain points, demonstrates the value your product brings and then lead them to an effortless understanding of your two words.
In real-world customer experience, find a way to show the value of your SaaS product. Ideally, your customer would sign up and be instantly gratified by the first thing he or she does with your SaaS product. Strive for that ideal. But offer a free trial. Let them start with a test drive. They will buy it if your product is good. And they won’t be taken aback later on even if it has some rough edges. This way you'll be a lot more aligned with your SaaS customer.
Too many entrepreneurs are focusing on visitors when it comes to acquisition. Visitors are merely a vanity metric. It does not say a lot. You might be looking at ten thousand visitors with a single conversion. Hundred visitors with twenty conversions is a lot healthier metric. Work towards the most targeted traffic possible, if you want your acquisition to be successful. Ideally, all your traffic would be a potential customer. But it doesn’t work that way. When you look at your metrics, look for usage & engagement metrics like the time on page, bounce rate, etc. to figure out if your traffic is truly targeted.
Startups are often lost when it comes to identifying their unique value proposition. Speaking of your product and building a story around it is essential to the success of your organization. You only have a couple of seconds at the most to catch their attention when people come to your website. So make sure you have a compelling and clear value proposition which resonates with your targeted customer. Talk to your users to understand what they truly value in your offer. Pay attention to the words they use to describe it. A message that is crafted to resonate with your audience is even better.
If you want to drive results in the acquisition space, you have to keep testing. Keep trying new tactics and techniques. Thoroughly measure the results of each experiment to understand what is working and what is not. Modify your strategies accordingly. The main issue with experimentation is figuring out how long to keep an experiment going. Make it short enough to ensure agility and lengthy enough to show the value or lack of it. Document your experiments and their results.
Young startups often only focus on a few channels and leave the rest for later. Relying only on SEO or social media can hurt your business. Google might come up with a new version of their algorithm tomorrow. Twitter might ban your account. In customer acquisition, diversifying is important when it comes to being successful. Keep trying out new channels as much as you can, and it will pay off. And once you know what works, go deep, not wide.
Focus on what matters if you don’t have a lot of resources, both financial and human. Meaning, if you have a specific channel with a conversion rate of 30%, focus on that. But this doesn't mean you stop experimenting. It means to focus your energy on what is driving results. Don’t spread yourself too thin, find the right balance, and this comes with its set of experimentation. Invest more time in acquiring customers once you get more resources, and work towards relying less on a small bunch of channels.
Optimism is often an entrepreneur’s Achilles heel. To be an entrepreneur requires great confidence and a firm belief in how much customers will come to love your product. However, this same quality can also lead entrepreneurs to believe that customers will beat a path to their door to purchase the product. This frequently causes them to underestimate the cost it will take to acquire customers grossly. Although it is extremely rare, we all hope for viral growth. A lot more common is acquiring users through certain steps like SEM, SEO, PR, direct sales, channel sales, Social Marketing, etc. which will all cost you remarkably. You can’t afford to ignore the price of customer acquisition. The earlier you work on this, the better, as many of the best techniques for customer acquisition require you to build your product differently.
Secondly, observe the path charted by successful startups. If you cannot prove the value of your service yet, don’t start acquiring users. Once you prove it, customers will flock towards you. You’ll witness the signs telling you to move on to the next stage. Listen to your customers. They have the power to make or break you. If they use your product frequently, there is a reason. Figure it out. People are always eager to discover new tools that can help them save time and money.