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Feb 04, 2022

User Acquisition Strategy 101: Models, Funnel & Examples

Alberto Incisa

User acquisition strategy can sound complex, but in reality it’s as simple as this: getting users to sign up for your product.

And that competition for attention keeps getting fiercer year after year. So much so, that 49% of companies define customer acquisition as their primary objective

A user acquisition strategy is vital to get people to use your product without wasting your marketing budget: you need to find who are the persons showing interest in what you do, where they hang out, and how to reach them through convincing arguments. That’s what we are going to see in the following article using June, an analytics tool built on top of Segment.

So what actually is a customer acquisition strategy, and how can you measure your success? In this article we will give you the ultimate user acquisition strategy 101, with June, an analytics tool built on top of Segment.

What Is User Acquisition

Customer acquisition is the process of finding a systematic strategy to turn people into customers. A customer acquisition strategy works to identify potential customers, and then bring them through a series of marketing stages using a ‘funnel shoot’, to convert them into customers.

For businesses working on new user acquisition, they will be focusing on getting to know their target market, and testing various campaigns or strategies to gather data on which method is the most effective for their specific audience.

Why You Need A Customer Acquisition Strategy

A user acquisition strategy makes sure your marketing return-on-investment is positive. In the last six years, the average customer acquisition cost has increased by 60%: marketing is getting more and more expensive, and you don’t want to shoot your precious profits all over the place.

Creating a scalable business model―reaching product-market fit―is another important reason to pay attention to customer acquisition: there is no growth without new and returning customers.

Demonstrating your ability to attract and retain them is what makes a company healthy. Without it, forget about raising funds or getting acquired.

Finding a repeatable process and tooling to automate your analytics also frees you more time for other tasks while adding stability.If you know what your conversion rates are at every step of your acquisition funnel, you can easily manage your marketing spend.

How To Measure Customer Acquisition

Customer acquisition isn’t an exact science: it’s a series of experiments. If you’re not measuring what works and what doesn’t, you are doomed to repeat your mistakes.

And for that you can use the metric known as Customer Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition Cost ratio (CLV:CAC).

CAC stands for Customer Acquisition Cost and is calculated by dividing your marketing costs (MC) for a given campaign in whatever currency you use by the number of customers acquired (CA) during this campaign.

The average lifetime value of your customers (CLV) describes how much revenue they can bring you over the next few years if they don’t churn. It’s a bit more complex to calculate so bear with us for a minute.

Stripe―the payment processor―obtains the CLV by dividing your Average Revenue Per Subscription by your Subscription Churn Rate.

  • The average revenue per subscription is the division of your monthly recurring revenue by your number of active subscriptions.
  • Your churn rate is the number of churned subscriptions in the past month divided by the number of active subscriptions one month ago.

According to industry standards, growing Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses should aim for a CLV:CAC ratio of 3:1 or higher.

Mind that using this method to measure customer acquisition is among the best practices for middle and big size companies that already have a consistent acquisition "momentum".  Smaller companies should look for a less complex methodology. An approach is presented in the following sections.

Customer Acquisition Funnel: A User Acquisition (UA) Model

App user acquisition is traditionally visualized as a funnel: a series of steps your user goes through to complete an action. For example, your use acquisition strategy may include a ‘mailing list’ funnel which could have the following steps

  1. A potential customer is searching for information on Google
  2. They land on your blog, which provides them information on the topic, and also links away to a useful tool that you have created on your website
  3. The customer would like to use the tool, and signs up as a user to gain access to the tool

Having this model makes it easier to have an overview of how your UA campaigns come together and how your acquisition funnel marketing is executed.

The following chart by June displays a two-step funnel along with the corresponding conversion rates:

More generally, a user journey to acquisition is broken down into five steps.

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Exploration
  4. Conversion
  5. Retention

This funnel can also be explained as a ‘get keep grow funnel’, where awareness and engagement is about ‘getting’ the customer, converting the customer is where you ‘keep’ them and retention is your opportunity to ‘grow’ your relationship.

Understanding each step is how you create a repeatable UA marketing process.

Awareness: Getting on the Customers Radar

What is the awareness stage of the marketing funnel?

The average SaaS user takes 1 to 3 months to become a customer. A new user acquisition campaign really is about nurturing a relationship where you need to communicate value and build trust. At the awareness stage, all you need to worry about is getting noticed by your potential user, and piquing their interest.

What activity happens at the awareness stage?

Product-driven content marketing is the way to go about increasing awareness: search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, but also paid ads, social media, word-of-mouth, and public relations events. Finding the right channel for your business depends on your customers, as you will see in the section “Finding The Right Acquisition Channels”.

Content addressing product costs, features, and competitors subtly highlights your relevance to your customers’ needs. Promotional copy doesn’t work as well: you need your brand’s tone to remain objective to stay transparent when showing value, which is the basis for brand trust.
Insightful stories about your team, your brand's mission, and your customers are also important to arouse strong emotions: buyers make more decisions based on how they feel about you than what your product does.

Engagement: Getting People To Interact With You

What is the engagement stage of the marketing funnel?

This is the step where you further teach your leads about the industry you’re in and how your product is a resource addressing common pain points. As people regularly come back to consume your content, you become a trustworthy source of information that helps them do and be better.

What activity happens at the engagement stage?

You want to create a first engagement loop to get people to come back to you for more, using strategic call-to-actions (CTA): contact information, newsletter subscription, social network membership…

For your CTA to improve customer acquisition online, you will need to optimize your website as you learn more about your target audience: you need to improve your copy to make your customers the focus point.

Exploration: Getting People To Consider You

What is the exploration stage of the marketing funnel?

Once potential customers are aware they have a problem to solve and develop a buying intent, they will compare the different alternatives to pick the best one. The exploration stage is where you can offer up your service as one of their potential solutions.

What activity happens at the exploration stage?

First, optimize your pricing page to give a complete and transparent picture of your different pricing plans. Complex pricing will turn people off, so good communication is key.

A good pricing strategy is just as important to make sure it corresponds to your users’ needs. You can use your product’s power user curve to make decisions on your pricing model:

If your best customers use your product at work during the week, or everyday, charging per seat is worthwhile: your perceived value increases with usage, so it feels normal for people to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.

If engagement doesn’t correlate with delivered value on the other hand, consider usage-based or one-off pricing to reflect the reality of your product. A user is less likely to pay a monthly subscription if he/she only visits the app every once in a while.  

Consider adding a free trial, a Frequently Asked Questions section, a live chat, testimonials, and reviews to convince leads to convert. The exploration phase is really about demonstrating the value that your customers will gain from using your product while minimizing the risks involved for them.

Power users curve can be used for many other purposes, here is an article with some use cases.

Conversion: Getting People To Buy From You

What is the conversion stage of the marketing funnel?

There will be a day when someone becomes a paying customer and you will make your first dollar online. But it won’t stop here: you will have to constantly look for better ways to optimize the conversion rate at each step of your marketing funnel.

Conversion is defined by your business goals and your user acquisition strategy - it may be signing up for an email marketing newsletter, a free trial, or paying for an account.

Armed with the data of a complete user journey, you will be able to refine your strategy, diversify your approach, and find the best target markets to increase your signup conversion rates:

What activity happens at the conversion stage?

Acquisition funnel marketing at the conversion stage focuses on what your customers potential ‘no’s are, and answering them through your communication. By tracking your potential customers through the funnel and looking at which point they drop off, you may be able to understand what is turning them from a maybe into a no.

Users drop off right as they hit your website

Your page may not be engaging enough at first glance, so consider adding in some diagrams or product imagery, or refining your website UX and UI.

Users scroll through a few pages and then drop off

They may be looking for specific information that they didn’t feel they found. Check out what their initial search engine search was for, and compare whether your website was appropriately answering their query.

Users get to the sign up page and then drop off

Review your sign up form. Is it too long? Too complex? Are you asking for unnecessary personal data? All of these things can block a potential customer.


Retention: Getting People To Stay

What is the retention stage of the marketing funnel?

Account acquisition doesn’t stop at conversion. Considering that the cost of acquiring a new customer can be 5x higher than the cost of retaining an existing one, it’s easy to see why customer retention is a critical piece of a viable customer acquisition strategy.

Without retention, your churn rate increases and your CLV:CAC ratio suffers for it. Already-existing customers are also more likely to share your product with their friends and acquire new customers in your stead.

The following June chart indicates how long your users stick around:

You can also follow the rate at which people get hooked after getting started with your product and how to improve it with the Activation chart:

What activity happens at the retention stage?

Strong customer support is a great foundation for good retention - regular and personal contact with your customers can help to uncover and solve pain points before they drive your customers away.

A close relationship with your customers will also help to uncover what you can do to surprise and delight them. It could be discounts for loyal customers, or access to customer back-ends or portals that the general public can’t use, or maybe even just helpful tools or content sent out in a customer-only email.

Understand Who Your Customers Are

As we mentioned several times, the key to new user acquisition is knowing your customers. You can use the aforementioned power user curve, but also consult your list of active users in general:

With these elements in hand, all you have to do to improve your customer acquisition process is to understand who these people are, what they like and don’t like about your product, and which channels they used to learn about you

Finding The Right Acquisition Channels

As a rule of thumb, use the channels where your customers hang out, not the ones you are comfortable with - and it might not be the channels you expect! If you are ready to meet your users where they are then you may have to learn a new social network, or platform.

The effectiveness of your user acquisition channels is measured by its CLV:CAC ratio. Studies show that email marketing and organic search engine optimization present the highest marketing return-on-investment―respectively 12:1 and 7:1 on a 3 year average―but it depends on your audience, your mailing list, domain, and your business.

Obviously, you want to prioritize channels with the highest CLV:CAC ratio, but you also want to diversify your channel portfolio to attract new opportunities, with paid user acquisition or social acquisition for example. You can always reduce your CAC by finding newer, cheaper channels leveraging marketing trends―like Tiktok back when it was still a relatively new social network.


Measure Acquisition With June

That’s it for acquisition 101. In this article, you’ve gotten a glimpse of what acquisition marketing is about, as well as tools and strategies to help you get started.

But if it’s all a bit overwhelming still, don’t worry! That’s exactly why June exists - to give you simple, actionable insights, with no complex dashboards or confusing systems.

June offers analytics reports in just a few clicks, including acquisition analytics. All you have to do is to sign up using this form for free and connect your Segment account







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