They say nothing worth having comes easy – and that definitely holds up when it comes to acquiring customers for your startup.
Customer acquisition doesn’t just happen. Customers don’t just fall into your lap, ready to hand over their money. A customer’s business isn’t something that is owed to you – it’s an honor that has to be earned.
In a lot of ways, says growth marketer and Ghost Influence Founder Brian Swichkow, customer acquisition is a lot like going on a date. “The internet is the bar. Your website is your house. Your email list is your bedroom. Customer acquisition is, well… you know,” he says.
Cue the Marvin Gaye song.
So what does it take to, ahem, close the deal with respect to acquiring customers? Brian joins us to explore just that, along with Zammo Digital Marketing Founder Aaron Zakowski and Credo Founder John Doherty.
The answer, it turns out, is pretty much the same as what your mom told you about getting a girl (or guy) to go out with you: humility, authenticity, and a whole lot of patience.
You wouldn’t ask someone to run off to Paris and elope with you on a first date, would you? So why would you ask a potential customer to go all-in on buying your product at the very first interaction they have with your brand?
In customer acquisition, as in dating, it’s good to start slow.
“In general, I think it works to start with a low-commitment offer where you’re not expecting people to commit too much on their first interaction,” says Aaron Zakowzski.
The old go-to first dates, like coffee or a movie, are go-tos for a reason. They keep the stakes low and give both parties the chance to bow out gracefully if things aren’t working out.
In customer acquisition, your “coffee date” is a small, low-commitment ask – something like downloading an eBook or inputting an email address. Like a coffee date, starting with small asks like these keeps the stakes low. It gives customers a chance to warm up to you and gives you a chance to stoke their interest before asking them to commit to something bigger. And best of all: it makes it easy for customers to say “yes.”
The most important thing about a first date with a customer acquisition target: don’t be pushy. “Forcing a first date to convert is not likely produce a positive outcome for either party,” observes Brian Swichkow. “Even if it results in a conversion, it’s unlikely to result in a relationship.”
Have you ever been on an online dating platform and gotten one of those super weird, super uncomfortable messages? You know, the kind that makes you feel like you need a shower after reading it?
Even if you haven’t (in which case, lucky you), you’ve probably found yourself thinking: who thinks it’s okay to send something like that? Don’t they know what it looks like to the person they’re sending it to?
Which brings us to the next thing that good customer acquisition and good dating have in common: self-awareness.
Actually, a better word for what we’re talking about might empathy. Good customer acquisition starts with understanding what your tactics look like to the person on the receiving end.
“When you’re developing an experience for your audience, take a moment to consider what else is going to be thrown at them,” says Brian Swichkow. Whether you’re building a Facebook ad or an e-blast or a banner ad on their favorite website: “Ask yourself how they feel when they log in to their social profiles or open their email. Try to understand their experience and develop your call-to-action from a place of empathy.”
Adds Aaron Zakowski, “Most people aren’t on Facebook – or any other place on the web, for that matter – to see your ads or offers. They’re there to see native content.”
Have humility about your ad’s place in the content hierarchy, and remember: your customer acquisition target isn’t lucky to have your attention; you’re lucky to have theirs.
In the dating world, there’s a peculiar sub-community known as pickup artists. Maybe you’ve heard of them – they’re the poor souls who think the only way to get someone to sleep with you is to basically trick them into it.
Some brands out there have a similar attitude about customer acquisition. They think they have to resort to all kinds of sneaky tactics and slick tricks in order to get customers to sign up for their product.
But the truth is you’re going to catch a lot more leads – and, what’s more, a lot better leads – just by being yourself.
Authenticity is an essential ingredient in the customer relationship, and it has to start from Day 1 – from the very first interaction a would-be customer has with your brand. “It has to be there from the beginning,” says John Doherty. “Are you setting their expectations for what they’ll be getting from you? Did you introduce yourself and your company? People connect with people, not brands.”
Brian Swichkow runs down a list of companies that have had incredible success in acquiring customers by putting it all out there and letting their authentic freak flag fly. The list includes names like Squatty Potty, Organic Valley, Dollar Shave Club, Cards Against Humanity, and Slack.
The moral of the story, he says? “Express your personality. Be weird. You’ll be surprised how many other weirdos want to hire you and buy from you.”
There you have it: the secret to closing the deal with your date… that is, customer acquisition target. Show that you have good intentions. Show that you have something to offer. Don’t be pushy. Don’t be gross. And give customers a chance to get to know you before you try to take things to the next level.
And if it doesn’t work out? Don’t worry – there are plenty of fish in the sea. You’ll find plenty of customers who will love you for exactly who you are.
Got a story about a time your customer acquisition tactics paid off – or didn’t? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Want to learn more on finding customers? See: How to find the first 100 customers for your startup, Customer Development 101: Finding & Attracting Your First Customers, and Traction.
Want to dive into how to better connect with your customers? See our piece entitled 4 Easy Ways To Truly Connect With Customers.
Looking for more tactical advice on your customer acquisition strategy? Head over to Clarity to post your question and get expert answers.