B2B, as an industry, is becoming increasingly competitive, and getting leads and traffic, let alone acquiring more customers, is not as straightforward as before.
When asked about the number 1 challenge they expect to face in 2023, B2B marketers reported traffic and lead generation as their main concern and focus. This highlights how significant having an effective customer acquisition strategy in place.
To help you, we have put together 5 customer acquisition methods that you can incorporate to acquire new customers for your business. We also provided case studies of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies.
Customer Acquisition VS Lead Generation: Aren’t they the same?
Before jumping to the tactics, let’s first establish what customer acquisition refers to. For one, what is customer acquisition, and how does it differ from lead generation?
Many marketers, even seasoned ones, use the two interchangeably but are slightly different yet operate the same.
When we say Lead generation, we refer to getting people to inquire about your brand by piquing their interest. Interested people are called leads or prospects but are not yet your customers.
In the context of B2B, attracting leads is mostly done by creating free resources, such as white papers and ebooks, in exchange for their information. Basically, you’re only asking them to place their foot on the doorstep.
On the other hand, customer acquisition is about taking those leads and turning them into actual, paying customers. This involves following up with leads, nurturing them, and convincing them to avail of your service.
So in the same analogy, if generating leads gets people to the doorstep, acquiring customers welcomes them inside your brand, gives them a tour, and eventually converts them into paying customers.
4 Key Differences Between Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition
To give you a clearer idea, here are the four key elements that differentiate the two:
The main objective of lead generation is, from the term itself, “generate leads.” It aims to attract and capture the customers’ interest, typically by offering something of value such as a gated whitepaper, free trials, and exclusive content, in exchange for their contact details.
Customer acquisition, on the other hand, focuses on converting leads into paying customers through a high-level approach of nurturing them, keeping them engaged, and eventually offering your product or service, then, the cycle of nurturing-engagement-offer repeats.
Lead generation strategies typically involve creating content, optimizing landing pages, running targeted ads, and using social media to generate leads. The focus is building awareness, driving traffic, and capturing leads through various touchpoints.
Meanwhile, customer acquisition prioritizes sales outreach, upselling, cross-selling, and retention campaigns, which involve following up on leads, creating personalized offers, and building loyalty programs.
Lead generation metrics include the number of leads generated, conversion rates, cost per lead, and lead quality. These metrics assess the effectiveness of the lead generation campaigns and how well the brand is able to attract and capture leads.
For customer acquisition, the assigned metrics would be customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), retention rate, and revenue rate. These metrics determine the overall profitability of the customer acquisition strategy based on how much sales and revenue it generated.
Lead generation is typically quicker than customer acquisition. Once a lead generation strategy is in place, it only takes one social media post or email blast to generate leads. However, the extent of how long a lead gen campaign can get depend on how selective you want to be with your leads, how much money you’re willing to shell out, and what channel you’re utilizing.
Customer acquisition is typically a longer-term strategy to build a pipeline of potential customers. It can take weeks or even months to nurture leads before they are ready to become paying customers. The timeframe for customer acquisition can vary depending on the product or service being sold and the complexity of the sales process.
How Important is Customer Acquisition (and Retention) in B2B?
The success and sustainability of your business lie in your ability to acquire new customers and expand your client base. However, many assume B2B customer acquisition stops at the initial purchase, but actually, it also means keeping them.
Most experts and leaders split customer acquisition and retention into two but we believe they are practically the same. We believe that this process doesn’t end with a one-time deal, it should be designed to keep them long-term.
This is because existing customers cost 5x less than getting new ones, with a staggering 70% increase in profitability with just as little as a 5% boost in customer retention.
With every new customer, comes the opportunity for increased revenue, brand recognition, and word-of-mouth marketing. Retaining those loyal customers, through consistent service and engagement will lead to a greater cumulative effect on your success.
A B2B customer acquisition process is more than just adding names to a mailing list; it’s about building relationships and fostering trust between the business and its potential clients.
What Makes a Good Customer Acquisition Strategy Great?
Developing a customer acquisition strategy for B2B requires a thoughtful approach and consideration of various factors. Here are three primary factors that we think make up a great CAS strategy:
Customer Acquisition Channel:
One common mistake of any marketing experts is thinking that all marketing channels are the same. Just because certain channels have worked for leading brands in your industry, doesn't mean that it will work for you too.
The effectiveness of your strategy relies on how well you did your research, how well you know your customers, and how they behave in these channels.
Here are the different customer acquisition channels you can explore:
- Social media marketing: Social media is one of the most effective customer acquisition channels especially for businesses that target younger, social-savvy audiences. It can also be particularly effective for B2C businesses, such as e-commerce stores, beauty and fashion brands, and restaurants. However, it may not be as effective for B2B businesses or industries that have more niche audiences.
- PPC campaigns: Paid advertising can be effective for businesses in any industry, particularly those with a high customer lifetime value (CLV)). It can be particularly effective for B2B businesses looking to target specific job titles or industries. However, it can be expensive and may not be sustainable for all businesses long term.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO can be effective for businesses in any industry, particularly those with a high volume of online searches for their products or services. It can be particularly effective for local businesses, as it can help them appear in local search results. However, it can be a long-term strategy and may not provide immediate results.
- Content marketing: Content marketing can be effective for businesses in any industry, particularly those that have a lot of educational or informative content to share. It can be particularly effective for B2B businesses, as it can help them establish thought leadership and generate leads. However, it requires a lot of effort and resources to create high-quality content.
- Email marketing: Email marketing can be effective for businesses in any industry, particularly those with a loyal customer base or repeat customers. It can be particularly effective for e-commerce businesses, as it can help them promote products and drive sales. However, it requires building and maintaining a quality email list, and can be challenging to stand out in crowded inboxes.
Engagement helps brands to create and sustain relationships with their customers. From providing helpful content, and replying to comments and feedback, to personalized messaging, consistently engaging with customers build trust and loyalty.
For new customers and prospects, engagement means sending follow-ups after signing up or sending an after-purchase survey to measure satisfaction. For your current customers, this might involve anything from incentives or discounts to personalized messages.
You need to make sure that you provide a steady stream of communication with your prospects and customers so they can stay up-to-date on all the updates about your brand.
The last important factor in customer acquisition is creating a community. This essentially creates a loop on how much they are willing to attach themselves to your brand. It creates a space for customers to connect with each other, discuss your brand and offerings, and contribute content, reviews, and feedback.
This community can then be used as an avenue to launch campaigns or promote new products and services. Having an engaged community displays your brand's authenticity that would naturally new customers and retain your client base depending on how good you maintain the community.
How to Craft a Winning B2B Customer Acquisition Strategy
Now that we have covered some grounds on the factors that make a successful customer acquisition strategy, let’s look at how you can make a customer acquisition plan in action.
1. Identify Your Ideal Customers
Identify the customers that fit your bill. The objective of acquiring potential customers is not just to get anyone, but to get those who suit your preferences—your perfect customers. But, how do you determine your ideal customers? The answer heavily lies in your ability to research your target market and identify their pain points, interests, and needs.
Here’s how you can use this strategy:
- Know Your Unique Selling Point: Before you can attract your ideal audience, you must first identify why they would look for and be interested in what your brand brings. Know your USP and highlight it when engaging potential customers.
- Conduct Market Research: Research your target market and understand their behavior to a deeper level. Use various platforms such as social media and online forums, and try to gain an understanding of their pain points, interests, and needs.
- Create Customer Personas: Based on your research, create a fictional representation of your ideal customers. Use this almost religiously like a manual and refer to it each time you are creating any marketing content or strategies.
- Segment Your Audience: Sometimes brands will have different types of audience yet many business leaders make the mistake of pushing out the same content for the two and wonder why their initiatives are not effective. Divide your audience into groups based on similarities in their needs, interests, and behaviors. This will help you create more targeted content and reduce the amount of time you spend on creating irrelevant campaigns.
- Create Targeted Campaigns: Develop marketing campaigns that resonate with each customer segment. Use language, images, and messaging that speaks directly to their unique needs and preferences.
Case Study: Canva
Everybody in the marketing industry has probably known and used Canva in their marketing campaigns, and there’s really no surprise why. They understand their target market well.
Before their debut, graphic design is almost exclusive to skilled professionals or companies that have larger budgets for a dedicated graphic designer. This is where Canva kicked in.
Their Australian startup targeted people who wanted to create expert-quality graphics but didn’t have much technical background in graphic design. Canva made it easy for this audience to create designs using their platform, which included a variety of templates, images, and design tools.
2. Implement Gated Content
Gated content is one of the most common ways to capture leads and acquire customers in a B2B scene. In exchange for their contact information, they are getting high-level content for free. This content could be anything from whitepapers, ebooks, and case studies, but could also be webinars, workshops, and free trials,
However, one thing to bear in mind is that gated content is not just any kind of writing output. The quality of the content should be of high caliber and should be valuable for prospects to demand.
Here’s how you can use this strategy:
- Identify Your Best Content: Determine which pieces of content will generate the most engagement and interest from your audience. This content could be an exclusive data analysis of your brand or the industry, a series of templates that are well-put together, or case studies of successful projects.
- Decide on the Type of Gate: Determine what type of gate you want to use. This could be a lead form, a free trial subscription, exclusive workshops, and so on.
- Create a Landing Page: This is the venue where you will be directing your visitors to access the exclusive content. Make sure that this page is well-designed and well-written, with an easy-to-navigate interface and minimal distractions.
- Promote Your Gated Content: Now that you have created a landing page, you can now promote your gated content across your digital channels such as email and social media. You can also use paid advertising to amplify the reach of your promotions.
Case Study: Adobe
Adobe, the software giant that provides digital media and marketing solutions, is known for its gated content. In exchange for contact information, they give prospects a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud on their website.
It’s a win-win situation for both parties—Adobe gets potential leads and the prospect gets to experience their software for free. Not only do prospective customers get to experience Adobe’s digital products, but they also get familiar with how to use them when they are ready to purchase the full version or subscribe.
3. Understand Your Social Channel
Social media marketing is a powerful tool for reaching potential customers and building relationships with existing ones—IF you know your social channel very well.
Many brands think every social media platform is the same but in reality, most are clueless. Most brands use Tiktok, for example, with traditional, commercial-like marketing tactics that are pushy and uninteresting, when in fact it’s more suitable for creative, entertaining, and sometimes, “nonsensical” content.
Here’s how you can use this strategy:
- Understand Your Chosen Channels Fully: Determine which social channels your target audience is using most frequently and create content based on how people behave on those channels. Don’t be afraid being stepping out of your comfort zone and joining trends on those platforms.
- Develop a Content Strategy: Develop a social media content calendar that focuses on the types of content that resonate with your audience. This should include both organic and paid content, and be consistent with your brand messaging.
- Analyze Your Performance: Use social media analytics tools to track engagement, reach, and other metrics relevant to your goal. This will help you understand the effectiveness of your social media campaigns and make adjustments accordingly.
- Engage with Your Audience: Respond to comments, questions, and messages in a timely manner and build relationships with your audience. Engagement is one of the most important parts of social media success and can help you build a strong following over time.
Case Study: Zoom
As a B2B company, it’s difficult to strike the balance between being serious and being loco. But Zoom has mastered the game by combining educational stuff with fun, creative content.
The video conferencing brand Zoom is a great example of a company that knows how to use social media correctly. On their Tiktok profile, the marketing team behind the brand often posts funny memes and skits related to the brand—which naturally reach a wider audience.
4. Leverage User Generated Content (UGC)
What makes UGCs a powerful marketing tool is it adds authenticity to your brand. It allows new customers to see real-life experiences from people who already have used your product and showcases your appreciation to your existing users.
By using UGC, you’re turning existing customers into brand advocates, which can help you draw in new customers.
- Encourage UGC: Develop campaigns that encourage your audience to share photos, videos, and other types of content related to your brand. You can also reward users for sharing their UGC with you by providing discounts or exclusive offers, but the more organic it is, the better.
- Curate Content: Make sure you curate the content you receive from users and make sure it's relevant to your brand. You want to ensure that the content is on-brand and accurately reflects the values of your company.
- Share, Recognize, and Give Credit: The whole point of UGC campaigns is to recognize your community and make them feel valued in the most authentic way you can possible do. Share the content with your followers and make sure to give credit.
Behance is a site where creators can present their work, and is professionally used to present portfolios. People can upload their own art and blueprints to the site and provide feedback on each other’s creations.
With the influx of digital arts and design from various talented people, Behance leverages them to advertise its platform. Moreover, Behance regularly initiates hashtag campaigns such as #artistspotlight, motivating users to display their own artwork or designs and be featured on their platform.
Just simply look at their Instagram account and you can see how effective is in leveraging user-generated content to promote their brand.
5. Implement Thought Leadership
Creating authoritative content is an effective means of endorsing your brand and building your reputation as an authority in your selected niche. This is highly popular in B2B where demonstrating your expertise has a direct impact in converting your leads.
- Create High-Quality Content: Focus on creating content that provides helpful information and insights. If possible, your insights should be original and from your personal expertise and experience. This will show that you're a credible source of information and position you as an authority in your field.
- Engage with Your Industry: Find ways to engage with your industry by sharing relevant content, participating in discussions, and networking with other influencers. This will help you gain visibility and credibility within the community and show that you're an expert in your field.
- Promote Your Content: Make sure to promote your content across multiple platforms so it gets seen by a wider audience. Strive to create outputs that are so impactful, they are naturally sharable.
Salesforce is a remarkable illustration of how to employ authoritative content marketing strategy in B2B. They craft highly informative and enlightening articles that equip potential clients with invaluable expertise on current trends, industry developments, pointers, and more.
Aside from that, they also host a podcast series The Salesforce Admins Podcast that features conversations with business specialists and leaders in the field. This podcast series further reinforces Salesforce’s standing as a front-runner in the B2B arena while also imparting customers with valuable insights and enticing them to “jump” into the conversation with them.
Evaluating Your Customer Acquisition Process
You finally have established a strategy for acquiring customers, now what?
It's time to evaluate your customer acquisition strategy. This will enable you to pinpoint what is yielding positive outcomes and what is not, allowing you to make adjustments and refine it even further.
To assess your customer acquisition efforts, here are a few vital metrics that you can use:
Conversion rate is one of, if not the most, significant indicator of the performance of your customer acquisition strategy. This B2B metric evaluates the percentage of your website visitors who take desired actions like subscribing to newsletters or filling out lead forms.
To give you a minimum benchmark, the average conversion rate is at around 2-5%, with 10% being the ideal target. However, this may vary depending on your niche or industry.
To increase your conversion rate, you need to identify any potential roadblocks for your visitors to take action. Maybe your lead forms require so many lead forms to fill or your subscription process is complicated and time-consuming.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
This metric denotes the expenses incurred in acquiring a new customer. It is computed by dividing the total cost of your marketing spend by the number of new clients acquired during a given period.
Calculating CAC accurately requires tracking all costs associated with a customer acquisition strategy, both direct and indirect. Direct costs comprise expenses like advertising, while indirect costs can include salaries, overhead, and other expenses that are not directly related to customer acquisition.
After calculating your CAC, you can utilize this metric to optimize your marketing and sales strategies. For instance, if you discover that your CAC is excessive, you can concentrate on enhancing the quality of your leads instead.
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
Finally, this metric gauges the entire value a customer contributes to your business throughout their journey.
Calculating LTV measures the average revenue a potential customer will generate throughout their relationship with your business and subtracts the cost of acquiring and servicing that customer. The resulting figure represents the profit that you can anticipate from that customer throughout their lifetime.
Using LTV provides you with business insights that will help you make informed decisions about how much you should allocate for customer acquisition and retention. For example, if you realize that your LTV exceeds your CAC, you may want to invest more in customer acquisition to expand your business. Conversely, if your LTV is lower than your CAC, you may want to focus on enhancing customer retention to boost profitability.
Acquiring clients is a vital component of your B2B enterprise, and being aware of the techniques and significant indicators related to it can support you in refining your tactics and enhancing your benefits.
By prioritizing the delivery of value and the development of trust with your patrons, you can amplify client retention and generate greater income in the extended run.
Don’t hesitate to undertake new methods and explore alternatives. Focus on knowing your audience on a deeper level, providing them with valuable content, and reinforcing the community you build around them so that you can retain them and acquire potential customers.