Here is an age-long question: ‘How can you acquire more customers?’
The root of customer acquisition is an innate skill for humans. People recognize that they are dictated by society, so convincing others to join their cause can come as natural as breathing. The same goes for selling, especially to new customers.
That said, professionally making customer acquisition is an entirely different beast to tackle, let alone if one needs to be an expert in the field. But it’s not impossible. Everywhere, and at any time of the day, there are people who are in constant search for something to buy to help improve their lives. The implication is that there are always opportunities available for those who know how to find them.
Before we continue, let’s set some ground rules so you’ll know what to expect before reading on. These four points on where you can’t learn customer acquisition is according to Brian Balfour, formerly the vice president of growth at HubSpot.
First point: There is no sure-fire source to know everything you’ll need to learn when it comes to customer acquisition. Stop searching for something which does not exist! Instead, focus on the things you can learn through actually putting in work.
Second point: ‘You will not learn digital marketing customer acquisition in college,’ according to Balfour. Digital marketing has tends to shift from one trend to another, making it very difficult to predict. Applying knowledge into textbooks becomes redundant as the trends may change in an instant. What may be valuable now may not be significant in a few days. Of course, universities and colleges can offer foundational things you can learn, but these are readily available online at lower prices.
‘Going to college doesn’t hurt,’ Balfour said. ‘But our education system, plain and simple, is not teaching the things to make people productive in the work environment,’ he added. This is why it’s vital to take things to practice and learn by experiencing customer acquisition efforts with your own hands. You must fill the gap between what you learn in college and the skills to make you productive in the world environment.
Third point: There’s no amount of books and blog posts that can make you into a successful customer acquisition expert. You will have to get your hands dirty to get to that point. You can spend years collecting and reading books and still not get the experience of applying such knowledge into practice. Do some trial and error. They say that mistakes are the best teachers, and it applies here as well.
Fourth point: ‘Certifications are bullshit,’ yes, Balfour said that. Why? Because there are probably thousands of websites offering courses with a promise of ‘certification after completion’ and these bring little to no value at all. It’s their marketing campaign to get people to sign up for their premium services.
According to Balfour, ‘The best employers in today’s market don’t give a crap about these certifications.’ And it’s true. It’s the same as having your height and weight details on your resume. ‘They want to see examples of what you have done which is why my point below about getting something to experiment with is so important,’ he added.
Now let’s put that aside and get to our main point. What makes a successful customer acquisition expert, and how can you become one?
The first step is shaping yourself like a ‘T’. No, I’m not telling you to morph physically, but transform your expertise and choose your specialisation based on your skills and passion.
To simplify, there are three layers in the t-shaped structure according to Balfour:
These are non-marketing specific subjects that provide a base to build from. Subjects in the base layer are used throughout the channels in the next two layers.
These are marketing subjects you should know that are used across almost any channel you use.
The third layer is where you will need to make some choices. Channels are all the different ways you can reach your audience. It is near impossible to become an expert in all of the online marketing channels AND stay up to date on the latest changes. Each channel is changing unbelievably fast in addition to new ones emerging.
If you’re someone who loves to learn, study, or plan your reading, then you must structure your knowledge acquisition which will help you shape yourself like a ‘T’. See the diagram below:
In shaping yourself into a ‘T’, you must have a broad set of fundamental skills (first level) which will serve as your foundation. It must be supportive of your chosen specialisation because if not, this strategy will not work. Say, as your base layer, you chose craftsmanship, wood-working, and welding; then you decided to become a pastry chef. It doesn’t add up, does it?
After setting a foundation, choose to go deep on a specific channel that will become your expertise. It’s totally up to you which to go deep into, but it’s best to look at your needs, passion, and dominant skills when you’re deciding.
Needs and skills are always secondary to passion. You can always learn skills through lessons and experience; needs change over time, but passion is innate. Imagine choosing a channel you are not passionate about or have very little interest in. Even if you’re really good at that profession, having to work in that environment every day without passion will feel like living in prison.
Another thing to consider is your willingness to take on an emerging channel. If you’re only starting now with your career, you must have several millions of people ahead of you in skill and experience. Choosing a track that is not as congested will give you a slight advantage in getting on par with the leaders in a shorter amount of time. In emerging channels, there should also be a high demand for your expertise and at the same time, less supply because of little competition. This is a perfect environment for start-ups.
You can also combine two channels to go deep into. One proven track which is guaranteed to always have a demand, like Search Engine Optimisation and Content Marketing; the other an emerging channel like Mobile Marketing. The key here is to make sure you do well in the proven channel, so it balances the deficiencies of your emerging channel.
If your proven channel is Content Marketing, you must keep a consistent style of messaging, create valuable content to your audience, and make it relevant to your business interests. It will give you higher credibility and catch the attention of your prospects.
After you’ve successfully transformed your expertise into a ‘T’ shape, you’ll have an easier time marketing yourself as an expert on a specific channel. Niche customers who are in need will actively seek you out because of your skills. When you prove to be the expert that you are and satisfy your clients, they will start looking at your foundational skills and ask whether you are capable of other tasks. If it’s well within your abilities, you can offer it as additional work, which translates to acquiring more customers.
Soon you’ll find yourself too busy and might even get overwhelmed! The implication is a sign that you’ll need to grow your business. Don’t worry. You can grow your company with a 7-step strategic approach to marketing communication.