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Solving the Customer Acquisition Conundrum

12 Sep 2019 Anthony Vespucci

in Digital, Strategy, Data

After conducting a poll of CMOs, Nielsen wrote, “93% of survey respondents ranked new customer acquisition as “very” or “extremely” important. In fact, customer acquisition was the most unanimously high ranked item in [the report].” At Stella Rising, I work across a portfolio of brands with the core objectives of e-commerce sales growth or lead gen acquisition. Either goal is only achieved through complete immersion in the brand’s business and data infrastructure. Exposed to a breadth of clients and businesses over the course of my career, I’ve found a sweet spot in understanding how and why customer acquisition can be challenging. Conversion strategies can differ between DTC brands and larger, foundational companies, but brands of all sizes can benefit from reassessing their approach. Following is how I initially address customer acquisition and drive growth for my clients.


The first key to acquisition is a deep, holistic understanding of your current consumer. This can surprise people, leading them to ask: “I’ve already converted my existing consumers, so why are they critical to finding and converting new customers?” Understanding the existing layer of your core consumer is important so that new consumer profiles can be crafted intelligently, while a corresponding halo can be built to silo those existing consumers from the respective acquisition strategies. This understanding of the existing customer segment is essential for items such as lookalike targeting, a strategy that has had valuable applications across social and, more recently, through search engine marketing as well. Lookalike targeting demands that we consider the psychological and demographic makeup of similar-minded individuals. Applying the logic of current consumers—and modeling off our knowledge of them—allows us to find new customers digitally.


The biggest misconception I find in talking with brands is that acquisition channels (Facebook, Google, etc.) cannot be scaled effectively. They can, but they must be done so with a carefully expanded-upon approach over time. As someone who has become data-obsessed, I stress that all data must be combed through and actively analyzed in as real-time a manner as possible. An expert understanding of data highlights the direct impact of the scaling of channels, while also factoring in their impact on existing programs. This combination allows us to unlock where the budget should truly be utilized; any other method spends dollars on a whim. My data-obsessed team marries this approach by leveraging best-in-class tools to properly digest and analyze data, allowing us to pull new prospects into an ecosystem and then transition them down the funnel through multi-channel digital campaigns. New customers will never be acquired through an over-reliance on third-party data; first- and third-party data must be used intelligently, and together.


Within the customer-acquisition conversation, the term “zero-based budget” is gaining favor. While we always start campaigns with moderate budgets, once enough data has been accrued there can be a heightened confidence that those campaigns will deliver a consistent ROI. A zero-based budget is when a brand decides that as long as a certain ROI is maintained, then the budget can be scaled to any amount. Based on the data, we will be able to predict how many new customers are likely to convert. This, in turn, becomes the holy grail for many brands and where we have driven true scale in customer acquisition while not losing sight of the profitability of our efforts. Delivering a combination of efficiencies while also scaling acquisition is no easy task. However, because of our data-addicted team, we have delivered strong acquisition efforts to a roster of excellent brands. This is an area where we truly excel.


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