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Find the right client acquisition strategy

Liscio Blog

Find the right client acquisition strategy for your firm.

client acquisition strategy
What is client acquisition?

There are many components to client acquisition. We’ll try to help you make sense of it all. A good place to start is to ask yourself how you bring in new customers. And how much does it cost you to bring in each new customer? There’s a good chance you’re engaged in some of the strategies and tactics that we’ll cover. Hopefully, we’ll lead you to new strategies and help you construct a sustainable client acquisition process.

We’ll start with a few marketing basics, discuss how new consumer trends are inflating customer acquisition cost, and take a look at some proven ways to acquire new customers. Hopefully, you’ll find a few strategies that’ll work for you.

 

Push v. Pull Marketing

There are two primary ways to grow your firm: push marketing and pull marketing.

  • Pull Marketing, or inbound marketing, is about attracting prospects to come to you. Getting existing clients to refer potential clients to you is a common form of pull marketing.
  • Push Marketing is actively promoting your services to prospects. Advertising is a form of push marketing.
  • Most firms start with pull marketing because it’s cheaper and can be made more effective by improving day-to-day business operations.


The Three Rs of Growth

If you’re just starting to rethink your client acquisition process, we always suggest starting with the three Rs of business growth: Referrals, Reviews, and Retention. We’ll touch on Referrals and Reviews here, and save customer retention for a separate post. Referrals and Reviews are more important than ever because of a recent shift in consumer behavior. The catalyst for this change is trust, or lack of.


As trust declines, customer acquisition cost rises.

Recent studies show that customers trust companies less than they ever have before.

81% trust friends + family over businesses

— HubSpot Research Trust Survey 2018

That means you selling yourself isn’t as effective (trustworthy) as it once was. More misses raises your customer acquisition cost. People are trusting companies less, while trusting their friends, family, colleagues, and even review sites more.


Referral is king.

We run a poll several times a year asking professional service firms how they acquire new clients. Each time, the number one answer is referrals, or word of mouth. When it comes to lead quality, referrals reign supreme because they come with trust baked in. But you can’t increase referrals without a good client experience (CX), and that includes an earnest commitment to customer service. (See our blog post “How to build a better client experience.”)

Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. Most successful firms have referral requests built in to their CX. Every time you receive positive feedback, ask for a referral.

 

Reviews really matter.

Online reviews have changed everything. The new formula is simple — the highest rated businesses get the most business. And online reviews are right behind referrals for influence and trustworthiness.

84% trust online reviews as much as they trust a referral from a friend.

91% of prospects read online reviews before making a purchasing decision.

— Bloem, C. “84 Percent of People Trust…” Inc., July 2017

Good places to be highly reviewed:

  • Yelp
  • Google My Business (“Get reviews on Google”)
  • Industry-specific review sites (Run a search for your profession and see which review sites are in the top 10).

Just like referrals, don’t hesitate to ask for an online review. If a client pays you a compliment in person, over the phone, or in chat, ask them to put that compliment online in a written review. A genuine, glowing review from a trusted influencer or firm of similar profile is way cheaper and can be just as effective as a TV spot. And don’t collapse when you get a bad review. Bad reviews are a great opportunity to show off the quality and responsiveness of your customer service. A prompt, thoughtful, and empathetic reply to a negative review can be just as influential as a positive review. Give potential customers a feel-good preview of how you would treat their complaints.

The beauty of Referral and Review strategies are that they don’t cost you anything. Building a CX clients love and training a top flight support team are operational costs, not marketing costs. The only cost is the amount of time and effort it takes you to ask for a Referral or Review. Once you’ve got the hang of Referral and Review, you’re ready to consider the next level of growth driving marketing efforts.


Local-Market Strategy

A good fit for firms that offer high-touch, in-person service.

 

Growth Tactics:

Local Print Advertising

Show the community you work and live in some love by speaking to them directly through popular hometown publications.


Advertising on
Google Business and Yelp

Easy to track ROI, toggle off and on accordingly.


Direct Mail

Especially effective when the services are tailored to the audience and a promotional discount is offered.


Online Reviews

(see above)


Vertical-Market Approach

A good fit for firms that have a lot of remote clients.

 

Growth Tactics:

Email Marketing

A proven, highly effective and straightforward approach with insightful, ROI friendly analytics.

  • If you don’t already have a database of prospects (especially those you’ve already contacted but haven’t closed), you’ll need to do some list building. A common list building technique is enticing prospects to provide their email address in exchange for insightful content or data.
  • With list in hand, you can create an email “drip” campaign that broadcasts your services on a steady basis. We’d recommend touching each prospect no more than once every few weeks unless you have a fresh, compelling message (be careful not to spam).
  • The key is to balance your near-term business growth objectives with the fact that your audience may need time to warm up to your offering. This will prove to be the case especially for innovative, new category products.
  • Also, be sure to check the spam laws in your jurisdiction. In the US, all firms (email senders) are required to offer an easy Opt-Out feature and provide their postal address. Violating spam regulations can be very expensive so please check before you send.

 

SEO  (Search Engine Optimization)

This strategy is all about identifying keywords you want to be known for, investing in those keywords, and building relevance and authority to improve your organic search ranking for those keywords. First, you have to decide which keywords you want to invest in, with the understanding that broader terms will be harder, more expensive to own. For example, if you’re selling ice cream cones, “dessert” and even “ice cream” may be too expensive. But, adding long-tail specificity — “ice cream cone” or “ice cream waffle cone” — can bring the price down.

Identifying keywords is the easy part. The hard work is building relevance and authority. That requires publishing relevant content (website landing pages, articles, blog posts), on a steady basis. The highest ranking sites are constantly publishing content to maintain their position as go-to resources. Building partnerships with influencers and relevant sites that have clout can also give you a significant lift. Experts agree that nothing improves your Google ranking more than backlinks (when someone else’s site publishes a link to your site) from relevant sites.

  • Moving up the search rankings is really hard to do. The way that search engines rank sites is constantly changing so you’ll want to stay up to date on how they’re keeping score today and adjust your approach accordingly. Google is known to frequently change things up to throw off those trying to game the search engine.
  • Start your SEO planning by first identifying which specific search terms you want to rank highly for. Don’t try to cover too many terms. And be more specific if broad terms are out of your price range.
  • Double check the terms you’re hoping to rank highly for against two things: 1) competitiveness and 2) volume. We use MOZ.com to assess both. Once you understand those factors you can re-prioritize your list.
  • Now you’re ready to create your web pages. Be sure to include the specific keywords, verbatim in your content. This includes header tags (H1, H2, and so on) and body copy.
  • Continue to add and refresh content. The highest ranked sites are always publishing. This strategy requires a year-round, long-term commitment to content creation.
  • Try to reach out and create partnerships with industry influencers and relevant websites. Just like Referrals and Reviews, having someone else besides you touting you is always good marketing. And experts will tell you nothing moves the search needle more than relevant backlinks.

 

SEM  (Search Engine Marketing)

This refers to purchasing ads for relevant keywords. Do you know those ads that always show up alongside your search results? They’re easy to spot with the “Ad” box to the left of their URLs. That’s SEM. This is a trickier strategy to master because the cost of purchasing ads declines as the firm’s SEO ranking for those keywords rises. Getting a good return on investment with SEM requires careful management. If the idea sounds too micro you can also hire a third-party to assist until you’ve learned the ropes. Another thing to consider with SEM is that some potential customers don’t appreciate paid ads cluttering their search queries, and they tend not to reward those ads with a click.

 

Retargeting

Also known as “remarketing,” retargeting is an online advertising technique that allows you to continue to advertise to visitors who’ve left your site. Consider that only 2% of the visitors to your site will convert on the first visit. Retargeting keeps your brand in front of the 98% who’ve bounced by showing your ads to them as they visit other sites. This is particularly valuable once you’re driving a fair amount of prospect traffic to your site.

 

What is client acquisition cost (CAC)?

Here’s an equation that’ll help you understand CAC:

CAC = (Marketing Cost per Prospect Generated + Sales Cost Per Prospect) / Close Rate %

Two things to note. First, Push Marketing carries two costs: the cost of the initiative plus the sales cost. And as you can see, Close Rate % is a huge factor. Since sales costs are typically very expensive, you’d rather have 1 prospect with a 50% Close Rate than 5 prospects with a 10% Close Rate. Second, Referrals and Reviews are great for smaller firms with tight budgets because they don’t cost anything (zero CAC!).

In conclusion, consider your promotional offers, keywords, etc. carefully. Stay focused on targeted customers and avoid generating inefficient leads. And remember that focusing on client experience, including customer service, early on will reduce your CAC and boost your client acquisition over the long haul.