How To Target Your Best Acquisition Channel

Throughout the lifecycle of a startup, how a company acquires users changes drastically. Early stage startups can utilize, and will benefit from, acquisition methods that don’t scale.

Using methods that are labor intensive, highly niche, and possibly expensive. Later in the growth cycle, that will change to methods that are scaleable by things like geography or industry but will have a certain saturation point. Late stage growth uses methods that are inexpensive on a per user basis, possibly covering a variety of demographics and personas.

No matter where a startup is currently in relation to growth, the list of acquisition channels remains the same. It’s the methods and possibilities within each channel that will differ.

How do you determine which method will work for you?

Use this framework to find your next successful acquisition channel.

Ideation – Gather up your team (growth or otherwise) for some quick-timeboxed brainstorming. List the 19 acquisition channels (here’s a link to a slideshare listing them –

Break them into groups of 4-5 channels and have your team write down ideas for each group, timebox each group at 3-4 minutes. After about 15 minutes you’ll have ideas for all 19 channels ready for prioritization.

The one thing your team will need to focus on is detail. Each idea should be specific, since broad ideas can be implemented in numerous ways.

Prioritize – Take ideas from each channel and give them priority scores based on three factors – cost, feasibility, and impact.

Use a rating system to combine those factors into a single score. Feasibility, for example, would have a score of 10 if it was highly likely to be accomplished by your team and a 5 if there’s hesitation in it being accomplished.

Cost ratings will be scored inversely from monetary cost – Give it a 10 if it’s free or a 0 if it’s out of your budget.

Impact is scored based on guesswork since our test will actually determine that number, but to start, rate it high if it seems like something that will work well, low if it appears far-fetched.

Once you have scores for all ideas, take the three highest scores from three different channels. If one channel has multiple high scores, take a second look and re-score them by direct comparison.

Test – Now that you have three specific ideas from three different acquisition channels, it’s time to create tests. When you’re creating tests, it’s important to determine what qualifies your idea as a success. What conversion percentages for each idea are required to move the needle for acquisition?

To properly validate these ideas, it’s also important to determine what amount of data coming in is enough to make an accurate assessment of performance.

A high-performance test = Speed x Accuracy x Valuable Data

Results – Are there any clear winners from your test? If so, it makes sense to try other tests within that channel to validate that you’ve found a lucrative acquisition channel. Take a look at the other ideas for that channel in relation to the winning test or create another ideation session for that particular channel.

If you didn’t find a winner in those first three test, no worries, you have 16 other channels to still test. Most of the time, the obvious channels will be the ones that work, but occasionally the answer will be a surprising new channel that none of your competitors are utilizing.

Creating tests in a way that use the least amount of resources means you can work through many different ideas quickly and inexpensively. That way you won’t put yourself in a situation where you’re committing to a particular channel simply because you’ve already invested time and resources in it.

Channels, and specific ideas within it, will change in effectiveness as your startup grows. Constantly testing new acquisition ideas will prevent your company from hitting a wall when one acquisition source loses its effectiveness.

Categories: Growth Marketing

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