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Successful customer acquisition for startups

For many entrepreneurs attempting to monetize or build a business out of their products, what comes after the initial proof of concept is somewhat of a mystery. Most builders aren’t marketers and it can be hard to cut through the noise to determine what marketing tactics will successfully grow your business.

Outlining a simple growth framework can help teams—both large and small—focus on successful marketing tactics for their business in order to attract, convert, and retain new customers.

Where product-led growth and marketing meet

Product-led growth is a strategy centered primarily around the products a business has to offer. Organizations focused on product-led growth understand that the features of a good product sell themselves, and spend significant energy enhancing the customer experience and building features for the end-user. Product-led growth works. For example, product-led free trials are popular with both customers and businesses because they’re successful—businesses with great products gain more customers, and customers experience less risk in the purchasing process.

While product-led growth is critical for success, there’s an intersection between product and marketing that’s quite powerful. Product-led strategies and more traditional marketing tactics can complement each other and together have a significant impact on business goals.

Implementing a simplified growth framework

A simplified growth framework outlines how your organization will attract, convert, and retain and grow customers. Each goal has accompanying tactics for implementation. To decide which tactics to test, consider what makes the most sense for your business, goals, and budget.

Attracting customers outlines how customers will hear about you. Possible tactics included in the attract phase of the growth framework include paid digital advertising, including paid social media, paid search, display ads, and organic SEO strategies. Successful tactics can also include collaboration with partners, email marketing, event marketing, and even print or TV ads.

Converting customers focuses on the point of conversion for the customer you attracted. Much of this sits on your website. Optimize the user experience, including landing pages, the signup flow, and the onboarding flow. It’s important to create as little friction as possible for customers who may convert. After that initial purchase or sign up for a free trial, conversion tactics include onboarding materials and lifecycle emails to help customers through their initial experience with your product.

Retaining and growing customers includes strategies for keeping customers happy, making them advocates of your brand, and encouraging them to increase their usage of your products. Tactics for this goal can include email alerts when customers are reaching usage thresholds, customer events, blogs, and other educational content, and referral programs to incentivize advocacy.

There are several ways organizations address the growth framework, sometimes as steps or even as a loop, but the three main goals consistently remain the same. Within each goal, tactics can be added or removed based on the needs and budget of your business. This framework can scale as your organization grows, adding more tactics as it makes sense.

Three tips for implementing a growth framework

Once you have your framework for growth, you can start to implement the tactics outlined in the plan. The hardest part is getting started. Move quickly and find out what works by avoiding overthinking, starting at the top of the funnel, and never being afraid to experiment.

Don’t overthink your plans. Start with quick wins. Do be metrics-led, but don’t let metrics overwhelm your process. Define a few key metrics that matter the most to your business and measure the success of tactics against those goals. Once you have a baseline for what works and doesn’t work, you can continue to make educated guesses on new tactics to implement.

Start with the top of the funnel. It’s hard to grow your customer base if you’re not growing at the top of the funnel. It’s easiest to start at the top and then optimize everything else downstream.

Don’t be afraid to test—and fail. Experiment often. Learn what works and doesn’t work. Fail fast and pivot. If you’re discovering a lack of performance in one of the stages of growth, find new levers to pull. There’s a different set of levers for each goal that should be outlined in your growth framework. Consider the time to value of each tactic and focus on the things you can do that get the most value for the least amount of effort.

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DigitialOcean supports builders of all kinds through our global startup program, Hatch. Developers can also build and grow with simple infrastructure solutions like Droplets and App Platform.  To sign up for a DigitalOcean account, click here.

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