User acquisition can seem like a daunting task; heck, even the name is daunting. All “user acquisition” really means, though, is getting people to use your product. A huge part of this is helping potential users find your product. At Speek, we knew that it takes hard work to help people know that we are making conference calls awesome. This is where “user acquisition” comes in.
Basically, it all comes down to the sad truth that the movie Field of Dreams didn’t tell us the whole story: if you build it, and you get the word out about it, then they will come.
Some tips from the trenches:
1. Be scientific.
No matter who I’m working for, I help prioritize being a “data-driven company”; in every aspect of our decision-making, we want to rely on actual data and analysis, rather than vague notions of what people might want, or worse, what any competitors are doing. With user acquisition, you want to be very “Darwinian” in your approach. We look at cost per acquisition, or CPA, i.e. the cost of each acquisition channel (e.g. paid advertising through Google AdWords) versus how many users that channel successfully brings in. For example, if you pay $3/click on AdWords, and 5% of those clicks convert into users (through registration, purchase, subscription, etc.) then your CPA for that channel is $60: it takes $60 for you to get one user. Working with hard numbers like this goes a long way toward demystifying the whole process.
2. Cast a broad net, then narrow it down.
When trying to minimize your CPA (i.e. lower the cost per acquired user), you want to try as many channels as you can reasonably afford (in time and energy as well as dinero), and then scale individual channels up or down (or phase some out entirely if the CPA is too high), based on your budget and goals. In B2B, I’ve see some folks have success with paid lead sites, for example. Niche sites like Appterra and getapp.com help you target audiences you think are particularly suited to your product, while Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads are all good general resources.
User acquisition isn’t only about looking for new channels to reach potential users; it’s also about optimizing your presence on channels you’re already using. I’ve written before about optimizing performance in Apple’s App Store – though take it with a grain of salt now that it’s several years old – and also keep in mind that A/B testing should most definitely be applied to user acquisition; I love Optimizely, whose name says it all.
4. Make app stores your friend.
Basically, optimizing your app store presence for user acquisition amounts to making sure you are taking full advantage of your title and keywords. In addition to our own work on this at Speek, we use Sensor Tower, and it has been a godsend, allowing us to track performance and fine-tune our approach.
Once you are happy with where you are ranking (though you could always be happier!) make sure that those downloads are converting into actual user acquisition (purchase, registration, etc.). If not, the middle steps (e.g. a welcome screen, a tutorial…) might need some tweaking.
5. Organic SEO is the best.
Speaking of keywords, you are probably familiar with the idea of “Search Engine Optimization”, or SEO, but just in case: SEO is the simple idea that you want to be as attractive to search engines as possible, so that you will rank as high as possible when people search for a keyword related to your product. There are a lot of shady ways to do this which used to run rampant around the Internet, but now that Google has basically taken over the universe, in part by constantly refining their search algorithms, what you are going for is optimizing your organic search: if spammy SEO is the equivalent of cheating on a test, than organic SEO is actually studying, and maybe bringing your teacher that apple, you know, just in case.
Basically, Google likes it when legit sites link to your web page. For example, Speek wants as many outside sites as possible linking to www.speek.com. This tells Google that Speek is the most relevant search result anytime someone searches any variation of the term “conference call”. Tactically, we do this through PR and Press mentions, guest posting on third-party blogs, sites and publications (again, these must be legit articles: don’t be spammy, or Google will find you and hunt you down like the dog that you are) and getting people to link to the Speek blog. For a good example of somebody doing SEO the wrong way, check out this great article about RapGenius getting penalized recently by google.
I also recommend the ClickMinded SEO course (update for 2016 – Clickminded is still awesome!) if you’re looking for way more information than I can get into here.
6. Nothing beats word-of-mouth.
You should absolutely take advantage of tools from A/B testing to organic SEO, but at the end of the day, there will not be a single bigger boost to your user acquisition than positive word-of-mouth – even though struggling to measure this kills me. And the best way to get this is simply to have a superior product. No matter how many brilliant marketing strategies you embark on, if at the end of the day they are leading the way to a crappy product, all of your work was basically for naught: not only will users be trumpeting the glories of your company to their friends, but they will feel cheated (because, well, they kind of were) and they will instead tell people how much you suck, which is not what you are going for.
So besides not sucking, what else can you do? First think about whether there are any aspects of your product that lead naturally to word-of-mouth. For example, when a Speek user organizes a call, all the participants on the call are introduced to Speek. There is an implicit recommendation in choosing our service over another, and if the participants’ experiences are pleasant ones, they are much more likely to reach for Speek the next time they are the ones doing the calling.
We also try to maintain an active presence in the tech world, not only with guest posts and PR releases (as above) but in social media and participation in press conferences. Your co-founders also serve as de facto ambassadors of the company every time they head to an event, even when it results in a butt tattoo.
Correction: especially when it results in a butt tattoo.