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Customer acquisition: how to attract and win new customers

You can’t have a stable, profitable business without a steady stream of new customers. 

Where customer acquisition ranks on your list of priorities can define how much—and how fast—your company grows. But for many business owners, gaining new customers can feel like a game of chance. And maintaining a consistent and effective customer acquisition rate is easier said than done.

Last updated

16 Jun 2023

Reading time

9 min


Acquiring customers is about understanding how people discover your brand and why they buy from you so you can improve the customer journey. 

This guide helps you understand customer acquisition and why it’s essential for your business and audience. Over the next few chapters, we dive into how to systematically acquire new customers, keep track of what you’re spending, and equip your team to succeed.

Attract and retain new customers

Hotjar puts your customers' needs and wants in the spotlight, setting you up for improved acquisition and retention.

What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition is the process of attracting, engaging, and converting prospective customers into paying ones to expand your business's customer base.

Customer acquisition happens in stages, often visualized as a customer acquisition funnel, covering the entire customer journey—from the moment a person becomes aware of your business online to when they finally convert.

The main goal of customer acquisition is to find a systematic and sustainable way to attract people to your business and persuade them to take action—for example, to make a purchase or sign up for a paid subscription. This involves different teams, channels, and strategies, such as:

Why is acquiring customers important?

Whether you’re a new business trying to win over your first customer or a household name acquiring your 10,000th, customer acquisition is always relevant. 

Maintaining a sustainable flow of new customers allows you to:

  • Grow your business by expanding your customer base and increasing brand awareness

  • Gain revenue to meet costs, pay employees, and reinvest in your company

  • Show evidence of traction, steady growth, and success for outside parties such as investors, partners, and influencers

Being able to continually drive new business is crucial to the long-term success of your company. To keep growing, it’s important to continue creating opportunities to gain new customers—even for companies with a large audience of repeat customers. After all, every loyal customer or repeat purchaser started their journey with your business as a new customer.

Customer acquisition vs. customer retention

Creating a customer experience that brings in revenue involves more than just gaining new customers—it’s also about keeping them coming back for more. 

Both customer acquisition and customer retention focus on building good customer relationships to grow a business. But they do it in different ways:

  • Customer acquisition involves attracting prospects to your company and then persuading them to buy your product or service

  • Customer retention involves nurturing the customers you already have and keeping them active and happy 

Without customer acquisition, there is no business to begin with; without customer retention, your company becomes unsustainable. 

That’s why every business should focus on both acquisition and retention, combining efforts to ensure a constant stream of new customers without losing existing ones. With a strategy incorporating initiatives for both, you'll enjoy steady and sustainable growth for years.

5 customer acquisition tips that are key for growing your business

Acquiring customers involves creating a sustainable acquisition plan that can evolve. These five tips will get you started on your customer acquisition journey, helping you develop a process for getting potential customers through the door and convincing them to buy from you:

  1. Understand who your customers are

  2. Define a customer acquisition strategy

  3. Communicate with your customers

  4. Build a customer acquisition toolkit

  5. Measure and improve your strategy

1. Understand who your customers are

The first step toward customer acquisition is to understand your customer base—both your current and target audiences. 

This will help you achieve product-market fit faster and set realistic marketing goals. With this understanding, your customer acquisition efforts can make better use of precious resources like time and money.

Before you invest in any customer acquisition methods, take time to define who you’re targeting:

  • Build user personas: a profile of your customers based on psychographics, demographics, interests, and purchase history, so you can focus your efforts on improving the experience for real people and use cases

  • Identify your ideal customers: pinpoint your highest-value customers' traits and behaviors, and use that knowledge to invest in customer acquisition channels that help you more effectively reach your target audience where they are

Remember that their needs and expectations change as consumers move through the customer acquisition funnel to become buyers. Keeping track of these customer profiles helps you analyze, understand, and expand your customer base at each step.

📚 Further reading: check out our in-depth chapter on the customer acquisition funnel, including how to optimize and improve your customer experience at each step.

💡 Pro tip: understand customer needs by learning directly from your customers.

To build a business your target audience will love and want to buy from, you need to go beyond who your customers are to identify their most significant needs.

As you grow, use Hotjar Observe and Ask tools to identify your ideal customer's pain points and build solutions to address them:

  • Study Recordings to see how individual users interact with your business. Recordings give you insights through your customer’s eyes so you can iterate on your offering based on a genuine understanding of the customer experience.

  • Use Surveys to understand what your customers are looking for in their own words. Use long- or short-answer questions, open- and closed-ended questions, rating scales, and more to customize your surveys based on what you're trying to learn—making it easier to achieve a product-market fit and create the best possible experience.

Use Hotjar Recordings to gather reliable evidence of the actual user experience

2. Define a customer acquisition strategy

Creating a clear strategy for finding, attracting, engaging, and converting prospects is crucial to improving customer acquisition. 

Customer acquisition includes two main components: discovery and persuasion. Start by finding and attracting potential customers to your business (discovery). Once you’ve got their attention, you need to convince them to buy from you (persuasion). Here are a few tips on how to build a strong customer acquisition roadmap:

  • Begin with the basics: develop a set strategy for where to generate demand, what you'll spend on these marketing efforts, and how to convert visitors into paying customers.

  • Choose the right channels: consumers use a variety of channels every day—like websites, email, and social media—so your customer acquisition process must involve different ways to engage them. Develop a unique strategy for each channel and test new customer acquisition methods.

  • Develop a sustainable strategy: simplify and systematize the process of acquiring new customers. Your methods should be easy to sustain and effective in the long run.

Set up your acquisition strategy correctly, and you can expect to spend your budget more effectively, improve customer lifetime value (CLV), and grow your business steadily over time.

📚 Further reading: check out our comprehensive chapter on customer acquisition strategies, including tips on diversifying your approach for a greater chance of reaching new audiences and generating new business.

3. Communicate with your customers

When it comes to customer acquisition, it’s easy to follow a routine without examining how practical your approach truly is. And it's even more challenging to find the gaps in your customer acquisition process without direct customer feedback.

Asking your most valuable (or most vulnerable) customers for feedback reduces the communication barrier between you and your target audience. It helps you identify and capitalize on the value customers expect from your products and services.

Create a communication plan to keep conversations going with your customers. Here are a few great ways to stay in touch with your customer base:

  • Customer surveys: a simple, low-commitment way to gather first impressions and make sure new customers feel empowered to explore your brand and share their experiences with you

  • Website feedback widgets: gather impromptu feedback that captures your users’ feelings as they navigate your website or interact with your business, while their experience is fresh

  • Customer interviews: create an intimate forum to collect customer opinions, discover the true value of your business in their eyes, and develop realistic action plans to better meet their needs 

  • Social media posts: centralize unsolicited customer feedback that gives you unfiltered insights into popular customer sentiments, problems, and experiences

By allowing users to share their thoughts, you discover exactly what they loved (or hated) about their experience with you—no guesswork necessary. Use these insights to create a delightful customer acquisition experience that increases your ability to convert and retain them.

💡 Pro tip: supercharge your customer feedback collection with Hotjar Ask and Engage tools.

Customer feedback tools let you create a continuous loop of incoming feedback, product discovery, and development—so you can acquire new customers with relevant solutions. 

Use Hotjar Ask and Engage tools to unobtrusively collect feedback to better gauge customer delight:

  • Gather feedback in the wild with Hotjar Feedback: place feedback widgets throughout the customer acquisition funnel for insights into the customer experience at different touchpoints. Ask customers to rate their experience, highlight parts of your page or product they like or dislike, and provide a reason for their score. 

  • Gauge customer opinions and feelings with Hotjar Surveys: use customer satisfaction surveys to measure satisfaction or exit-intent surveys to ask customers why they’re leaving your website

  • Automate customer interviews with Hotjar Engage: understand exactly what your customers are experiencing and anticipate their needs by recruiting users, then host, record, and transcribe your calls with them

Hotjar’s Feedback widget makes it easy to collect feedback and create a continuous feedback loop

4. Build a customer acquisition toolkit

Every business needs a customer acquisition toolkit. Depending on your goals, consider adding these types of tools to your existing sales and marketing suites:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools: with sales engagement, reporting, and analytics features, these tools help you analyze your conversion rates and improve your business

  • Behavior analytics software: tools like heatmaps and session recordings show you how prospects interact with your website, so you can make changes to improve it according to real user behavior

  • Lead generation tools: grow your email list, get higher conversions, or make more sales

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) tools: everything you need to optimize your site for organic search and start ranking on search engines

  • PPC software: create paid ads and equip your content to perform best in SERPs and on partner websites and publishers

  • Chat tools: enable your salespeople and marketers to chat with potential leads, send customer details to your CRM, manage orders, and accept payments

  • Customer feedback software: collect direct feedback from your prospects and customers and turn it into actionable insights

  • Social media tools: from social proof to planning software, these tools help you leverage social media to attract prospects and make more sales

  • Referral software: automate your referral program, offer customers rewards, and analyze results

  • Email marketing tools: create, design, and share marketing campaigns with relevant customers and clients directly in their inbox

📚 Further reading: check out our in-depth chapter on customer acquisition tools and how to use each one to help you gain new customers.

5. Measure and improve your strategy

Your targeted customer acquisition strategy also involves taking a step back and figuring out what’s best for your business, resources, and audience right now

Remember to routinely measure your results and track related costs to ensure continuous improvement:

  • Determine the ROI of your acquisition tactics: regularly review important metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC), new customer growth, churn rate, and CLV, so you can optimize for the most successful channels and refine your strategy

  • Make sure your current channels and tactics are working: track each channel’s quantitative and qualitative analytics and update your strategy regularly, and develop a customer retention strategy to maximize your company’s growth

How much does it cost to acquire customers?

Your customer acquisition cost (CAC)—the budget required to acquire a new customer, either overall or from specific marketing channels—is crucial to identifying the most effective strategies for your business.

Knowing your CAC helps you:

  • See which marketing channels are actually contributing to your growth, plus exactly how many new customers they’ve brought in compared to other channels

  • Calibrate your investment in different acquisition channels and decide what to scale up, scale down, or stop

  • Acquire more customers with cost-effective marketing and develop and document a successful customer acquisition strategy

To calculate your CAC, choose a specific period of time and divide the total amount you spent on your customer acquisition efforts by the number of customers acquired during that same timeframe:

Total cost of sales and marketing / total number of new customers = CAC

The result will be your average cost to acquire a single customer. If you’re looking for the CAC of a specific channel or campaign—like Facebook ads or content marketing—the steps are the same, except you’ll divide the amount you spent on that particular acquisition method by the customers it brought in.

Note: check out our in-depth chapter on customer acquisition cost, including how to optimize it and gain more customers with cost-effective marketing strategies.

Attract and retain new customers

Hotjar puts your customers' needs and wants in the spotlight, setting you up for improved acquisition and retention.

Next steps to customer acquisition

Acquiring new customers may seem challenging, but with the right preparation and strategy, your business can attract high-value customers, keep them around longer, and grow sustainably.

Consider your business’s capabilities and limitations when creating a customer acquisition strategy. Once you know which acquisition methods work best, implement them consistently, and remember the importance of understanding your customers and their objectives.

FAQs about customer acquisition