Acquisition Playbook

Mastering Customer Acquisition Strategy

Learn proven frameworks to acquire—and keep—new and repeat customers who reward your brand with their business again and again.

Table of Contents

                    How to form your acquisition strategy

                    Understanding acquisition channels—where potential customers discover your brand—and knowing which are right for your business are essential to reaching the right audiences, the ones where you’ll find your future active customers. This is a cost-effective way to move the metrics that matter most, such as new sign-ups, and ensure the best return on your spending.

                    Defining acquisition channels

                    Terms to know
                    • Owned channels: Channels you create and control, such as web, email, content, and social media
                    • Earned channels: Channels where partners promote you, including events, user-generated content, and referral programs
                    • Paid channels: Channels where you pay for visibility, such as social media advertising, affiliate programs, and search engine marketing

                    Prospects can find your digital properties through various owned, earned, and paid acquisition channels. You can use them in tandem to reach multiple audiences, as well as the same audience on different channels. This helps you amplify your brand awareness and create a seamless customer journey.

                    Acquisition channels cheat sheet

                    Owned channels

                    Channel Pros Cons Example
                    • High concentration of engaged users 
                    • Easy way to share new ideas with your target audience
                    • Members might be users but not buyers for new products
                    • Building a community doesn’t happen overnight
                    • Atlassian Community has events, answers, and community groups 
                    • Join Cohort, the Amplitude community, for events, conversation, and connections
                    Content marketing
                    • Direct way to share the value of your product with your audience 
                    • Educates customers about what they can achieve with your product
                    • Resource-intensive to build and maintain a content calendar
                    • We use the Amplitude blog to share analytics best practices, industry expert perspectives, and customer stories
                    Email marketing
                    • Direct connection to your audience 
                    • Easy to personalize
                    • High potential for oversaturating your marketing list
                    • Can take a long time to build a subscriber base
                    Social media marketing
                    • Large audience distribution 
                    • Opportunity to engage directly with prospects and customers
                    • Restricted to constraints of the platform, including  algorithms 
                    • Resource-intensive to deliver regular content and monitor several channels
                    • People love to try before they buy. 
                    • A way for users to immediately grasp the value of your offering
                    • Requires buy-in and resources from many teams
                    • A way to continuously share updates and information about your product
                    • Total control of your brand, messaging, content, and user experience
                    • Challenging to stand out in a crowded online space
                    • SoFi’s website highlights their products, benefits, resources, and more
                    Search engine optimization (SEO)
                    • Delivers long-term value
                    • Offers free visibility and new leads 
                    • Users actively searching have high intent and are more likely to convert
                    • Certain keywords are competitive and difficult to rank for
                    • Ranking requires time, effort, and constant optimization 
                    • Algorithm changes can negatively impact rankings
                    • Learn how Amplitude invests in SEO


                    Earned channels

                    Channel  Pros  Cons Example
                    Content syndication
                    • Reaches new audiences
                    • Limited control of how content is presented across platforms
                    Industry events
                    • In-person contact with potential customers to build relationships
                    • Focused audience
                    • Resource intensive and costly
                    • Time-consuming to plan and attend multiple events
                    • Boosts credibility and enhances brand reputation and trust
                    • Reaches broad audiences through new outlets and publications
                    • Limited control of the narrative 
                    • Unpredictable timing depending on the news cycle
                    Referral programs
                    • Leads are more likely to convert.
                    • Lower acquisition costs
                    • Referrals might not always match your target audience
                    • Increased credibility and trust in purchasing decisions
                    • Good for SEO
                    • Generates material for social posts
                    • Poor reviews negatively impact your brand reputation.
                    • Limited control over content
                    User-generated Content
                    • Authentically generates brand trust 
                    • Lower upfront marketing costs
                    • Limited control over what content is created
                    • Inconsistent content quality
                    Channels Pros Cons Examples
                    Search engine marketing (SEM)
                    • Increased visibility with ads 
                    • Captures users actively searching for related products or services
                    • Bids from competitors can quickly raise costs
                    • Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns typically show up as the text at the top or side of a search page
                    Paid digital media advertising
                    • Precise targeting with granular audience customization
                    • Immediate visibility into performance
                    • Potential for high engagement rates
                    • Ad fatigue and reduced audience interest from repetitive ads
                    • Rising costs from competitive auctions
                    • Heavy design resources for eye-catching ad creative
                    Affiliate programs
                    • Low upfront marketing costs
                    • Can expand to new customer bases with diverse affiliates
                    • Quality control 
                    • Can be seen as spammy and negatively impact your brand reputation
                    • Reduced profit
                    Influencer marketing
                    • A way to connect and build trust with niche audiences
                    • Expanded reach into influencer networks
                    • Finding the right influencer for your brand can be time intensive
                    • Difficult to measure ROI with varying engagement 
                    • Potential for inconsistent messaging or low-quality posts from influencers
                    Pro tip

                    Be mindful of spreading your resources too thin. Consider focusing on the most effective and relevant channels instead of using as many as possible.

                    Where you invest your marketing dollars depends on various factors, including the time and resources you have. The following matrix guides you through this decision, highlighting priority channels with the biggest reach. Later in this chapter, we’ll offer more insight into evaluating your acquisition channels.

                      Priority channels Secondary channels
                    Limited budget, more time
                    • Communities
                    • Content marketing
                    • Email marketing
                    • Social media marketing
                    • UGC
                    • Product
                    • Reviews
                    • SEM
                    Bigger budget, less time
                    • Industry events
                    • Paid social
                    • SEM
                    • Influencer marketing
                    • Content syndication

                    Product-led acquisition channels

                    With a product-led growth (PLG) motion, your product is an important owned channel for acquiring customers. The following are some of the most effective and widely used PLG tactics for this early customer journey stage:

                    • Virality loops: A mechanism that drives continuous referrals
                      • Word-of-mouth: Loyal users spread the word thanks to delightful product experiences
                      • Incentives: Rewards or bonuses for users who invite their friends or teammates
                      • Collaboration invitations: Built-in sharing mechanisms to help users bring others into the product to collaborate with them
                      • Sharing experiences: Easy ways for users to share their in-product creations with people outside the product
                    • Network effects: Products that make the most of connections between users—offering more ways to communicate and collaborate—becoming more valuable as more customers adopt them
                    • Product artifacts: Byproducts of software development that include diagrams or tools that give prospective customers a sense of what the product is like
                    • Content
                      • Editorial or support: Blog posts, guides, white papers, and other written material that showcases the product’s value or helps customers get started
                      • Programmatic: A method for generating multiple web pages from one set of core content, using data and pre-programmed rules that dynamically transform the content based on the reader or goal
                      • User-generated: Content shared by customers about your brand, such as blog posts, social media posts, surveys, and testimonials
                      • Benchmark reports: Trend analyses that spotlight data related to your business
                      • Product education: Content that solves reader problems while illustrating how your product can help, such as calculators and demos

                    Learn more about these and other tactics from over 30 industry experts in Product-Led Growth Guide Volume 2. Discover product-led acquisition tactics >

                    Evaluating your acquisition channels

                    Today, there are myriad channels for reaching prospective and existing customers. The challenge is finding the right combination to acquire your ideal customers—the ones who will drive sustainable growth. The following five-step framework uses your behavioral data to help determine where your marketing dollars will reach the best prospects.

                    Step one: Identify which acquisition channels drive the highest volume of new customers. Use this data to inform how you prioritize your channels. For example, you may ramp up your Instagram strategy over Twitter.

                    Do it in Amplitude

                    Use Amplitude’s user composition chart to analyze which acquisition channels bring the greatest number of new customers.

                    Amplitude user composition chart

                    In this example, Google is the top acquisition channel, followed by Instagram.

                    Step two: After evaluating acquisition channel performance for all new customers, drill down to see which channels drive the most active, engaged ones.

                    Do it in Amplitude

                    Use Amplitude’s channels and data tables chart to identify which channels go beyond sign-up and bring users to their first value moment. Attribute sign-up and activation to specific channels with multi-touch attribution.

                    Amplitude data tables chart

                    In this example, organic search brings the highest volume of active users who reach the value moment—playing a song.

                    Explore more examples of using acquisition channels and multi-touch attribution to evaluate the effectiveness of paid and organic marketing investments.

                    Step three: By now, you can assess which acquisition channels drive the most new customers and the most active ones, but what about which channels yield the greatest ROI—and which might not be worth the spend? Identify which acquisition channels have the highest ROAS and the lowest CAC, cost per click (CPC), cost per thousand impressions (CPM), and other ad metrics.

                    Use this data to determine how you spend your paid media budget. For example, you may reduce investment in underperforming channels.

                    Do it in Amplitude

                    Use Amplitude’s ad network integrations and custom formulas for ROAS, CAC, CPC, and CPM to evaluate paid acquisition channel performance.

                    Amplitude's data tables chart showing return on ad spend

                    In this example, Instagram has the highest ROAS at $3.02.

                    Step four: Send targeted campaigns to customers from top-performing acquisition channels. Create a cohort of these customers, then push it into marketing automation tools for easy activation, personalization, and targeting.

                    Do it in Amplitude

                    Use Amplitude Audiences to create a cohort of customers from top-performing acquisition channels. Send this cohort to one of Amplitude’s marketing automation partners like Braze to build a targeted campaign.

                    Step five: Use experimentation to iterate on your top and underperforming acquisition channels. A/B test your channel landing pages with new headlines or by gating different sections, then examine how variant A performs versus variant B for the same channel. Use the seven-step experimentation framework described later in this playbook to guide your experiments.

                    Pro tip

                    Analyzing your marketing campaigns along with your acquisition channels provides a more holistic picture of your acquisition strategy and how you can improve it. To do this, use the same five-step framework and Amplitude analyses, but input campaigns instead of channels. Once you know which campaigns are the most cost-effective and draw your ideal users, you can put more resources toward them.

                    After establishing your channel-customer fit, you can consider the appropriate content for those channels. “Thinking about the right fit helps with acquisition and activation. It’s not just about spending money or creating content on these channels to drive traffic,” says Drew of TheProductLed.

                    Acquisition at Amplitude: How we use analytics to improve our website

                    With internet searches being one of the most common routes to your business, your website is perhaps your most critical owned channel for acquiring new customers. At Amplitude, we use our digital analytics platform to ensure our website offers enough value to prospects that they’ll want to sign up.

                    “You can't build brand trust or brand equity without a give and take,” Amplitude Acquisition Marketing Manager Katie Geer says. “People are only going to sign up after we've shown them value or after we've sparked their curiosity—after we've given them something that makes them want to engage in that relationship.”

                    Katie and her team use Amplitude insights to improve the website experience in the following ways:

                    • Using funnel analysis to identify friction, such as a video in a critical user flow that impeded conversion
                    • Changing the global navigation to surface the most-clicked links, leading to a lift in pages per session
                    • Redesigning the sign-up flow to eliminate stumbling blocks preventing users from signing up

                    Take action

                    Questions to consider
                    • How do specific marketing campaigns relate to new sign-ups, product outcomes, and revenue?
                    • How are acquisition channels contributing to key conversion goals?
                    • Which campaigns or channels drive activation—and which don’t?
                    • How does product or subscription revenue vary by campaign?