Earlier today I was talking with an entrepreneur who was trying to figure out a repeatable customer acquisition process. After digging into his model, I asked the question, “How do you want to acquire customers?” He replied that he preferred an inbound marketing model with self-service customer onboarding and paying. In other words, he wanted a model that didn’t require humans selling to other humans. After thinking about it further, it gave me more clarity around the importace of playing to the strength of the founding team and/or the talent available to bring on to the team. If the model requires building an amazing inbound marketing engine, and the talent’s not on the team, it either needs to learned, recruited, or the idea needs to change.
Thinking about it, there are three commmon customer aquisition models:
1. Pure Marketing – Tons of storytelling, content marketing, brand building, and campaigns to generate customer sign-ups. No humans selling. Minimal product customization. Self service as much as possible.
2. Inside Sales – Heavy phone, email, and web-oriented sales people — both lead follow-up and outbound prospecting (see Double Inside Sales Rep Productivity in a Week). Inside sales is labor intensive and requires a product price point and sales cycle to warrant people selling to people.
3. Field Sales – Large deal size and complexity often warrant face-to-face selling. As a model, it’s very expensive and often capital intensive to get started. Few SaaS startups employ this model, although many have tried and failed.
The next time an entrepreneur starts talking about an idea, inquire as to the expertise around customer acquisition models — especially marketing-based, inside sales, and field sales — and see if the shoe fits.
What else? What are some other thoughts on picking a customer acquisition model that makes sense?