Customer acquisition vs. user attraction

Posted by kdow on Dec 15, 2015 4:49:20 PM

I work in the software world. As a result, I meet a lot of people. Prospects, customers, random folks at events, etc. One of the many axioms I’ve noticed when meeting with these people is that the conversation nearly always rotates back to customers. This is, in part, because I work in a company that builds software for marketers. It’s natural for a marketer to discuss lead acquisition, database growth or lead conversion optimisation (incidentally, all of these phrases mean the same thing).

It doesn’t matter if you’re a small startup trying to optimise a button to get 10 leads a month or a larger, hyper-growth company that’s trying to sort out the 50,000 leads you get a month. Everyone needs to do this to survive and generate enough to get revenue over the line at the end of the magical business funnel (which looks like an upturned Maslow triangle).

One of the key phrases that always comes up in sales, marketing, product and everything else annoys me: customer acquisition.

Okay, fair enough, you’re spending money to acquire a customer. Acquisition, though, is something we do with cars, houses, bars of chocolate, coffees and any other commodotised item in our lives. It’s not really something we do with humans. Talking about acquisition of leads, prospects or customers makes me feel a little unsettled. You’d never say that you acquired a friend. Your first customer isn’t going to be an acquisition. Such a milestone will give that person a name, history and everything else.

Hell, marketers spend so much time and effort trying to learn more about their prospects; why would you waste such a huge amount of that effort to dehumanise your prospects?

Instead of using such a phrase, I reckon people should use: user attraction.

Attracting users means you’re trying to get people to come to you. They want to be there. They’re users. They’re not some dollar value in a spreadsheet. They’re Ian, Mary or Catherine. They use your product/service. They don’t just empty their wallets into your bank account.

I know this reads as some sort of growth hacking (shudder) post, but it’s true. Little changes in day-to-day parlance like this one has a lasting, positive effect.

The concept of changing simple phrases like that totally change your approach to the problem. If the problem is acquiring customers, the solution is to spend more money. In marketing that means PPC or billboards. If the problem is user attraction, then the solution is making your product/service seem attractive to a captive audience. It’s much better for everyone.