How To Reverse Engineer Your Customer Acquisition Strategy

How To Reverse Engineer Your Customer Acquisition Strategy


You know what’s a great tool? A screwdriver. But not for the reason you might think.

A screwdriver is awesome because it’s the key to taking most things apart. If you’re a curious cat like myself, you’re happiest disassembling something to understand it better and to try your hand at putting it back together again.

Of course, growing up and explaining to my dad why the TV controller or computer mouse was in pieces wasn’t always easy. I think deep down, however, he appreciated my desire to figure things out. Even at the expense of his gadgets.

I like to think of this constant tampering and tinkering as reverse engineering -- understanding something better by deconstructing the big picture into its smaller parts. The days of destroying my dad’s property are long over, but I still take that same curiosity and approach to concepts and theories.

To me, customer acquisition is the kind of puzzle best put together by thinking backwards. Got a screwdriver handy? Here’s how to reverse engineer your startup’s customer acquisition strategy.

Define Your Fist Pump Moment


When you love what you do, every day can be considered a good day. But a victorious fist pump? That’s usually reserved for the big wins. And when it comes to building a business, acquiring a new customer is a big win. Gaining a returning customer is also a big win. And finding a customer who is willing to spread the word about your business should be considered a touchdown.

When you’re working backwards with your customer acquisition strategy, the most important step is defining what your starting point is. Because your starting point is also your finish line.

Still with me?

You need to know, with precision and clarity, what you want in order to work your way back to that goal. Do you want to start with a newsletter sign up? Or maybe just a follow on your main social media channel? If you’re all about the bottom line, maybe your goal is simply to get a customer to pony up. Whatever the case, think of this step as defining the shiny object you’re going to both break, recreate, and hopefully replicate over and over again.

The Brain Is A Crazy, Crazy Thing


Now that you’re clear on the action you want your potential customer to take at this stage, crack open that desired action to find the piece that compels this decision. Yes, I’m talking about the brain. Not literally, of course.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with neuroscience and psychology, mostly in the consumer behaviour department. From books like The Power of Habit, Predictably Irrational and Stumbling on Happiness, I’ve decided that brains are legit...crazy. For lack of a better word (thanks a lot, brain)!

When you’re reverse engineering your customer acquisition strategy, a little effort into understanding what might or could be influencing consumer behaviour can go a long way. And influence is the next piece you’ll find in this deconstruction.

Switches and Wires


For example, if you’ve decided the end goal is to get a customer to buy your premium service package, digging into the brain might reveal a few insights to help you get your desired result.

In Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, he explains how our brains measure value in relative terms, not in absolute terms. Keeping this in mind, it would make sense to try to create that relative landscape to help influence potential customers.

One solution might be to position a premium service package between a lower-priced but limited feature package and an extremely expensive package with tons of filler features (you see this a lot with SaaS businesses, just check their pricing pages). Doing this helps the consumer compare and relate your premium service package against the others, making their decision-making process that much easier.

The solution might not come to you right away, but tinkering with a few ideas is the only way to learn. Playing around with ways to connect to the consumer and influence their actions is essential to your strategy. But once you’ve screwed this piece loose, what’s left is usually the most important piece of the whole puzzle.

At The Core


Your goal is clear, your knowledge of consumer behaviour is deep and you’ve identified a few key influences that can help you build your way up to succes. But the machinery running this whole strategy will always be the core of your business. Your product(s), your service(s) and your vision.

When you’re working your way back from success, do all the dots connect? Do you have influence but no understanding of your customer? Do you have customers but no action for them to take? Above all, are you creating influence for a product or service you are proud of and would happily have people consume? You can have all the other dots and have what looks like a strategy, but you cannot be missing this piece and still have a sustainable and thriving business.

This is the mainframe, the HQ, the nervous system and other analogies that make you realize how important this piece is. Once uncovered, take a really close look at it before you start putting everything back together again.

Trial, Error & Commitment


When I opened up my dad’s gadgets, I tried to infer what role each intricate part had in making the whole thing work. Sometimes they were wild guesses and other times I looked a little deeper, asked a few questions, messed around with configurations, and did some independent research. Cracking things open was merely step one while exploration involved commitment and an insatiable sense of wonder.

Apply this to your customer acquisition strategy and who knows what you’ll be able to piece together.

photo credit: 1lenore via photopin cc

What's the most important piece in your customer acquisition strategy? Leave us a comment or tweet us @Onboardly.

What do you think?

One Comment

Great post! I agree with having a fist pump moment to help you grab the readers’ attention.