5 Steps To Choose Your Customer Acquisition Channel - Deepstash
Design Frameworks

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Step 1: What Are You Optimizing For?

Different times call for optimizing different things.

Learning - You might be trying to learn something specific about engagement, interest among a certain target audience, monetization, etc. Learning is typically the priority when your startup is a pre-product-market fit or when you are expanding to a new target audience. 

Volume - There will be a time in your business when you will want to prove that you can go from a certain base amount of customers to moving the needle in a meaningful way. 

Cost - Optimizing your CPA to get more out of your budget.  


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Step 2: What are your constraints?

Your constraints will differ depending on the product, stage, funding, industry, etc. The most common constraints will be:

  • Time - Do you have a specific optimal window to reach your audience? Do you only have 3 months of cash left? 
  • Money - Are you well funded, or bootstrapping? Do you need to extend your runway?
  • Target Audience - Do you need to reach someone really specific? 
  • Legal - Are you taking on an old industry with litigious stalwarts? 


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Step 3: Setup Your Channel Matrix

Step 3: Setup Your Channel Matrix

Building a channel matrix helps give you three things:

1. A methodical process to evaluate each channel

2. A way to compare each channel on the same attributes

3. A visual organization of the information for each channel

Step 3.1 - Open your favourite spreadsheet tool (google docs, excel, numbers)

Step 3.2 - List Out All Potential Channels In The Header Column

Certain channels can be broken down into more detailed tactics. For example, content marketing could be broken down into blogging, guest blogging, infographics, webinars, ebook, etc


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3.3  List Out Channel Defining Attributes In The Header Row

3.3 List Out Channel Defining Attributes In The Header Row

In the header row fill in the attributes of each channel that you are comparing. At a minimum, there are 6 attributes you should have: 

  1. Targeting - The depth of ability to target different audiences. 
  2. Cost - The upfront and ongoing cost to acquire users in this channel. 
  3. Input Time - The upfront time required to start running experiments with this channel.
  4. Output Time  - The time it takes to start getting data around your experiments. 
  5. Control - The control you have over turning the channel on/off at will.
  6. Scale - The size/reach of the channel.  


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Step 4:  Fill In Values Of Channel Matrix With Low, Med, High

Step 4: Fill In Values Of Channel Matrix With Low, Med, High

The next step is to research each channel so you can fill in each cell with “low”, “med”, or “high” values. You aren’t trying to predict exact values.  Get enough information to make educated comparisons of each channel relative to each other.   

The matrix looks very different for different companies. For example, “Low” will mean different things to different companies (i.e. A enterprise SaaS company with a high LTV vs a consumer mobile app monetizing with ads). 


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Explore the value for each channel

Targeting: Does the channel have the type of targeting you need? How close to your exact target audience can you get with this channel?

Cost: Are there upfront costs? Minimum spends? 

Input Time: How much time is required to get to the first experiment? How much time to run each additional experiment? 

Output Time: How much time will it take to start getting results? How many experiments do we have to run to get meaningful data?  

Control: Can you turn the channel on and off at will? Is there a middleman between you and the knobs you turn?

Scale: How large is the channel in overall volume? 


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Step 5: Choose 1 - 2 Channels As Hypotheses

In a perfect world you want channels with the following values:

Targeting - High, Cost - Low, Input Time - Low, Output Time - Low, Control - High, Scale - High

You will rarely get a channel that fits those values perfectly so the question is how do you prioritize? This is where the work you put into Step 1 and Step 2 come in. Sort your channels using your constraints as a guide. If your biggest constraint is money, then look at channels that have a low cost as the first priority and come closest to the ideal values for the other attributes.  


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