Headline article image Creative ways to gain new customers in 2022

Creative ways to gain new customers in 2022

Get innovative and expand your customer base – without breaking your marketing budget.

When you think about “customer acquisition,” what springs to mind? Advertising billboards, TV spots or social media ads, right? But in 2022, there are more creative (and, often, economical) ways to attract new customers. 

For Georgie Cavanagh, co-founder of bedding brand Carlotta + Gee, collaboration has always been key to gaining new customers. “We’ve partnered with more than 100 brands in the last few years,” she says. “Collaboration is so important – if not, you’re talking to the same customers over and over again and it’s such a long road [to grow your customer base].”

As part of her collaboration and customer acquisition strategy, Cavanagh reaches out to boutique holiday homes and travel destinations who might be interested in furnishing their bedrooms with Carlotta + Gee linen. They then collaborate on a joint photo shoot and share the images across both brands' channels.

“Collaboration is so important.”

- Georgie Cavanagh, Carlotta + Gee co-founder

As part of her collaboration and customer acquisition strategy, Cavanagh reaches out to boutique holiday homes and travel destinations who might be interested in furnishing their bedrooms with Carlotta & Gee linen. They then collaborate on a joint photo shoot and share the images across both brand’s channels.

“It’s a cross-pollination where we’re granted access to a wider audience – both on social media and in real life when potential customers visit these stays,” she says. “Sometimes we’ll also do a giveaway – we did an Instagram competition with [luxury eco hut] Kimo Estate, for example, where people could win a two-night stay plus a $500 linen voucher. We got more than 5,000 new followers and a boost in new customers.”

The bottom line? To grow your customer base, it’s not only important to think outside the box but also to think strategically. Read on for expert advice and more creative tips on creative ways to acquire new customers.

What is customer acquisition?

Put simply, customer acquisition is the process of gaining new customers for your business, and it’s essential for both the profitability and longevity of a brand, for small start-ups and multinational conglomerates alike.

“The main objective of customer acquisition is to grow a long-term sustainable business."

- Kiran Linaker, director of KLC Co

“The main objectives of customer acquisition [are] to grow a long-term sustainable business – staying in touch with your customers to forge a value-adding relationship with them – increase brand awareness and, most importantly, drive sales and repeat business,” explains Kiran Linaker, director of marketing agency KLC Co.

Before you start attracting new customers…

  • Know your customer

    Before spending time and money on customer acquisition, ensure you have a thorough understanding of your target market.

    “There is little point in targeting a broad spectrum of people when only a segment of those consumers will be interested [in your brand],” says Shannon Davis, director of marketing and PR company, The Outbound Agency. “Your best bet at a highly successful customer acquisition strategy is to know who you are looking for, where they consume information, what problems they need solving, and how your business can help. The more succinct you can be about this, the more likely [it is] you’ll yield results.”

  • Set your budget

    One of the most important aspects of new customer acquisition is cost. According to industry website ProfitWell, customer acquisition costs have risen 50 percent over the past five years, so it pays to be mindful about your strategy and budget. First, you’ll need to decide between implementing a paid or organic campaign. 

Paid customer acquisition refers to methods such as social media ads, Google AdWords, paid features in magazines, display ads, affiliate marketing and influencer campaigns to attract and acquire new customers. Some platforms, such as Facebook, allow you to choose the dollar amount you’d like to spend per new lead, but it’s not an exact science and success will vary. 

Alternatively, organic customer acquisition means taking an approach that doesn’t require fees – for example, gifts, email marketing, content marketing, and search-engine optimization. You’ll still have to factor in relevant costs – such as products for gifting, packaging and postage – but your strategy will revolve around organic channels rather than advertising.

It’s worth noting that while organic customer acquisition can be slower, it’s often more sustainable than paid customer acquisition in the long run. “With paid advertising, your sales generally reflect your paid budget – [which means] if your paid budget runs out, so do your sales,” explains Linaker. 

A combination of organic and paid methods may prove most effective in expanding your customer base.

“The reality is, most publishing [and social media] platforms are now making it more difficult to reach your audience without a bit of a budget, so a paid strategy can [enhance or complement] your organic strategy,” Davis explains. “You might use a paid strategy to attract new customers, and then engage with those potential customers by sharing relevant organic content.”

10 creative customer acquisition strategies to try 

Before you implement these strategies, consider if they work for your product, your audience and your budget. A competition or collaboration, for example, might not suit the tone of your target audience. Choosing the right strategy for your brand is critical to its success. 

1. Encourage user-generated content

From unboxing videos on Tik Tok to styled images on Instagram, customer-created content is a powerful (and free) customer acquisition tool.

When shared on social media, this content helps to expand your audience and offers an element of authenticity and social proof, which consumers are increasingly seeking out. In one recent study, 79 percent of people said that user-generated content significantly impacts their purchasing decisions, compared to 13 percent for brand-generated content, and 8 percent for influencer-generated content. 

So, how do you encourage customers to create and share content about your brand? One option is to come up with hashtags and promote them in your shop or packaged with your product. Another is to consider how your products will be unboxed and whether there are any creative packaging ideas that might inspire customers to share the experience. 

What it looks like: In its early days, natural skincare brand Frank Body sent out free samples of its exfoliating coffee scrubs to high-profile influencers and bloggers. 

But they soon discovered that everyday customers who shared the product on social media were some of the most important ambassadors for the brand – especially when they posted snaps of themselves covered in the grainy scrub in the bath.

Today, the multimillion-dollar brand continues to encourage customers to share photos using the hashtags #letsbefrank and #thefrankeffort, and awards prizes for the best posts.

2. Referral marketing

Positive recommendations and referrals from your current customers are an effective way to build trust and win new customers. You can take this one step further by creating an automated, incentivized referrals program – essentially, a lead machine.

What it looks like: Healthy meal delivery service YouFoodz encourages its customers to share a discount code with their friends. Each new customer receives $30 off their first order – and when the discount is activated, the referring customer receives $50 off their next order. The referring customer can earn up to five $50 discounts, meaning they save $250, and Youfoodz acquires five new customers.

Similarly, after a customer makes a purchase from shoe brand All Birds, they’re invited to "share the love" and save 10 percent when purchasing a pair for someone special in their life.

3. Collaborate with like-minded businesses

As Cavanagh has already explained, collaborating with complementary brands can increase your customer base quickly and, in most cases, relatively cheaply. A collaborative partnership can be as small as providing free product for a joint giveaway via social media, or it could involve producing a limited-edition product or service for sale by both brands. 

A recent study found that 71 percent of consumers enjoy “co-branding partnerships” as long as their values are aligned.

Jess Ruhfus, founder of Collabosaurus – which connects businesses and enables marketing partnerships across the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. – believes brands should be collaborating around 5 to 6 times a year. 

What it looks like: Fashion label Karen Walker and rain boot label Merry People joined forces this year to release a limited-edition co-branded rain boot. It was a neat synergy between two like-minded brands, exposing each business to a new and captive customer base.

While some collaborations bring about an instant spike in new customers, others are a slower burn. “We collaborate with brands we really like,” says Kate Heppell, co-founder of interiors brand Kip & Co, which has fostered partnerships with Adairs, Cotton On, Obus and Mister Zimi in the creation of co-branded products, such as clothing or homewares.

“Success can be in developing a strong business relationship or publicity – or in simply producing something fun that will energize your customer base,” Heppell explains.   

The takeaway? Take every opportunity to expand your business network or work on a joint creative project – along the way, you’re likely to attract new customers, too.

4. Offer freebies

This doesn’t necessarily mean giving away your product or services. Instead, consider offering potential customers downloadable books, resources, audio books or even printable art, as long as it relates to your core brand personality. In order to generate leads, ask customers for their email and contact data, then email them a link to the free download.

What it looks like: Stationery brand Mi Goals specializes in journals, notebooks, calendars and planners that empower the customer to reach their goals. 

On their website, they also offer free downloadable resources such as printable wall planners. It’s a lead magnet that aligns perfectly with the brand, enticing potential customers to sign up to Mi Goals' email list and join their sales funnel.

5. Be an expert

Offering to speak on panels, on radio stations, in forums and on social media (via lives or video) has numerous benefits. You’ll be exposing your brand to potential new customers who may not have heard of it before, it will help you become a go-to expert in your industry, strengthening the perceived and actual trust in your brand, and it can also help with search‑engine optimization, especially if your talk or comments are backlinked to your website.

You can begin quite easily by working on your LinkedIn profile and building up your knowledge in your industry. Reach out to aligned businesses and events who may be looking for speakers and offer to share your expertise where needed. You could also host your own event, question time or live interview, placing you firmly in the realm of expert.

What it looks like: Beauty brand owner Charlotte Tilbury runs regular masterclasses online, often joined by influencers and TikTok stars as she showcases her latest makeup products. But you don’t have to be a famous founder or mega brand to get in front of the camera: During lockdown in 2020, premium fashion reseller Trading In Style started using Instagram Live, and it’s since become its primary sales channel. Every day, tens of thousands of viewers tune into their daily shopping sessions, where they chat through their current collection – and this strategy has seen their customer base surge.

6. Boost your SEO

According to a BrightEdge study, 53.3 percent of all website traffic now comes from organic searches. Therefore, search engine optimization – optimizing your website to make it easier to be discovered online – is essential and can play a critical role in reaching new audiences and driving traffic to your website or physical store.

What it looks like: Whether you’re a handbag brand or hairdressing salon, your SEO goal should be to appear on the first page of search results (or as close to this as possible), as 75 percent of people don’t scroll past the first page of results. Strategies to improve your SEO include using well-researched keywords and adding backlinks to your site, as well as creating click-worthy content. Read our beginner’s guide to retail SEO here, and our e-commerce SEO checklist here.

7. Sponsor an event (or throw your own)

Event marketing is a great way to get your name out there, build your brand identity and connect with potential customers. If your business targets a local community, you could start small and create a Meetup page or Facebook event. Alternatively, you could sponsor a larger event and provide products or samples for a gift bag. 

What it looks like: Fashion brands have long used events and parties to garner publicity and grow their audience..

In Australia, fashion e-tailer The Iconic set up an on-site activation at popular music festival Splendour in the Grass in 2019. In a post-festival survey, 81 percent of attendees said the activation made them more likely to use the brand, and 65 percent said it made them feel more positive toward the brand.

These examples might come from well-known retailers, but they nevertheless illustrate the potential of an event to extend reach, bring a brand to life and create a real-world experience, all of which are highly beneficial in customer acquisition, whatever the scale.

8. Find your (nano) niche

While influencer marketing can be hugely effective in reaching and acquiring new customers, not every brand can afford the rates of the biggest influencers. But this may be a blessing in disguise, because there’s huge potential in doubling down on a niche audience that relates specifically to your brand and reaching them through "nano" influencers.

Nano influencers have under 10,000 followers on a social media platform and tend to specialize in one area, subject or tone. You may question if working with a nano influencer is worth it, but according to Forbes, small influencers generate 22.2 more conversations weekly and are 9.8 times more impactful than larger ones.

What it looks like: The nano influencer can create sponsored content to promote your product, shown on both their platform and your own. You could also consider a giveaway, or an exclusive discount for the influencer’s followers.

9. Utilize cutting-edge tech

To gain new customers, you need to stay ahead of the pack and stand out from the crowd. This is why luxury brands have started turning to augmented reality and creating their own social media filters – simply scan your face and you can try on a Dior hat or Gucci tiara on Instagram. It may seem like a gimmick, but when combined with shoppable technology, it could be the future of e-commerce.

What it looks like: In June this year, beauty retailer Mecca partnered with digital marketing agency Resolution Digital to launch a shopping filter on Snapchat. The filter allowed shoppers to browse a MAC Cosmetics lipstick line, virtually try them on and then purchase directly via the app. It’s the kind of strategy that engages customers and gets people talking, which, in turn, helps boost customer acquisition.

10. Encourage word-of-mouth

Positive word-of-mouth reviews about a business make 91 percent of consumers more likely to engage, and 83 percent of marketers use word-of-mouth marketing because it increases brand awareness and the number of referred customers. Word-of-mouth referrals can be two people talking about a service or brand they have discovered; a recommendation on social media; or a positive review online.

Word-of-mouth referrals can be inconsistent, however, as your business might get 70 one week and none the next – it can work effectively in a well-rounded strategy, but try not to rely on it as your sole customer acquisition method.

What it looks like: You could encourage reviews after purchase via an email prompt, offer an incentive or future discount for reviews, or run a campaign to encourage your existing customers to share their experiences with your brand. Another way to share a review is to monitor relevant hashtags and tags, and ask permission to repost a review on the brand website or social media.

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Written by
Lucy Cousins
Lucy is an editor, writer and social media content producer.
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