The Big List of Organic Acquisition Channels

This is a big list of organic acquisition channels that should be helpful when you are looking at which channels to user for growth. Please read the Getting Started with Acquisition Channels guide first, as it provides helpful metrics that will help you determine how to approach acquisition.

Referral Strategy

Use Case

A business travel platform offers Bose Headphones to anyone who refers a friend or colleague that books a business trip on their platform for the 1st time

Pros

  • Very flexible
  • Can be extremely powerful to drive low cost growth
  • Easy to get started - you can start with a spreadsheet of potential referrers and manually ask them to do outreach for you, and manually track their lead generation
  • Can be gamified and scaled over time

Cons

  • May create misaligned incentives between you and your audience if money is involved
  • Really only works if you have some sort of existing audience already, it’s hard to get the flywheel going if you are not at some level of product market fit

SEO & Content Marketing

Use Case

A military startup writes articles about how to get ready for bootcamp, and becomes a thought leader who drives traffic to their blog


Pros

  • Incredible way to generate traffic that doesn’t cost you anything other than the content strategy and production time
  • Can scale as much as you’ll let it, only limited by your internal constraints and the constraints of your brand, keyword set, and search volume limits

Cons

  • It takes a long time to write great content
  • It takes a long time to get indexed and to generate substantial traffic
  • It takes a long time to understand what’s working and what’s not - this is a long tail game, not a shortcut strategy

Twitter social posting

Use Case

A parenting blog extends their reach by posting each new post on Twitter and by following and engaging with micro influencers who occasionally retweet their posts

Pros

  • Great way to increase distribution of content
  • Some posts will get shared, increasing reach
  • Easy format to get started with

Cons

  • Twitter is a noisy place and it’s hard to stand out
  • If you’re looking at anything around lead generation it’s unlikely Twitter will work well for you

Facebook posts

Use Case

A local dentist office posts deals for a 1st visit and asks their followers to like each post (building into the referral loop)

Pros

  • Free way to drive growth
  • Ability to leverage the network effects within Facebook to grow on top of users and friends of users

Cons

  • Facebook’s algorithm optimizes for paid advertisers, so organic post reach is limited
  • Younger audiences are moving off the platform

Facebook groups

Use Case

Supporters of military recruits at boot camp look at and join facebook groups relevant to the base where their recruit will be stationed during training

Pros

  • Highly engaged potential audience
  • Leverages network effects to grow
  • Can act as both a marketing and informational channel, including lightweight customer success capabilities

Cons

  • There is overhead in maintaining a group - you need to satisfy the needs of the members

App Store Optimization

Use Case

A mobile app enhances their presence by updating their imagery and product description within the app store

Pros

  • Easy to do
  • Quick results from efforts in this area

Cons

  • Users would need to know to search for you in the first place, so reach may be limited

Other Channels / Hybrid Channels

Speaking & Networking Events

Use Case

A thought leader building an online course attends local and regional events, where she gives free talks about marketing

Pros

  • Fast way to make instant in person or virtual connections
  • Trust built because you’re seen as an expert
  • Can add each engagement to your list of accomplishments

Cons

  • Setup time can be long - to put a great talk together requires focus and work
  • The audience at the event may be small, disengaged, or not the right persona for what you are doing

Conferences & Tradeshows

Use Case

A company purchases a booth at a tradeshow and gains a speaker slot as part of the deal. Another company who is an agency sends 4 digital marketers to walk the halls of the conference to gather potential leads. 

Pros

  • If you target the right events, this can be a fantastic way to do business development
  • Can meet hundreds of people in a short amount of time

Cons

  • Can be very expensive to attend and even more so to host
  • You may get lost in the noise of the crowd - there may literally be hundreds of other people doing the same thing as you
  • You may come out with a lot of contacts but no real leads

Cold outreach

Use Case

A B2B brand looking to grow it's revenue on a limited budget builds a cold outreach sequence with emails and phone calls to relevant prospects

Pros

  • Essentially free to do
  • Fairly easy to get setup and going
  • Entirely trackable - opens, clicks, replies, engagement and sales are all things you can report on and iterate on quickly

Cons

  • Make sure you are in compliance with the CAN-SPAM and other rules 
  • You need to have a thick skin - you’ll get back replies that are not fun to read
  • You can seriously damage your email sending score and reputation if you send too many emails, which can block your entire domain from emailing


Partnerships and Co-Branding

Use Case

A parenting blog extends their reach by posting each new post on Twitter and by following and engaging with micro influencers or brand partners who may help co-promote the brand

Pros

  • Great way to increase distribution - note Red Tricycle’s “spoke contributor network” in the image above - they use that to build out their syndication
  • Way to do more social posting without having to write every post - can share content from other partners
  • Other partners will share your content with their audience

Cons

  • It takes a while to build up syndication based relationships
  • Someone will have to “own” the effort - and it’s most effective at scale

Print advertising

Use Case

A new well funded startup is looking to blitzscale and beat an incumbent competitor - they buy ad space in national newspapers and magazines promoting their new brand. Print advertising is generally considered to be part of a brand marketing budget, since there is no real sense of acquisition marketing associated with it. 

Pros

  • Wide distribution
  • Good for high level brand awareness

Cons

  • Unable to target any metrics on the lift unless you use a promo code
  • Shrinking industry
  • Can be very expensive

Direct mail

Use Case

An eCommerce company mails out a promo code to 1 time buyers to try to get them to purchase again

Pros

  • It’s an industry that was once big but then died out. It’s coming back now, but still relatively cheap to implement
  • Can uniquely connect with your audience - not a lot of brands are sending direct mail yet

Cons

  • Can be expensive depending on how you are sourcing your leads
  • Unclear if it will work for you until you try it, and you may not be able to run a small experiment to test it out

Out of home (OOH) marketing

Use Case

A CPG brand "swarms" a tradeshow where thousands of people are attending by using ad-wrapped cars, buying billboards, and including a pop-up photo booth at a conference

Pros

  • Playful and fun way to reach consumers
  • Newer platforms have the ability to remarket to users who were in the vicinity of their advertisements (see Wrapify)

Cons

  • Expensive to get started