in Marketing

Choose your own customer acquisition mastery

In this blog post I am going to map out how I’m going to approach my customer acquisition mastery.  I recently read an article by Brian Balfour detailing the foundations, marketing foundations, and channel expertise that a customer acquisition expert can choose. I’m not going to go over the details by Brain as his blog post does a good job of explaining the details of the roadmap. We’re going to find out path so we can get a direction to go in all the marketing confusions for those with limited experience in marketing.


Mindset before pushing ‘play’

The perspective needed for this customer acquisition mastery starts with actually DOING the work of a customer acquisition expert (CAE).  He outlines some state of mind that you should consider before starting this journey:

  1. There is no course or source that will teach you everything you need. There is no one source that will have all the material you need.
  2. You don’t learn custom acquisition in college.
  3. You don’t become a CAE by reading blogs or watching videos.
  4. “Certifications are bullshit.”

What is the T-Framework?

T-framework for learning


This is the T-framework structure we will be using to map out our mastery journey. It’s so exciting!

What is the base knowledge layer?

Before we go any deeper, let’s go over Brian’s T-Framework. Brain outlines sections for the basic knowledge layer which consist of:

  • Statistics
  • Programming
  • Product design and UX principles
  • Analytics
  • Behavioural psychology
  • Branding, positioning, and storytelling

These are the bases of which will support the marketing foundation. This base is not restricted to only these, as there may be new foundations that need to be learned in the future. For example, a decade ago, behavioural psychology or product design and UX principles were not necessary, but in this decade, it’s required to understand behavioural psychology in order to understand how people behave with products and to have product design skills to design products that people will want to use.

What is the marketing foundation layer?

The marketing foundation layer is required as it will utilize concepts in the marketing channels. Topics include:

  • Conversion rate optimization
  • A/B testing
  • Database querying
  • Photoshop and wireframing
  • Excel modelling
  • Copywriting
  • Funnel marketing

These marketing foundations will change as will the base knowledge foundation layer. These changes I suspect will come from innovation from the marketing channels as it will influence what principles need to be adopted to optimize the results.

What is the channel expertise layer?

The channel expertise layer will have marketing channels that are prominent and effective at this period of time. As of 2014, the marketing channels made up of emerging and existing channels include:

  • Viral marketing
  • Facebook ads
  • Display advertising
  • Mobile marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Search pay per click
  • Search engine optimization
  • Social marketing
  • Public relations
  • Sales
  • Content marketing
  • Partnerships
  • Direct mail marketing (I’ve included)

I’ve included direct mail marketing because I think it’s one that if often forgotten and which can measured and work well in certain situations. Though it may be “outdated” compared to email or social marketing, but what matters is its effectiveness. Let’s not lose our goal as professionals.

You will need to learn all the topics in the base knowledge layer and marketing foundation layer! That means all the topics in these two layers. For the expertise channels layer, you will have to learn them all from Brian’s resources he outlined, then pick 2-3 channels you want to specialize. Your choice of specialization will need to be based on your strengths as Brian also states.

For example, if like having a community of people then you may like social marketing or if you like to develop one-on-one relationships, then sales could be another expertise channel to have a deeper knowledge of.

How to become a CAE?

So here’s how I’m going to go about learning customer acquisition:

  • Pick one topic from the base knowledge layer.
  • Pick one topic from the marketing foundation layer.
  • Pick one (or two if you have  more time) from the channel expertise layer.

In total, you will be learning three or four topics at a time. Once a topic for each layer is completed, then you can move on to another on the same layer. Brain listed a good amount of resources to use in your learning so you’ll be spending plenty of time going over the material.

The crucial point is that you need to implement your learning. For example, if you are learning about email marketing then you’ll need to implement the learning by registering for an email distribution provider and generating an email list. Or if you’re learning about partnerships, then you’ll need to do the selling. For example, you could build partnerships for non-profits to increase their awareness or donations through these partnerships.

Some expertise channel will be more difficult to implement than others, but these channels will likely mean they are valued more in the job market and are more difficult to learn. Resulting in higher pay for these job roles as this is something important to take in mind because some people value income higher than job satisfaction.

A second important note is that implementation means f*cking IMPLEMENTATION! I thought about writing blog posts for topics such as viral marketing but it’s not being true in the sense of implementation of having actual word of mouth instead of writing a thought piece on my blog.

What are the sources of implementation?

Where can we implement our learning? Now that we’ve gone this far, how do we deliver real results?

You can do this by yourself or by creating a website or a small product that you can market, because everything in marketing is based on a product. Here are some ideas:

  • Startups
  • Own website/product
  • Small and young non-profits (including associations and charities)

The startups and young non-profits have one thing in common which is that they’re entrepreneurial and willing to take risks, which is characterized by the small size and recent founding of the organization. You want to look for organization that have DONE things, instead of what organization says they will do or will do in the future. Look at WHAT they have done recently to show they are entrepreneurial.

Another tip is to focus on channels you can easily implement. For example, virality or word-of-mouth marketing is much harder to execute and measure than email marketing or sales. So, focus on the easy wins and think about how to implement the more difficult channels.

What have I done so far?

I’ve been reading about virality but I couldn’t find an effective way to implement the solution. The closest method for me to implement my learning is by wireframing and developing UX user-flow for an existing company or a small startup or charity. You see… this is not directly implementing the solution to gain X number of users from viral marketing but that’s not the end of the world!

Let’s diagnose the level of implementation we can actual execute. Here’s the hierarchy of implementation I’ve come up with:

  1. Actual implementation using learning
  2. Analyzing and designing of implementation using learning
  3. Writing about learning
  4. Talking with other people about learning
  5. Just reading the material

As you can see, the further we move down the list, the further away we are from actual implementation and the easier the task it is. For example, writing about what you learned is much more work than just reading the material. But we’re not going for the most easiest way, we’re going for the closest thing to implementation as possible because we want to gain experience in getting to do the specific type of marketing as close as possible.

I’ve created a newsletter sign up for the customer acquisition journey since some of you may want to see this through. If you’re interested, sign up below!

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