Grant HosfordStart-Up CEO, Customer Acquisition Expert

Entrepreneur, Advisor and Data-Driven Marketer. Expert in performance marketing, customer acquisition, start-up operations, lean start-up methods and B2C internet businesses.

Bike nut.

Recent Answers

Like many posted questions I would need more detail to be able to give you meaningful advice. My experience in this area is that I co-founded a web analytics consulting practice that was acquired by WPP in 2006 and have been working in customer acquisition since 2002.

What is your product or service? What are you key goals for setting up a dashboard? Have you done the most important work - carefully selecting 5-10 metrics that are both actionable and drive your business?

I'm a big fan of board games and Card Games in general. We play board games as a team almost every Friday. Some of my favorites are Survive, Star Wars Armada, Takenoko and Sushi Go. Star Wars Armada in particular was super fun and super geeky - which we like. Great question and smart thing to think about...

Don't Outsource. Period.

While there are big drawbacks with outsourcing related to building internal expertise the real reason I would never outsource at your stage is the need for speed and flexibility.

Per your description, you are an early stage start-up with a MVP that is gathering data. Congratulations as that is a big accomplishment! However, you inevitably have a ton to learn about what your prospective customers need most and what customers deserve your attention most.

The means you will be tweaking your product constantly for the foreseeable future and having to submit ideas to an outsourced team, make sure they understand what you want, wait for the new feature to be scheduled, etc is just too slow and too expensive.

You should have your developers literally sitting next to you and (if you have one besides yourself) your product person so you can quickly and constantly share information.

Good luck! You are in for a fun ride...

In my experience (and I've been on the agency and client side) there are a handful of mistakes that get repeated regularly by both sides.

- There is no one on the client side who understands digital marketing and can hold the agency accountable
- Expectations for ROI are highly unrealistic in terms of timing. It generally takes at least 3-4 months of testing before you can sort out which channels and campaigns have promise
- There is an idea that digital channels can work very well alone. Generally this is not the case. Digital is most effective when awareness is being driven by other channels, good PR, content strategies, etc.
- There are no clear goals for the engagement other than wishful thinking metrics. Goals should be based in reality, incremental and core to your business.

- They don’t do their industry and client homework up front and/or they don’t make the client do theirs - especially when it comes to audience demographics and habits.
- They spend too much too soon. The best campaigns start small, find things worth repeating and THEN ramp up.
- They misapply lessons from a past client to the current client. Past knowledge of an industry is always helpful but good campaigns focus on the very specific needs of each company. Apple and Samsung are very similar in many ways but their marketing needs and strategies are highly differentiated.

I can recommend a good digital agency if you are having trouble finding one you like. I’ve personally hired them three different times. And I’d be happy to chat if you wanted to dig in on any of the points above.

Good luck!

Some specific tactics to consider based on personal experience:

- First, research the person on LinkedIn, Facebook etc and see if you have any legitimate shared contacts or interests. Do NOT under any circumstances stretch the truth but if, for example, you both went to the same school, both lived abroad in the same country, both love road biking, then arm yourself with that knowledge.
- I'm going to assume that in this case you don't have any shared connections so LinkedIn isn't an option. Now you need to research email and phone number. For C-level execs of public companies you can sometimes find this info in SEC filings.
- If you are targeting someone below the C-suite then the following tactic is VERY effective. Call the appropriate C-level exec. When you get stopped by the gate keeper explain who you need to talk to and have them refer you. An email from the exec asst to the CEO is just as effective as an email from the CEO herself!
- You must be willing to follow a "friendly bulldog" strategy. That means you call, email and send real mail (can be very effective b/c its now a rare tactic) many times with small time gaps in between. The more you ask someone to do something for you, the more they feel obligated to do it. This is a real psychological phenomenon that fund raisers exploit regularly.

I hope these ideas help. Happy to talk and share more...

The two answers above are great. I would just add that in order for CAC to be useful you also need a reasonably accurate Lifetime Value (LTV) number. It's very important to know if your costs are being amortized over 3 months of revenue or 18 months. I realize you are early in the process of growing this product but its important to make your best guess here, put a stake in the ground with a number and then optimize over time.

Having a LTV number also helps you to decide when to focus on your acquisition costs vs retention costs. Often its not realistic to work on optimizing both at the same time. Good luck!

I currently work at Idealab and the body of knowledge and level of support for entrepreneurs is outstanding. I worked at 3 start-ups prior to joining Idealab and feel like I've learned as much in the past year here as I did at any of the start-ups. Plus the people here truly want to help and are good people.

The Idealab model is unusual in that 70% of our companies are ones that we spin up from internal ideas. But the other 30% are companies we invest in during a seed round. Please contact me at if you'd like to know more about what we do.

I used to sell similar services and now advise a company that works in the optimization space. I agree that monthly fees are ultimately the way to go and that the connection to your time spent should be loose at best. The main price driver should be to the ROI you deliver. One thing to consider, an option with a more modest fee in return for a "bonus" related to the creation of incremental revenue and profit. Most companies won't bite but it shows you believe in your services.

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