I was thinking about mobile and SaaS user acquisition, including some of the tried and true (and often despised) methods. Most of them seem to be more about persistence… Persistently flogging people with their ad anyway. However, it was this other, newer, quiet model that really piqued my curiosity.

The blunt force approach does work. But what you give up in finesse you pay for in, well, cost. Not only dollar cost, which is excessively high with this method, but also in brand/affinity cost. People can quickly grow weary of being bombarded by your brand/app/offer ad. While the fraction of folks who do opt in might seem high, the vast majority have already been lost both now and potentially in the future.

This new method, though, gave me pause. Did someone really conjure up a fundamentally new user acquisition (ua) funnel? Here’s the thing, they basically used an entirely off-the-shelf set of tools and components. The chemistry is what’s all new.

The company:

GoodWorld — charity donation via social

The pieces:

Hashtag search
Automated response (@messaging)
Quick account creation
Cool off period
Social propagation

The chemistry:

The clients, charity 503 organizations, and users are both the marketing channel. And newly acquired clients or users instantly become part of that channel. By staying within the social network sphere, the messages (ads) that get amplified or become viral are genuine and user generated. They never feel like ads. The call to action, which is the link in the @reply to your hashtag post, is dramatically more potent because a) you asked for it and b) it zips right back to you inside the medium.

The first and only part of the process where a user leaves the social network is account creation — always the biggest hurdle for ANY app or service. With a fast and simple Stripe payment form the user creates an account and triggers a payment in one action.

Another social @reply to thank the user pulls them back into the desired medium to, hopefully, further extend the marketing reach. From this point forward a user can post a hashtag and dollar amount and instantly give (and market the service).

One clever note is that the company baked in a 24 hour cool off period. If you drunk-post, er, accidentally give without meaning to, then you can back out in a reasonable time. Once you’re already a user, this is especially important due to the ease with which you can give. Retention is not always about nabbing every dollar possible. It’s often more about getting a customer to do something and pay for it repeatedly and happily.

The parting thought:

UA is tough. Ads are easy; albeit costly. And happy, return users are invaluable. Doing it right creates scale and growth. Doing it wrong can be catastrophic. Doing it differently just might change your company forever.

So, how are you acquiring users? Using the same old ad formula? Experimenting with new chemistry? I’d love to hear your take on this frustratingly crucial topic.

//Previously published on Medium