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Customer acquisition planning: three essential tools


SOAP, GIN, and POP: tools essential for customer acquisition planning

As technology businesses start to scale, the instinctive and entrepreneurial approach to winning new business can begin to feel chaotic and unproductive.  Great people can be reduced to ‘busy fools’, chasing new business in multiple directions.  Soap, gin, and pop are three methodical tools, essential for customer acquisition planning, that bring structure to the talents lurking in your business.


Strategy on a page

CEOs want action, activity and results rather than strategy and planning.  The first can be so much more powerful when you have the second.  Having a plan for longer term growth and investment is sensible; setting it out on one page makes it easier to understand, communicate and use.  Use it to capture the purpose of the business, the source of revenue and growth and how it will be achieved.   Fitting it on to one page signals clarity of thinking and why not turn it into a smart infographic!

Once it exists it has multiple uses, including attracting and onboarding new staff, internal communications, updates, and extra-curricular social activities.  It provides a reporting framework for the board and investors and underpins decision-making and prioritisation.  It can be used to set goals and targets for team members. In practice it forms the backbone of the business plan.

Most people in your business will have their heads down doing their own job. ‘Strategy on a page’ is a great way to help them lift their gaze and get behind a set of objectives that are linked to a higher sense of purpose and ambition.


Goal in numbers

Numbers in isolation can feel meaningless, but set out in the right way they can be empowering, modelling how a business can achieve its goal and demonstrating progress towards it.  Shared goals in numbers should form the basis for every team member’s personal objective and performance measures.

‘What gets measured gets managed’ is an old adage which contains a lot of truth.

The template we use starts with analysis of the existing annual recurring revenue customers and profile of the project-based business.  The SOAP is explicit about the type of new customers the business is targeting and sets out the headline revenue or profit goals for the year.   Calculating average monthly revenue and deal size makes it simple to work out how many new customers you need.

If you know the conversion rates between unqualified leads, qualified leads, sales leads, and opportunities, you can plug these in and set the team the challenge of beating them.  We use intelligent hypotheses based on industry averages if they haven’t been recorded before.

Doing the numbers like this can be alarming or surprisingly reassuring.  It highlights the parts of the process that need to be improved and sets a standard to aim for.  Knowing which levers to pull can improve the KPIs on the way to the annual or quarterly target.

Setting out a ‘goal in numbers’ flows directly from ‘strategy on a page’. It sets the benchmark for individual performance measures, KPI reporting and budgeting.


Plan on a page

Show the board, the team and other managers the headlines of the approach by setting out the plan for the year on one page.  As with the SOAP, this is a simple document that is easy to present and talk through at quarterly updates getting everyone onboard with the process.

We break the plan on a page into three stages – awareness and lead generation, business development and nurture, and conversion.  Tailor the specifics by sector or solution area and set out activity around three headline stages of the customer lifecycle:

A: Awareness and lead generation. Measure growth of contacts and leads

Stand out awareness activities will make you visible to the target audience. Build the database with people with the right personas and get permission based opt-ins to carry on a conversation with them.  Pique interest with content or event led campaigns that grab attention and elicit a response.

B: Business development to nurture leads and build engagement. Measure numbers of MQLs and SQLs

Business development or nurture activities are all about building credibility and trust.  Plan things that encourage people to take a step towards you and take a look at what you’ve got to offer.  This may involve planning a webinar series, a professional network or a regular survey that provides valuable insights for them.  We call these activities ‘pumps’.  They are the regular, repeatable things that consistently nurture leads closer towards a buying decision.

C: Conversion. Measure SQLs and opportunities

Turn MQLs and SQLs into opportunities with deeper dive workshops, demonstrations, diagnostics, benchmarking or pain discovery workshops. Create evidence based content to show-case previous projects, methodologies, IP and accreditations that help with the rational decision making process.

CRM and marketing automation systems contain lots of campaign planning functionality, reporting tools and additional metrics and management features.  However, those outside the execution team don’t need this level of detail.


Like all methodologies, SOAP, GIN and POP have their limitations.  They provide a framework for capturing who you are, where you are going and how you’re going to get there.  Every business is different and the tools don’t come pre-populated with all the answers.  For more thoughts on optimising customer acquisition planning, see our recent article on managing the annual planning cycle.

These tools don’t do all the heavy lifting. Businesses still need market insights, a differentiated identity, powerful messaging and engaging stories.

If you would value an independent assessment of your current customer acquisition approach
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