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How to Develop a Paid Acquisition Strategy for Early Stage B2C Companies


August 11, 2023


Right Side Up recently hosted a webinar, led by Lissa Regets, project strategist at Right Side Up, for early-stage B2C brands looking to plan, launch, and scale their paid acquisition strategy. Check out the recap below or watch the full webinar here.

For new B2C or D2C brands, attracting new customers is critical. Early on, it’s important to focus on developing organic traffic sources and finding new customers through non-paid methods. Once a company has found some early success organically, paid media can be a great way to amplify and attract new potential buyers.

For most brands, paid ads can serve as the cornerstone of your B2C customer acquisition strategy and help you:

  • Get your brand, products, and services in front of a significant number of your ideal customers quickly.
  • Rapidly test different value propositions and promotional offers to see what resonates.
  • Gauge potential customers’ interest in new products or services.
  • Reach your sales and revenue goals faster.

Once you unlock what approach to paid ads works for you, it’s easier to scale your business relatively quickly. But getting started can be a challenge. And the last thing you want to do is waste precious time and money trying to crack the code to achieve paid acquisition success.

Never fear, we’ve got the answers—in this article, we’ll discuss how to plan, start, and scale your paid acquisition strategy without burning your budget.

Prerequisites for Launching a Paid Acquisition Strategy

Before you jump into a paid acquisition program, it’s important to determine if you’re actually ready to invest in ads. Paid programs should amplify your existing growth, not create it.

How do you know if you’re ready? Start by answering the following questions:

  1. Are you ready to invest? You’ll need runway, cash on hand, and space to think thoughtfully, creatively, and realistically about your timelines and goals. You know what you’re trying to accomplish with ads.
  2. Do you know your offering? You’ll need to have a deep understanding of your customers and the distinct value proposition your product or service offers them. But knowing is only half the equation; you also need to be able to present that to your customers in a compelling way.
  3. Is your conversion path defined and built? Ideally, you already have an organic customer base where you’ve defined, built, and tested a user journey or sales funnel. It doesn’t have to be fully optimized, but you should have baseline data about how the funnel performs.
  4. Can you handle a higher volume of traffic and/or customers? Technology is important here, but also consider your processes and team. If you generate new customers and sales from launching ads, can you reliably handle that influx?
  5. Do you have an appetite for testing? Ads aren’t something you can turn on and forget, and they also might not work right away. They require adjustments, monitoring, and testing to ensure your funds are being spent wisely. If you don’t want to experiment, or don’t have the time or interest, you may want to delay ads (or find someone to help).

If you’ve answered yes to those questions, you’re ready to try paid ads to amplify your early stage B2C brand. Let’s get started—here’s your step-by-step guide to developing a paid acquisition strategy.

How to Develop a Paid Acquisition Strategy for B2C Brands

In this section, we’ll walk through the steps for building your paid ads strategy, including setting goals, defining your audience, developing messaging and offers, selecting channels and partners, planning budgets, setting up analytics tools and reporting, testing and optimizing, scaling, and eventually diversifying your channel mix.

Graphic with the numbers and headlines for the 8 steps in developing a paid acquisition strategy for B2C brands, all listed in text below.

Set goals and objectives

The first step of any good B2C paid acquisition program is to decide on a north star metric, or what you’re hoping to achieve with an ad campaign. As a leader, you also need to ensure that your entire team is informed about what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish. Buy-in is key from the start.

Most goals and objectives align with your sales funnel stages. Choose one primary goal/objective to take through the process.

Building awareness: Trust

Are you trying to build awareness or trust? Do you have credibility in the marketplace? This may be the first place you start with paid ads if your reach, awareness, and audience is still small.

Generating consideration: Trial and product education

Are you trying to educate? Do people need to know more about your product before they are willing to buy? Do you need to create differentiation between your product and competitors?

Driving decision/conversion: Revenue or desired action

Do you want to drive purchases and revenue for your brand? The answer is usually yes, but that may require you to understand (and overcome) customer objections.

Customer/loyalty: Retention

Do you need to build stronger relationships with the customers you already have, or those who have purchased in the past but need to be won back?

Define your audience

Once you’ve locked in your goal, you’ll want to spend considerable time early on to understand who your audience is and how you can best reach them. Search to learn about them, look at competitors and how they approach your target audience, conduct customer interviews, survey your sales or customer experience teams, look at your site analytics and CRM database, etc. to try to learn everything you possibly can about them.

Here are some attributes you’ll want to uncover to develop your ideal customer profile (ICP):

  • Demographics: Age, gender, geography, education levels, income levels, etc.
  • Pain and pleasure points: What makes them tick? What do they enjoy?
  • How and where they spend their time: Physical locations, online platforms, etc.
  • Brands they like/buy from that are similar to yours
  • Why would they (or what would make them) invest in your product or service?

The goal is to understand as much as possible about your audience to help inform your choices moving forward.

Develop messaging, copy, and offers

Once you understand who your audience is, you can start developing messaging and offers that will resonate with them.

First, think about where in the sales funnel your prospective customers would be at the moment they experience your ad. What are they looking for? What kind of problems are they facing? What could encourage them to take action at this moment?

Messaging is the general theme of your ads, or the overall point that you want to make. That messaging comes to life through the copy, or the actual words you use on the ad creative. Here are a few tips for creating ads that convert with copy that supports your messaging:

  • Align to your goals/objectives. Keep that goal in mind when you’re developing your messaging and offer.
  • Put your product and brand on display. It should be clear what you’re promoting (and how to purchase it). And always be authentic to your brand colors, tone, voice, and style.
  • Be relatable. If you know your audience, you will know what words to use to relate to them and speak to their pain and pleasure. Use “you” and “your” to speak directly to your audience.
  • Use stories. Try to get your audience to see themselves in your product, or help them envision the outcome of buying from you.
  • Keep it concise. Highlight one core benefit or feature, and then make the ask. You have limited time and space to make your case. Every word matters.
  • Include a clear call to action (CTA). What, exactly, do you want people to do after seeing your ad? Spell it out for them. But also make the offer easy to redeem and track.
  • Incorporate social proof. Try customer testimonials, influencer unboxings, press quotes, etc. to build trust and overcome objections. You may also include guarantees or money-back offers to further reduce the barrier.
  • Ensure creative consistency. Your ad copy and offer must match the landing page you’re driving traffic to. Always test the full purchase journey on different devices and watch for copy, colors, offer, and ease of purchase.
  • Try different formats. This could include static images, video, GIFs, long-form vs. short-form, etc. Use the formats that make sense for your messaging and offer, but test different versions to see what works.
  • Develop creative native to the platform you’re advertising on.
  • Google Ads: How can your ad answer the question(s) your audience is searching for?
  • Meta: Is your creative thumb-stopping enough?
  • TikTok: How can your product or service align with a TikTok subculture?
  • Test and iterate. Don’t keep your copy static, continually try different words, different versions, different imagery, etc. See what works, what doesn’t, and do more of what is making a difference toward your goal.

But you also have to make sure your messaging aligns with your prospective customers. Here are three messaging tactics to consider for your ads:

  1. Pain or pleasure: Can you word your ads in a certain way that addresses things your customers want or don’t want? Consider different perspectives as to why someone would want to buy your product.
  2. Objection busting: What is standing in your customers’ way? Why aren’t they converting or completing the purchase stages? Why do some people buy and others don’t? Figure out the barrier to purchase and speak to it.
  3. Building credibility: Often the barrier to purchase is around price or perceived value, but it could also signal lack of trust or credibility in the market. If you’re a new brand, especially where many competitors exist, you will have to work harder to build trust and prove that your product works.

Now it’s time to develop your offer. There are two types of offers: Evergreen and limited time offers. Evergreen means it’s always on or relevant, like 10% off your first purchase. This offer is available to every new customer and doesn’t have an end date. Limited time offers have an end date, and often are related to a specific date, time frame, season, or other time-based factor. Cyber Monday deals are an example.

Both offer types help create urgency. You want people to take action on the offer now, not bookmark it and come back later.

So now that you have your messaging and offer ready to go, what types of ads should you create to deliver them to customers? Here are a few ideas worth testing:

  • Customer user-generated content (UGC)
  • Mashups of testimonials or several reviews/clips
  • Influencer reviews
  • Education and product benefits
  • Product demo and/or unboxings
  • Us vs. them competitive comparisons
  • Lifestyle placements or routines
  • Brand or founder story
  • Problem and solution
  • Promotional
Ad creative and copy example for beauty and skincare brand, The Beauty Chef.

For more ad examples, see this free media library from Facebook.

Select channels and partners

Now it’s time to consider where you should place your messaging to get in front of your target audience. Think about where your prospects and customers are spending their time.

  • Are they already searching for a solution like yours? Paid search is good at capturing intent.
  • Are they experiencing a specific problem, but not aware of the solution? Paid social offers discovery.
  • Are they hesitant to buy your product for trust or credibility reasons? Endorsement marketing, like influencers, affiliate, press, and partnerships, offer credibility.
Graphic showing how to choose paid ad channels: Paid social is best for discovery, paid search captures intent, and endorsement marketing to build credibility.

Many companies start with paid search and/or paid social, but you know your business best. You don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else. Different channels produce variation in customer quality. Pay attention to the best and worst partners within each channel; don’t just assume that more leads is better. Watch for cost per lead, and the quality of that lead. Understand the type of customer, how many items they buy per year, the value of that customer per year, etc. and compare that to other partners. This will show you what is actually worth your investment over time.

And finally, continue to grow your owned (e.g. email) and earned/organic (e.g. PR, organic search, SEO, organic social) channels as you focus on paid channels. The optimal mix at scale includes a combination of them all.

Paid search: Google Ads

Google Ads is the most common paid search platform. The key to finding success with Google Ads is keyword research. Popular paid SEO tools include SEMRush, Moz, Ubersuggest, and Ahrefs. Google Keyword planner is always free.

There are two types of SEM (search engine marketing) campaigns:

  1. Branded: These ads show to people searching specifically for your brand or products. Make sure they can find you. If you type your brand name into Google and you don’t show up on the first page, or within the first few options, you’ll want to invest in branded search.
  2. Non-branded: These ads use themes, or ad groups, again based on your keyword research. For example, if you have a home decor brand, your non-branded themes could be pillows, rugs, candles, etc. You’ll have ad sets that roll up to those themes, all leading to a landing page specific to that category or theme.
Graphic showing how to set up non-branded SEM campaigns for a home goods company

Tip: Start with “phrase match” and “longtail” keywords. Even though they have lower search volume, they have stronger intent and less competition. An example is “organic dog food for senior dogs,” compared to just bidding on “dog food,” which has a lot of volume and competition and will burn through your budget faster.

And start with the maximize conversions with target CPA bidding structure. But test different options and see what converts best for you.

Google recently began offering a new type of campaign called Performance Max. Whereas traditional search is all about intent, or people searching for a solution, Performance Max expands out to also include discovery and combines SEM, Shopping, Display, YouTube, etc. The benefit is if you plug in as much information as possible, it allows Google to use its algorithm to go find you customers.

But beware, you don’t have a lot of visibility or control here. That’s why running traditional search ads and Shopping in addition to Performance Max is ideal. We recommend setting up simple Performance Max campaigns that start with a product category, like men’s shoes, and break down by asset group, like boots or sneakers, with related products and keywords and a targeted landing page.

Paid social: Meta

Meta (formerly Facebook) is the most common paid social platform for B2C brands. To get started, keep it simple with two Meta ad sets:

  1. Testing: This is where you try different ads you think might work. As they become winning ads, they get transferred into the evergreen ad set.
  2. Evergreen: These are the ads that are proven to work. They're always running.

Don’t test a bunch of ads sets and audiences. You probably don’t have the budget for that, and it won’t help you reach your goals any faster. Instead, when you’re getting started, put your prospecting and retargeting audiences together because it helps the pixel learn faster. After you have enough data running through your pixel and your custom audiences—in Meta’s “Audiences”—are large enough to add to targeting, you’ll want to separate these two groups. There are several strategies to explore at that point, and you’ll want to consult an expert by that point if you haven’t already.

Start with broader audiences and lowest cost bidding to allow for more volume to come through (so you can get learnings faster). If the budget is going too quickly, you can add bid or cost caps to control that spend.

Tip: Meta automatically puts static photos in front of people most likely to engage with photos and video in front of people who engage with video, so make sure your tests include media of the same ad format running against each other.

Once you have test winners, put them into the evergreen ad set and the combination of ad formats will be served to people most likely to engage with it. Most of your Meta budget will go into the evergreen ad set.

Meta introduced a feature called the learning phase a while back to help brands make the most of their ads. The key is to get out of learning as fast as possible (and stay out of learning). It’s important during the learning phase to only make small changes to your evergreen ad campaign. For example, don’t increase your daily budget by more than 20% and don’t change the bidding structure. The only significant changes you are making to the evergreen ads are adding in new winning ads and slowly and incrementally adding to the budget. Any tests and experiments should happen in your testing ad set.

Plan advertising budgets

When you’re doing your budget planning and forecasting, it’s important to assess what you need your ad program to produce.

Let’s walk through an example where the goal is to generate $30,000 in revenue. To do that, you’ll need 375 customers with an $80 average order value.

But then you have to consider the cost. Let’s assume a CAC of $30. If it cost you $30 to acquire a new customer who spent $80, that’s a 2.7x ROAS, which is a great starting point. Aim for between 2–4x ROAS as your ideal target.

Screenshot of a budget calculator factoring in CAC, ROAS, AOV, your goal revenue, number of customers and the projected spend by ad channel

You’re going to find that some days your ROAS is positive, and others it’s negative. You will optimize and get better, so don’t be alarmed if it takes a little time to see consistent results.

Once you know these numbers, you can back into your spend. Based on this example, it’ll take about $11,500 of advertising spend to meet our $30,000 revenue goal.

But keep in mind, this is a simple equation that assumes you’re actually hitting your targets and that your funnel operates well. Be conservative with your estimates to start as you build up trust and credibility. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to hit these numbers right off the bat. It's good to plan, forecast, and estimate, but ultimately, you need to start spending and testing your ads to see what works for you.

Bonus: Get the B2C Ad Planning/Budget Calculator

Budgeting for Google Ads

Remember those keywords you planned earlier? Let’s get back to them. Every keyword has a cost and you’re going to pay per click (called CPC or cost per click). Some keywords cost more than others.

Start with your big list of longtail or shorter keywords/keyphrases and decide which to vie for based on their average CPCs, competition, and estimated monthly search volume. And just like before, back into your cost based on your goals and forecasted funnel conversion rates.

Graphic showing keyword research with CPC, or cost per click.

Start simple; even $500 can help you understand the landscape and start to see some results. From there, scale up faster and increase your budget and keywords, while continually monitoring and testing to optimize your spend.

Here are some ways you can improve impression share on Google Ads:

  • Analyze your competitors
  • Improve your ad quality
  • Optimize for relevant keywords.
  • Improve your audience targeting
  • Filter negative keywords
  • Increase your budget
  • Increase your keyword bid

Budgeting for Meta Ads

For Meta, it’s in your best interest to get out of the learning phase as quickly as you can. Within this phase, you need at least 50 actions per week per ad set. If your action is defined as a purchase, you need at least 50 purchases per week per ad set to exit the learning phase.

Here’s an example: If your CAC is $30 and you know you need 50 purchases, that’s a $1,500 minimum weekly budget. But if you have three ad sets, multiply by three for $4,500 total testing budget per week (or $18,000 per month).

Graphic showing optimized testing budget for Meta ads.

This, again, assumes you’re able to meet your targets and maintain that CAC, which may not happen. But having this starting view helps you understand just how much budget to allocate to your Meta ads.

However, this approach doesn’t necessarily have to be fast tracked. You want to exit the learning phase, but Meta doesn’t penalize you for being in learning. You can still run ads. What’s happening during the learning phase is that Meta, too, is learning about you, your brand, and your audience. It may be a little more expensive to reach your customers while in the learning phase, and your campaign may not be fully optimized, but you can still run ads and uncover results to continue optimizing and iterating on your ads.

How to measure success

Measurement is critical for understanding the success of your ads or acquisition strategy. You need to know where you started, where you are, and what contributed (or didn’t) to that success.

Metrics that matter

Foundational metrics are the building blocks for a scalable, repeatable program. Here are the metrics you need to measure and understand:

  • CAC (or CPA): Cost of acquiring a new customer (or cost per action)
  • ROAS: Return on ad spend
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of sessions who convert to customers
  • AOV (or ACV): Average order value (or average customer value)
  • LTV: Lifetime value
  • LTV:CAC: How profitable your business is
  • Payback period: The time it takes to pay back the cost of acquisition


The key for measurement is having an historical benchmark, or knowledge of what was happening before you started doing ads. You don’t want to go into this not knowing where you came from.

First, document how your sales funnel performs today. Map each step and calculate conversion rates, both the overall rate and the conversion rates between each step of the funnel. For example, how many people submitted their email address? How many added something to the cart? How many of those abandoned their cart? How many made a purchase?

If you don’t have this level of data for your products yet, use industry benchmarks as a starting point. You can use Google to find benchmarks or ask founders or colleagues working on similar businesses to share averages. Eventually you can transition to using your own data as industry benchmarks do change over time.

At least 30 days of historical data is needed, but ideally, you have data for at least three months to get a true average with a large enough sample.

The goal is to increase your intra-funnel metrics, meaning you’re getting more people to land on your pages and more people to convert. Increasing conversions and metrics within your funnel is how you generate efficient brand growth.

How to measure

Now that you understand key metrics and have your benchmarks, it’s important to set up your measurement tools correctly.

  1. Choose and configure your primary analytics tool. Google Analytics is the most common option for B2C brands, and it’s free.
  2. Use UTMs. Creating custom URLs for your ads allows you to have more accurate and transparent measurement because the URL string tells your tracking tool the source, medium, and particular parameters, like ad sets. Use a UTM builder to consistently create these URLs for your ads.
  3. Set up and season your ad pixels. These don’t start tracking until you place them on your site, so do this before you start running your ads.
  4. Google Ads links directly to Google Analytics.
  5. Meta is code-based (or one-click integration).
  6. For both, you may need to configure custom events in Google Analytics to see deeper insights.
  7. Spot check that your analytics tools are tracking correctly. Note that you’ll often find discrepancies between the results ad platforms report vs. the results your analytics tool reports. Try to understand what is causing those differences and what a “normal” gap is for your business.
  8. Define your approach to attribution and stick to it. If Google Analytics is your chosen tool, always use that same method of reporting to measure and share your success.
  9. Set up reports and run them regularly. But also understand that each platform has nuances and delays in reporting. Pulling data before numbers have “settled” (aka the ad platforms have finished verifying impressions, clicks, and conversion data) could cause data discrepancies. Run the report the same time every week or month and at least two weeks after you launch your first campaigns.
  10. Don’t rely solely on tools. Talk to your customers to collect qualitative data that supports your quantitative data.

Test and optimize

There's no one-size-fits-all recipe for building and scaling a B2C paid media strategy. Everybody has a different approach and you’ll need to try different things to see what works for you.

But there are a few helpful optimization levers you can pull on your campaigns:

Graphic showing Optimization Levers for paid ads, which are listed in the body copy below.
  • Always be testing. There’s always something you can adjust or try with your:
  • Messaging or offer
  • Creative
  • Ad formats
  • Audience segments
  • Bid strategies
  • Try different ad platforms. Meta, TikTok, and other platforms your audience uses are all worth exploring.
  • Learn from peers and partner reps. Ask others what’s working and learn from their experience (while testing for yourself).
  • Adjust your evergreen campaigns. Use what you learn from your tests to optimize.

General guidance is to test 3–5 ads at a time per ad set with adequate budget. Refresh your assets every 2–4 weeks on Meta, every 4–6 weeks on Google, and every 1–2 weeks on TikTok.

But perhaps most importantly, always test with intention. Create a testing agenda, with specific experiments you want to run to try to improve a specific metric. Focusing on one metric at a time will help you organize your test and see what works. Determine the timing of the test, what it might look like, how you’ll measure it, and what your tests will be. You’ll want to run one test at a time, so this will take some patience, but it’s worth it.

How to know if your tests are working

Testing is only beneficial if you track success and iterate based on results. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • What metric are you optimizing for (e.g. CAC)?
  • What is your benchmark or baseline?
  • Was the test the same, better, or worse than before? (Note: If you’re not sure, let the test run longer, or you may want to increase spend to generate a larger sample size.)
  • Once you determine whether it’s the same, better, or worse, zoom out and look at other interrelated metrics, like revenue, AOV, conversion rate, time on site, etc. Has the test impacted those metrics against your benchmarks?
  • Review the results against your testing agenda. Did the test confirm your hypothesis? Do you need to change your testing agenda?
  • Test some more.

With paid ads, you should always be testing and learning to make the most of your spend.

Scale and diversify

When it’s time to scale, there’s no one playbook that works for every brand. The most important thing is to be thoughtful about your channel and partner selection. Start with one or two priority partners or channels. Optimize and scale those programs before you look to diversify. Only then should you consider investing in another channel, partner, or marketplace.

Here are some common channel/partner mixes to consider at scale:

  • B2C ecommerce: Meta Ads, Google Ads, Marketplace, influencer, podcast, PR, affiliate
  • B2C mobile app: Meta Ads, Google Play Ads, Apple Search Ads, mobile app affiliates
  • B2C brick and mortar: Google Ads, Meta Ads, local newsletters, audio, OOH, PR
  • Additional channel considerations: TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, Threads, radio, CTV/OTT, display/programmatic partners, etc.

Getting a profitable paid ads program will take time and resources, but are worth the investment. If you don’t have time to tackle ads on your own, there are many ways to find support. Whether it’s a full-time employee, fractional support, or an external agency, you don’t have to go at your paid media strategy alone.

You might start with one paid media generalist, but as you scale and get more money to invest in your channels, you’ll want to have dedicated channel managers with deeper specialization; one for paid search, one for paid social, plus creative support. And don’t forget about also having a fantastic lifecycle or email marketing person, someone to manage organic social, and other traditional marketing roles. All of these functions combined will help drive your success.

Need help getting your B2C paid acquisition strategy off the ground? Our talent collective has deep expertise in building, testing, and scaling ad budgets of all sizes. Send us a note at growth@rightsideup.co to get started.

Lissa Regets is a marketer, advisor, consultant, strategist, entrepreneur, athlete, coach, speaker with more than a decade of experience working on 70+ lifestyle brands, startups, and social enterprises.

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Let's talk growth

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Let's talk growth

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