March 4, 2024


don’t reinvent growth funnel.

Now, we’ve been through growth marketing for over a decade. Thousands of startups have tried infinite variations and tweaks to their growth funnels, so why should you try to reinvent the same foundation?

The most important aspects are acquisition, activation and retention. While referrals and monetization are also very important, they won’t make or break a startup like the first three. If you can’t acquire, activate or retain customers for your startup, your chances of success are next to zero.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the world-class setups of several leading companies, broken down by each stage of the funnel, so you can draw inspiration from what’s been proven over the past decade.

This is not a teardown of every particular startup, but rather a comprehensive look at what the leading companies are doing, their growth mindset, and how to replicate these behaviors in your own startups.

First stage of the funnel: acquisition

Without a doubt, the most progressive acquisition I’ve personally come across occurred during my tenure as leader of rider growth at Uber. As you can imagine, at the time we had a ton of product managers, data scientists, and every complementary growth role you could think of helping us drive our growth marketing team forward.

When framing the right approach to procurement, the following will make a world-class project above average:

  • Attribution settings
  • Mindset on Metrics
  • Focus on big leverage

As far as our attribution is concerned, I must start by stating that I’ve never seen a 100% accurate attribution framework because it’s basically impossible to capture all fetch data without leaking it.

At Uber, we still spend a lot of time working with our attribution partners, such as our mobile measurement partners, and are constantly looking for areas of improvement. Before offloading your acquisition budget, you should first ensure you capture all possible data from paid channels. If you’re doing acquisitions on the web, this means adding UTM parameters to all of your marketing efforts.

Acquisition, activation and retention are critical. While referrals and monetization are also very important, they will not determine the success or failure of a startup.

Conversely, if you acquire on a mobile app, this means fully integrating the mobile measurement partner into your app. I’ve written an entire column on how to build a proper tech stack, and I implore readers to visit that column if they’re starting their own attribution efforts from scratch.

The mindset of marketers when it comes to customer acquisition dictates that they only focus on vanity metrics like click-through rates and conversions, while simultaneously neglecting down-funnel conversion metrics. At Uber, we focus on advanced metrics such as predicted lifetime value (pLTV) and predicted first trip (pFT) of new riders captured in real time. Using our internally developed methodology to analyze various data points, including acquisition channel and geography, we were able to accurately predict the number of trips a new user would take within 90 days.

Whatever your North Star metric, you should always look ahead to understand the value of your acquisitions so you can double down on those channels that bring the highest value consumers.

Acquisition is ever-changing, and best-in-class marketers strive to stay in touch with the latest creative trends, new ad formats to test, and next sales targets. When I worked on the growth team at Coinbase, we spent at least 10% of our budget testing new ad formats that TikTok released.

The takeaway here is that you should focus on your biggest paid acquisition levers when they bear fruit, an example of which is getting creative with paid social. I recommend the following sites to keep startup founders updated on the latest growth and marketing trends – social media today for paid social or search engine land For paid search.

Funnel Stage 2: Activation