Customer Acquisition vs. Lead Generation: Which One Builds Growth Faster?

You know you need to have a steady flow of customers moving through your sales pipeline funnel to keep the lights on. But to keep that momentum going, what should you focus on: leads or customer acquisition?

You want to grow quickly. So do you double down on lead generation or customer acquisition? And aren’t they the same thing?

While closely related, customer acquisition and lead generation are not the same. We want to demystify the “customer acquisition vs. lead generation” debate to help you know where to focus your efforts.


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Customer Acquisition vs. Lead Generation: Which Grows Your Business Faster?

When considering whether customer acquisition or lead generation grows your business faster, the short answer is rather unsatisfying: It depends.

Several factors impact which strategy you should tackle when it comes to growth. At what stage is your business? Where are the bottlenecks in your processes and practices? Every business is unique, and therefore, has its unique struggles and challenges when it comes to building a SaaS growth strategy.

Then again, speed might not even be the best measuring stick. After all, what good does growth do if you can’t scale your systems to match? Consistency and scalability are vital pieces of your growth engine puzzle that you can’t ignore. 

Lean Labs has been around the block once or twice when it comes to helping businesses grow. This post will lay out our experiences and knowledge, giving you all the tools you need to decide which path to focus on for your business. 



What is Lead Generation?

First, let’s examine lead generation. Lead generation is the way your company attracts customers and gets them to engage with your brand. The goal of lead gen is to capture the attention of your target market and bring them to the top of your sales funnel. 

Once you’ve captured a visitor’s attention, you have a raw lead. This means that they’ve shown some interest in your brand or product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a hot prospect. The next step of your B2B lead generation strategy is to qualify the lead. 

Your method of lead qualification will be specific to your organization, but some questions to start with are:

  • Can this lead afford my product or service?
  • Does this lead have the authority to make a purchase decision for their organization?
  • Does this lead have a genuine interest in my product or service?

There are several different tactics you can use for lead generation, but a few common tactics are:

  • A content strategy including lead magnets
  • Paid social links to gated content
  • Chatbots
  • Free trials
  • Freemium products
  • Search ads


What is Customer Acquisition?

Next, let’s examine customer acquisition in more detail. Customer acquisition refers to your company’s steps to gain new customers, moving them from a lead to making a purchase. There are a few ways to conceptualize your customer acquisition process. The most common way is to view it as a funnel, taking your prospects from visitors to customers.

A newer approach to customer acquisition is the flywheel approach. In the flywheel approach, you view the three stages, attract, engage, and delight, as a cycle that must be perpetuated to grow your business. 

One important thing to note is that the customer acquisition process includes lead generation. But where lead generation refers to the process of bringing new people into your funnel or flywheel, customer acquisition focuses more on the process of moving those leads through the buyer journey. This involves sorting through leads, nurturing them, and qualifying or disqualifying those leads appropriately as they move through their journey. 

A few of the most common customer acquisition tactics are:

  • Lead scoring
  • Targeted content for middle and bottom of the funnel prospects
  • Direct personalized sales outreach
  • Email marketing sequences


Customer Acquisition vs. Lead Generation: Which Should You Optimize For?

The distinction between customer acquisition and lead generation becomes more apparent when considering which you should focus on optimizing your processes to fit. Many companies decide to optimize for lead generation first. After all, if there aren’t enough leads coming into the top of the funnel, there won’t be enough to nurture into customers, right?

Not necessarily. 

When you optimize your processes only for lead gen, you may bring a ton of prospects into your funnel, but they might not be the best prospects, and many of them might not end up qualifying into SQLs. 

Even if you are bringing in solid leads, if you aren’t focusing on the funnel or flywheel beyond that initial attraction stage, your leads won’t be encouraged to move through the buyer’s journey with you and will never become customers. 

On the flip side, consider optimizing for customer acquisition. This process is not without its difficulties. You will still need to make sure you have lead gen processes in place, but in our experience, the more time you spend engaging with and nurturing your prospects, the more high-quality, satisfied customers you’ll have in the end. 


Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition: Better Together

The ultimate answer to the question of “is lead gen or customer acquisition better?” is that it’s not a simple, binary choice. To effectively and efficiently grow your business, you’ll need both. The good news is that, when done right, they complement each other.

A great customer acquisition strategy includes terrific lead gen. A solid lead generation strategy will give you a better pool of prospects to nurture during customer acquisition efforts. Each process feeds and can be used to optimize the other. 

If you’re ready to step up both your lead generation and customer acquisition game, check out the Lean Labs Lead Gen Resource Pack. This resource will give you the tools you need to generate not just leads but qualified leads in volume. 


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