None of the two yet, as the definitive answer depends mainly on the phase of business life cycle the company finds itself in and as a derivative thereof, the customer life cycle. In any event, it is a rule of thumb, that you should not be a business that loses clients “carelessly”.
Determining whether “acquisition” or “retention” is better at any given phase, depends on many factors that need to be calculated carefully, like:
- The phase of business life cycle the company is in. A start-up will have a different strategy than a mature business geared towards more acquisition.
- Is it B2C or B2B?
- Are you selling products or services?
- Service or product life time: once per month or once per 5 years?
- Market competition: how fiercely do you have to fight for customers?
- Necessity of acquisition; do you actually have to acquire customers intensively or do they choose you willingly?
- Necessity of retention; Do you have to retain customers or do they come back every time “voluntarily”?
- The type of product or service you’re selling in terms of high-loyalty products, luxury products, basic products, FMCG etc.
- Market micro-economics: like purchase-power & competition.
- Business sector: a B2C translation agency for only certified translations of official papers (diploma’s and ID’s) may choose to concentrate on acquisition and word-of-mouth marketing, since repeat purchase is unchangeably low for this specific service.
Most experts would put retention higher on the importance-list than acquisition, taking all pro’s and con’s into consideration, for reasons related to the researched fact that the cost of acquisition is 2,5 times the cost of client retention in relation to ROI. Although this percentage fluctuates regularly, sometimes claiming that retention’s ROI is 3 times that of acquisition, it has always had a non-variable & consistent advantage in favour of retention.
It basically means that it costs much more to attract new customers (without necessarily converting them into buyers) than to actually invest in current customers who already performed a first purchase. Furthermore, your existent client base is the livelihood of your business at less cost, while acquisition is like taking a wild guess in terms of expected ROI, but a certain loss in terms expenditure.
Others would argue that no retention is possible without acquisition preceding it, in the first place. How could you retain a “client” that you haven’t acquired yet? That client is non-existent and you should acquire him/her first.
It’s your say based on a more detailed and subjective approach, that leaved little space to philosophy and more to factual data and market research findings.