Online Customer Acquisition Channels

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There are three fundamental means for acquiring eyeballs on your commercial proposition online:

 

  • Pay
  • Content
  • Social

 

Broadly these come under the categories of:

 

  • Pay Per Click / Pay Per Conversion
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Social Media

 

Each one has it’s place and can be the driver for commercial success online. Frequently for any given niche, one or two will stand out as the low-hanging-fruit.

 

Paid For Referrals

 

Paid for referrals are invariably the starting point when promoting a new commercial site, and are frequently the driver for the entire online business. They are great for bringing in potential customers and building up a pipeline rapidly, but have the highest associated costs, especially in established markets.

 

Types

 

  • Affiliates
  • Sponsorship
  • Banner Campaigns
  • PPC - Pay Per Click
  • PPC - Pay Per Conversion
Pros
  • These all have defined costs and the success or failure of a campaign can be relatively easily costed
  • Fast acting, normally the customer acquisition driver when starting up
  • Advanced tools provide automation
  • Established market and professional services
  • Some niches will have very low costs per click / conversion with high conversion rates
  • Great for A/B testing on marketing messages
  • The site can be focused on conversion and not search engine optimisation (not always compatible)
Cons
  • Every click potentially has a cost, not great if you are not converting
  • The moment you stop paying is the moment that the campaigns cease
  • Competitors can drive up the cost of acquisition
  • Requires constant tuning to get the best return on investment
  • There is no organic or viral growth

 

Content Driven

 

Content driven Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaigns take far longer to establish than paid for campaigns. They do however have a long-term pay-off and are the basis for organic growth. They are the foundation for engaging with communities by providing expert content and timely news and analysis.

 

Pros

 

  • Organic growth
  • Content can be sourced from within organisation
  • Diminishing costs with scale
  • One-time investment can have long-term benefits
  • Great for niche products and services
  • Innovators can establish powerful market presence

 

Cons

 

  • Potentially heavy investment in content
  • Potentially heavy investment in outreach (directory listing, site promotion)
  • Commercial listings may be important driver in mature markets, with corresponding costs
  • Requires corporate commitment
  • Requires appropriate technology
  • Corporate politics may prevent effective content from being created or presented

 

Social Media Engagement

 

The newest channel of the three, although rapidly reaching the same level as the other two. Social Media Engagement means interacting within established communities online such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or YouTube. It also covers the development communities which are driven, sponsored or owned by the organisation.

 

Pros

 

  • Established Leaders can generate a high volume of referrals quickly
  • Essential for engaging with potential customers where they interact online
  • High rankings on search engines for key social sites
  • Real-time communications channels
  • Gives direct access to customers
  • Established Communities (if owned or lead by organisation) can generate high levels of goodwill and in turn leads
  • Requires appropriate technology

 

Cons

 

  • Huge content volumes mean only small number of voices and communities are heard
  • Requires very high levels of commitment for sustained growth
  • Continuous evolution required to meet needs of community
  • Emerging marketing approach, missteps can be very costly

 

Which Strategy To Pick?

 

Broadly speaking it’s worth pursuing all three strategies to a greater or lesser extent. It is essential to have effective conversion metrics and to invest appropriately. This means that you might start off with a PPC campaign, but once your SEO and SM campaigns gain traction there may be no need to pay for incoming leads. That said, PPC is a great area for testing your marketing messages and refining your sales proposition.

 

For any particular niche it’s essential that you look to see what the cost of entry is for each approach.

 

Key Questions to Answer:

  • What niches are you targeting?
  • What are the key words / terms for each niche?
  • What’s the taxonomy?
  • What’s the cost per click for your key words on Google Adwords?
  • How many companies are competing for the same key words?
  • How many search results come on up Google for your key terms?
  • How established are these pages, what is their page rank?
  • What communities exist in each niche, how many members do they have, are the members loyal (or is it mostly a spam community)?
  • What are the established directory sites, what are the costs for listing?
  • What news sites are there in the niche?
  • What’s the cost of advertising in these sites?
  • How much content do they require / generate?
  • What are your competitor doing?
  • What resources do you have in-house for paid, content and social campaigns?
  • What budgets do you have?
  • What are your customer acquisition goals?
  • What are your conversion rates for any campaign?
Once you have these answered overall and where relevant for each niche you’re serving you might come up with a specific campaign, for example:
  • Establish basic landing page and online store
  • Run PPC to refine key word strategy and marketing message
  • Sponsor key news site to establish presence
  • Engage with existing communities to establish presence
  • Keep tight focus on conversion rates and on refining site to maximize conversion
In practice your choice of strategy will be the best fit for your organisation and the existing market environment. The key will be to be fully committed and to iterate rapidly to optimise your effectiveness.
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