A Simple Guide to Creating a Successful Online Customer Acquisition Strategy

Every business needs new and loyal customers to succeed - and as customer needs change so do the means and ways of attracting and retaining them. With digital technologies pervading every aspect of our lives and indeed, our society, businesses need to have a solid strategy in place to both acquire and retain a customer base.

The prevalence and popularity of disruptive technologies and mobile devices have altered how customers and brands relate to each other. In fact, on average it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative, meaning it takes almost 2 years to recover from a customer’s bad impression. Not great news for a company with a bad review trying to attract new customers.

When it comes to digital, acquiring new customers can be a daunting task. With over 120 content delivery and marketing channels on offer, there's a genuine need to prioritize investment and resources to ensure your organization is getting the best ROI.

Below, we examine the tactics and best practices required to acquire customers along with interrogating the acquisition success stories that have mastered the art and are thriving as a result. 

The key tactics of a customer acquisition plan

With a glut of marketing channels that require day-to-day maintenance, it can be difficult to know where to start. As a result, planning it vital. The solution is to prioritize the core elements and key tactical aspects of a successful customer acquisition plan to increase reach which include:

1. Search marketing: SEO, paid search and PPC campaigns

2. Online PR: Publisher outreach, community participation, media alerting and brand protection

3. Online partnership: Affiliate marketing, sponsorship, co-branding and link building

4. Interactive ads: Behavioural targeting, site-specific media buys and ad networks

5. Opt-in email: House list emails, co-branded and ads in third party newsletters

6. Social media marketing: Audience participation, viral campaigns, social presence management and customer feedback

When used in combination, these strategies can pack a powerful punch. For example, by using organic SEO methods and a PPC campaign together, your company can expect to receive 25% more clicks and a 27% increase in revenue compared to using just one or the other. This cross-pollination tactic not only brings people to the places you want them to go online but can also result in a 200% increase in conversion rates.

This level of growth speaks volumes about just how powerful digital marketing can be when using several channels to achieve one focused goal. With a 10% increase in global social media users compared to last year and a 17% increase in mobile users, the digital space is a playground for marketers with the right knowledge and tactics. 

The key tactics of a customer acquisition plan | A Simple Guide to Creating a Successful Online Customer Acquisition Strategy

Best customer acquisition practices

In the ongoing battle to gain (and retain) customers, a multi-channelled approach is a must. When planning this type of strategy ensure your organization bear three key elements in mind:

1. Know thy customer - To know your customer you first need to know your business. For example:

  • What are your key USPs?
  • Who are your target audience and do you know their profile (interests, behavior etc.)?
  • Have you carried out a competitor analysis to gauge where your organization is in the marketplace and feed into what value your business adds to the customer?

2. Constantly experiment - Based on your customer profile, acquisition channels can be chosen that match their needs and wants. Social media is one route if your customer base are active on Twitter on Facebook. Search engines provide another avenue if your target audience are active searchers.

3. Use multiple strategies - Combining tactics with KPIs attached and measurement methods in place should enable your organization to learn more about your customers and focus your acquisition strategy.

Experimentation and measurement will reveal more about your customer as time goes on i.e. demographics, behavior and the average lifetime value. Using this data will inform the acquisition techniques most likely to drive business success.

Based on the tactical aspects and elements mentioned above, here is a rundown of the most popular and effective acquisition channels:

  • Free Trials (Freemium): With Dropbox, Salesforce and Amazon all offering 14 or 30-day trials to customers, there is obvious benefit to considering this tactic
  • Affiliate Networking: UK affiliate marketing drives around 1% of the country’s total GDP (more than industry of agriculture)
  • Email Marketing: You are 6 times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than a Tweet
  • Search Advertising: The top three paid ad spots on search engines get 41% of the clicks on the page
  • Social Media: With 2.3 billion people active social media users on the planet, there are plenty of fish to reel in
  • Display Advertising: Native or local ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads
  • Customer Referrals: According to The New York Times, 65% of new business comes from referrals
Best customer acquisition practices

Customer acquisition successes

In the dog-eat-dog world of digital, many businesses fail, but others prevail. One such company that won over a host of new customers with their savvy online search marketing (SEM) strategy is the adventure sports clothing retailer, Live Out There.

Live Out There focus their efforts on quite specific long-tail keywords to avoid being too ambiguous with their campaigns. For example, rather than advertising for 'winter jackets,' they focus on a term like 'North Face winter jackets' and by ploughing their efforts further down the purchasing funnel, the company's SEM techniques convert almost 4 out of 10 orders according to David Nagy, Vice President of Marketing at the company.

"Search marketing has always been a primary acquisition driver for us. We’re not the biggest player in our market, but we’re the most aggressive one in paid search."

A well-established brand that rethought its customer acquisition strategy to attract new customers was The Economist. With subscriptions plateauing, the monolith publication wanted to reposition itself as a must-read for all sections of society not just the elite audience it was perceived to target.

Their campaign ‘There is nothing more provocative than the truth’ garnered interest from millions of new prospects and outperformed its target by 500% to deliver 3.6 million new prospects and £12.7 million value from a £1.2 million media budget. Not only did readership grow, but its brand was also repositioned within key audiences and the magazine got a greater understanding of its readers’ preferences based on these new interactions.

These examples prove the value of understanding your audience and being willing to experiment with new tactics to extend reach and ultimately increase profits.  

While every business has a revolving door of customers coming and going, the key is to ensure your business evolves enough to attract new customers and cater for their needs on an ongoing basis. The only way to do so is by understanding your customer base using the technologies and metrics available and adopting a strategy that is both flexible and reactive.

It's a minefield out there in the digital world, but by taking the time to understand where to focus your efforts and take the right actions, success is sure to follow.

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Anthony Quigley
Co-Founder @ Digital Marketing Institute