A lot goes into running a successful business, but at the end of the day, it really all does come down to an intricate game of Cat and Mouse, wherein your business is trying to lure customers to your website through a variety of marketing channels by convincing them of the superiority of your product or service, and then converting them once they arrive.
But as any good businessman will tell you, this process is not anywhere near as simple as it sounds. The acquisition timeline can be an arduous, and deciphering the best strategy for your brand is often a time-consuming process that can be exhausting before you even get started.
It should go without saying that you have to make sure your product (or service) is actually ready to be marketed and used by consumers before you begin the customer acquisition process. For instance, if your servers cannot handle all of the activity that you will (theoretically) bring in with your acquisition tactics, or your customer support offerings aren't up-to-snuff for large groups of customers, all of the hard work you put into acquisition will be moot before you know it.
Once you're foundation is prepared, however, it's off to the races...
As with any business-related project, the first thing you have to do is come up with a solid plan to execute, and to do that, you have to test, compare, contrast and work out the kinks of all of the various tactics and strategies you're considering employing to acquire new customers.
Once you know what works for your business and how you want to implement those practices, as well as having clearly defined end goals, things get a lot easier. Unfortunately, as with most things, when you have many different choices to consider, it can become almost paralyzing, as you don't know exactly which move is worth making. That's why it is imperative that you establish your strategy up front.
To do that, you have to start by figuring out who you're trying to acquire in the first place.
Although most businesses aren't always targeting their ideal audience, most brands have some idea what that group of consumers looks like. By using analytics tools and social media, users can get a pretty decent idea of what their current audience looks like, which can provide a nice starting point, but they should mostly be using these tools to track those consumers that they currently interact with that DO fit into their "ideal" picture.
By doing this - coupled with additional research of these target customers that they aren't already engaged with - brands can discover more information about what their ideal audience is interested in, engaging with on social media, searching for on Google, etc., and will thus have a better idea of what they must do to reach them.
Okay, so you've figured out who you want to bring into your site. Great, but what will they do once they get there? In other words, what will your call-to-action be? Well, that's obviously wholly up to you and your individual website goals, and you should be sure that you choose a call-to-action that will not only convert your visitors, but will engage them and encourage them to come back over and over and over again.
However, there are, as always, a few best practices you can follow that will make sure your call-to-action stands out for any and all consumers to access and engage with. Just make sure it's descriptive and easy to understand as possible, while also establishing a sense of urgency in the consumer, so that they are more compelled to act upon arriving at your site.
You should also make sure that the call-to-action button stands out and is kept above the fold on your landing page design. Oh wait, we haven't mentioned landing pages, yet?
The best way to win over your almost-acquisitions right off the bat is to send them to a landing page on your site specifically designed to win them over (based on the demographic data you've already collected) and get them to convert. This is why you want to make sure the call-to-action button is present, visible and enticing. But the landing page is so much more than just a call to action.
Your page should also include a gripping headline, compelling imagery, a list of the benefits that your product/service offers to your target audience and some kind of review (possibly from social media) that endorses your product/service. But these are just the "should haves," there are a number of other elements that you could include on a landing page that are also proven to convert users and make them fall in love with your brand.
For instance, demo videos are all the rage these days (or screenshots, if you can't include a video), but directional cues or well-crafted visual blocking can also help to drive customers to convert. Most importantly, however, make sure your copy is concise and to-the-point and doesn't do anything to confuse users.
Once your landing page and call-to-action are designed and you're prepared to convert your visitors, you just have to figure out how you're going to get them to your site.
The first place most of us are likely to turn will be social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Google+. Other considerations include, but aren't limited to, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and others.
Facebook and Twitter, but especially Facebook, have been proven to drive a lot of traffic, and extra little flourishes like social signals and share, like and retweet buttons make them even more useful sources of traffic and engagement. Similarly, Google+ has plenty of features that make it ideal for driving traffic, but is mostly only useful if you're involved in an industry (such as technology or Internet) that is heavily represented on the social network.
Pinterest, however, is slowly proving itself adept at driving traffic; that is, as long as your brand has something visual that it can pin on the site that users will want to look at and click-through to see more of (such as food, clothing or accessories). In fact, for many ecommerce companies, Pinterest has become one of their biggest (and most surprising) traffic drivers in recent years.
Likewise, YouTube corners a few very specific markets that definitely benefit from having videos (either demos, how-tos, or some other type of sharable content) that display their products or services, but its actual value as a traffic-driving source is still questionable at this point.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn and Instagram are two effective places to increase brand awareness (albeit in much different ways), but aren't very good at driving traffic to a website...yet.
Many short-sighted Internet professionals seemed poised to declare the death of email marketing as soon as social media became a player, but they literally could not have been more wrong, since email has actually been steadily growing as a means of driving traffic over the last few years.
Thus, it's in your best interest to find a way to acquire as many email addresses from your target audience as possible (such as through social networks or maybe even on your landing page) and use them to send out email blasts, newsletters and information on special promotions or deals designed to lure in these much sought-after spenders. Plus, email addresses are a great way to improve customer retention, as you can send notifications, updates or deals on related products or services to people who have purchased from you in the past.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the Web's most tired-and-true ways to bring in consumers from a target demographic. Using platforms like Google AdWords, DoubleClick or Facebook Ads, brands can enter the specific information of those consumers they're most interested in attracting, either by inserting display or search ads into Google searches based on specific, product-relevant keywords, or by inserting user demographic information that Facebook will use to show ads to just the right people.
Content marketing is basically the same as social media marketing, only without having to play by the rules of those pesky social networks (for the most part). It's also a frustratingly broad term that applies to a variety of different, always content-based ways to attract users and attempt to drive them to your website. These include blogs (so consider free, but useful platforms like WordPress or Tumblr that you can link to from your website and put your own branding on), webinars, videos (which can, of course, be hosted on YouTube, but don't forget popular alternatives like Vimeo and DailyMotion) or even eBooks, which can not only be a great way to promote your brand and establish yourself as an industry authority, but also make you a little extra money on the side. Services like Lulu and Amanda Kindle Publishing are a great way to get started publishing eBooks in no time.
At times, public relations tactics, such as press releases, can also fall under this general banner of "content marketing," as they can be distributed to various news sources, databases and blogs to get the word out about your brand, product or service, although in many cases you don't have nearly as much control about who is seeing your message or, in some cases, even how it's being presented.
Anyway, once you've found your target audience, built the world's greatest landing page and found the best ways to reach them online and bring them to your website, the only thing that's left to do is figure out how to keep them there. And to do that, you have to test, measure, analyze and refine.
You can't really do any analyzing without tools, right? Of course not. That's why you have to find just the right analytics solution for your company that will help you visualize your traffic, look at your sources and referrals, learn about your incoming audience and track your goals.
Obviously, the first (and only) choice for many companies is the free and pretty thorough Google Analytics, which offers all of those measurements, as well as the ability to define, set up and track goals specific to their websites. However, other free and premium solutions offer their own unique features, such as KISSmetrics, which focuses on giving brands more specific information about their individual customers, or Woopra, which gives you a comprehensive timeline for each of your customers. For more, check out this list of 16 Google Analytics alternatives.
How to Measure
Well, alright, so you have a fancy new tool for analyzing your website traffic. That's great and all, but if you don't know what you're looking for, it's kind of useless, isn't it?
Again, a lot of what you want to look for obviously depends on what your brand's specific goals are, so we can't exactly lay it out for you in great detail. We can, however, provide something of a roadmap that could help you get started.
Needless to say, you should have already defined your business goals already, so you basically just want to work backwards from there. Once you know what you ultimately want them to do, you can create a funnel (or better yet, a series of funnels) based around an initial touch point, such as email, Facebook or a PPC ad. That gives you a first and final point for your funnel, but you'll also want to include one core metric in the middle of the funnel where you actively promote to the consumer through one of those touch points (e.g. an email blast or a social media promotion with a link), ultimately giving you three metrics of initial contact, promotion and conversion by which you can measure the success (or lack thereof) of your acquisition process(es). Just make sure that each of these stages provide a complete and accurate data of your conversion funnel, so that you're not wasting your time with worthless information.
Oh, and stuff like Facebook Likes or Twitter followers may make you feel good, but they don't accurately reflect the success of your company, so don't pay more attention to things like that than is absolutely necessary.
There is a lot that goes into customer acquisition, but if you do it right by targeting the right audience for your brand (one that makes sense and will turn into lifelong customers), clearly define your conversion goal, create a unique and engaging landing page, select the appropriate and most successful avenues for driving traffic (while still providing value to your potential customers) and always analyze key metrics and use that information to optimize your acquisition tactics, all of your hard work will eventually pay off. That all sounds pretty simple, right?