Planning successful customer acquisition strategies

Having worked for many years with organisations across sectors looking to attract new customers profitably, I would say that there are still many lessons to be learnt. Successfully finding the right customers depends on many factors. At the planning stage it is important to assess these and understand how campaigns can be developed and refined over time. So what needs to be considered?

Do you really understand your best customers?
The starting point must be identification of your best customers – those that drive your current value.  Many still work on intuition rather than hard facts. Definition needs to be as accurate as possible to not miss the mark. Ideally, profile existing customers across products and channels, focussing on recent new customers as they are interested now. If specific products are not applicable to certain age ranges / demographic then exclude these from you audience definition so that you don’t communicate the wrong message to the wrong customers.  If you have no customer data then you can profile via panel research or resort back to intuition but acknowledge that this definition will need to be refined over time.

Be savvy about your brand and the competitive landscape
Are you starting from a point of strength or weakness?  Who are your major competitors within your target market and how active are they across channels.  Competitor brands can disrupt the market and consumer consideration if they are marketing heavily or leading with a very competitive offer.  Assessment of performance of your organisations’ campaigns cannot be viewed in isolation.

Be clear about your success criteria and which channel will support them
What are the campaign objectives – brand awareness, lead generation or actual purchase/take up of products?  For each there will be different performance indicators which need to be tracked and evaluated.  Display tends to focus more on driving awareness and web traffic, than direct marketing, which focuses on converting to a lead/customer.

Consider what time period are you looking to breakeven over – for products and services where there are multiple purchases across the lifetime this may be longer than the first campaign. Armed with this information, review the likely cost per acquisition for activity across different channels based on either previous performance or indicative market rates to assess the most appropriate channels for your campaign.  Where possible your segmentation should be consistent between off and online activity.

Which product should you lead with?
If you have a number of different products to offer, think about which is most popular. Products with niche appeal do not necessarily make the best attraction vehicle. If aimed at a similar market the more prevalent product should be used to attract, then cross-sell once you’ve got the consumer on board.

The importance of testing and insight cannot be underplayed:
Offer, creative and call to action can massively impact campaign performance across channels – the only way to get a clear view on this is to continually challenge and test. This needs a robust testing strategy rather than changing multiple dimensions at once. Organisations that analyse and model who has responded to specific activity, compared with who was contacted, to drive strategy forward invariably perform better than those who stick to blunt targeting criteria. This more customer-focused approach allows you to ensure that your marketing messages are as relevant as possible to your audience.

Full attribution…the holy grail?
The current campaign measurement hot topic is marketing attribution – assessing the impact of a particular activity within the marketing mix. This is complex and arguably still not fully achievable when considering all offline and online touch-points. Within direct activity(where you can tell who has been engaged – DM, email, mobile and targeted digital advertising), careful use of control or fallow cells where activity doesn’t take place in conjunction with sales matchback analysis can give a good read on the incremental lift of any campaigning.  It’s not the full answer, but it’s a big step forward to exploring the impact of a particular channel.

Adopting rigour at the planning stage will help campaign performance through initial testing to give a much better chance of successful roll out.