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Why your customer acquisition strategy needs to include paid digital advertising

9-minute read

The world of customer acquisition has become a different place with different rules, different customers and different tools.

A decade ago, the newspaper business was struggling but still holding its own. Television and radio were not under siege from massive technological disruption, online competition and changes in consumer behaviour.

Today, the landscape is very different. And even though traditional marketing tactics remain impactful, paid digital advertising like social media ads and pay-per-click campaigns must be part of your communication plan.

Organic social media doesn’t attract new customers like it used to

Facebook going public in 2012 marked the beginning of the end of the golden age of organic reach for social media.

The average reach of an organic post on Facebook in Canada in 2018 was around 9%, according to information shared at the 2018 SocialEast conference. That means for every 100 followers you have, only nine are seeing your Facebook posts. In other words, organic reach just doesn’t work that well anymore.

Undoubtedly, because it’s owned by Facebook, Instagram will go down the same road at some point, likely sooner rather than later.

X (ex-Twitter) continues to struggle with a speed and volume of information challenge, which is impacting engagement with businesses and brands (look at Oreo and Wendy’s for best in class examples).

Meanwhile, LinkedIn can be a frustrating platform if you don’t have a strategy to smartly grow your network without spamming people.

I am definitely not saying you should stop your organic social posts. Continue using all of these platforms as a strategy to communicate with your existing customers and fans. But it’s time to look at paid social media ads as a pillar of your customer acquisition strategy.

How do I start building a paid media plan?

Before building a paid media plan, you and your team need to answer the following questions:

  • Who are our target customers?
  • How do they make buying decisions?
  • On which channels and platforms can we get their attention?
  • What budget do we need to allocate for those channels?
  • What message will resonate with them?

Once you have answered these questions you can develop a communications plan that will help open the top of your sales funnel across various platforms.

Facebook: A social platform but very much a business tool

The Facebook ad platform is extremely robust and way more comprehensive than what you see if you just boost a post for $25 every so often.

It is probably the most targeted tool you can use to find and attract your target customers. It takes a bit of time to learn how to build your audiences based on demographics, geography and interests, but once you master it you can find your customers down to the neighbourhood.

This is true of both B2B and B2C companies. Facebook is a “social” platform but very much a “business” tool.

To be successful, you’ll need to get familiar with building campaigns for both awareness and conversion. You’ll need to know what is a Facebook Pixel. You’ll need to learn what are the cost-per-impression and cost-per-click of those campaigns. But trust me, there is a lot of value in getting deep with this platform.

Instagram ads are also built into the platform so that is almost a two for one deal as you look at targeting your customers.

LinkedIn: A great tool for targeting decision makers

The LinkedIn ad platform has improved significantly over the past few years and it is a great tool for targeting decision makers.

Whether it’s traditional ads, sponsored posts (as with X and Instagram) or InMail for putting messages in front of your target prospects, paid marketing on LinkedIn gives you the data you need to see how your ads are performing.

Search engine marketing: Effective but increasingly complex and expensive

Google ads (formerly AdWords) were the paid digital targeting tool to use over the last 15+ years. As a platform targeting intention, it was unsurpassed.

The upside of search engine marketing is that you can truly find people who are searching for you and your product/services. So if I’m looking to buy or lease a new car, I’ll start searching for the latest models from all the car manufacturers on Google or Bing.

The challenge is that the Google platform has become very competitive and, frankly, complicated to use for the layperson. It requires some very advanced skills to be able to build, manage and optimize campaigns that get a solid return on your investment (or to prevent you from burning cash).

It’s just not as easy as it once was and the budget you may need to allocate can be greater than you think.

The same model applies for Bing ads, though that platform is less mature and may still hold some “bargains” in terms of your overall budget (though the audience is smaller).

If you plan on investing in Google ads, then spend time working on your data skills and always tie things back to your Google Analytics. You’ll need to understand the management of keyword phrases, negative keywords, ad groups and much more to create effective campaigns.

YouTube: People can’t get enough of it

Everyone spends time watching YouTube videos, from the very young to the very old. This is an opportunity to position your business through targeted pre-roll ads—the ones that run before your favorite cat video.

The problem is that many marketers bring a television mindset to YouTube. A pre-roll ad should be short—less than 15 seconds—and they should grab the viewer’s attention. Or, they should be longer with an equally attention-grabbing story that draws in the viewer.

YouTube ads take some planning, but doing it right can gain you an engaged audience. Everyone knows what that did for Dollar Shave Club. If you you’ve never seen that ad just search for it on YouTube.

Programmatic digital ad networks

Ad networks place digital ads all over the Internet. Networks such as AdRoll and DoubleClick place ads on websites where your target customers might be browsing or as a more generic mass media awareness play.

The cost and scale of these networks doesn’t make sense for every business. For companies who decide to use them, success often depends on understanding your goals and analyzing the results.

Google also has a display network that connects to the entire suite of Google data tools to help review the effectiveness of your ads.

Remarketing, affiliate marketing and influencers

Visit that shoe website one time and those shoes have been chasing you around the Internet ever since? That’s remarketing and it’s a very powerful tool that becomes available once you start using ad platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Affiliate marketing is a technique where you offer up commissions to third parties for referral traffic to your website. Think about a fitness supplement company reaching out to fitness bloggers for a reference. Bloggers get a commission when they refer a customer. It can be a great model for many industries, but it needs to be examined in terms of budget and brand value.

Influencer marketing is a more overt product placement and brand relationship with someone who has a following on a social media platform. Instagram Influencers are popular these days and many brands partner with them. Sponsored YouTube videos are another type of influencer marketing. Again, look very closely at the cost of putting your brand in front of an influencer’s audience and truly understand if it fits your brand.

Also look at the influencer. Who are they? What do they espouse? Are they really an influencer or do they just say they are? Any self-proclaimed influencer likely isn’t one. So be aware.

You don’t need to be the expert but…

You don’t have to use all of these digital marketing options in your business and you definitely don’t have to master them all.

That said, I continually preach the value of becoming a practitioner of modern marketing for business owners. It teaches you about how your customers behave and where your limited marketing dollars are being spent.

This not only demystifies what can be an extremely nebulous process, but it also makes you an educated consumer when working with your marketing partners and employees. Evaluating your efforts (or the work of others) is challenging on a good day, but even more so if you don’t understand the core concepts or the meaning of the data being generated.

You need original imagery and messages to stand out

In all our talk of tools, platforms and data we can never lose sight of the fact that you need original images and messages to stand out. You can target the right people on the right platform with the right budget, but the wrong message will likely lead to wasted money.

Every entrepreneur understands how precious qualified leads can be to growing your business. So developing the message your customers want to hear is a good investment. The offers you generate and the content you’re producing need to impactful.

Ask yourself: Is what we’re saying materially different, entertaining or interesting?

If it isn’t, you really need to evaluate the benefits of advertising that message. You don’t need to be edgy, but you need to be engaging. This is especially true in a world where we have the collective attention span of goldfish.

What is our offer to these customers? Is it intriguing enough to make them do what we want them to do? Many times it boils down to “What’s in it for me?”

What is your paid media plan for 2019?

Do you have a paid media plan for 2019? Do you revisit and evaluate it often? Do you understand your customers’ purchase journey as part of that plan? At BDC, we try to be very methodical when working with our clients. We hope this might inspire you to do the same.

We’d love to know more about your experiences or answer any questions you might have about online marketing.

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