The Basics Of Online Customer Acquisition

Imagine you lead sales for a company. A conference invites you to speak to thousands of potential buyers. These are people who fit the profile of your existing customers, but they’ve likely never heard of your brand.

You choose the topic and format of your presentation. Afterward, you must prioritize which people to follow up with to avoid wasting time and money chasing unqualified leads. 

Who do you begin with?

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, and let’s pretend you could identify every captive audience member who claps, smiles, nods, laughs, or stays until the end of your speech. That would be valuable, right?


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Maybe one day with AI you’ll be able to efficiently segment a live audience based on body language. 

For now, this serves as a useful analogy to understand what is possible online, where brands can produce content, distribute it on social media, target lookalike audiences in ad campaigns, and identify warm leads through user behavior such as likes, comments, shares, video views, and subscribes.

Similar to how a standing ovation indicates audience interest, when someone on Instagram likes or comments on your post, it’s also a positive signal. People who watch a longer percentage of the videos you upload to Facebook have more affinity for your brand, and anyone subscribed to your YouTube channel is receptive to hearing more from you.

All of these actions are what we refer to as signals of purchase intent. These markers are critical for brands to build audience cohorts to target lower in the purchase funnel with direct response campaigns. The opposite of this method is a “spray and pray” approach, which is rarely cost-effective and does not build brand equity.

These are the basics of online customer acquisition:

  1. Create: Produce useful content and do not ask users for anything in return

  2. Distribute: Cast a wide net and publish the content through paid and organic channels

  3. Segment: Identify signals of purchase intent and build user cohorts

  4. Convert: Target direct-response ads at users in your consideration set

  5. Optimize: Use data to improve content, reach more people, build better audiences, etc.

The foundation of this process must be content, and to learn more about the benefits of a sound content strategy, read this blog.

AdvertisingNick Schenck