You know you need to spend some money to acquire new customers, but where do you start?

There are a lot of ways to drive quality traffic, and many will work to some degree. But if you invest in every acquisition channel, you’ll spread yourself too thin and see poor results.

Instead, you should identify one or two customer acquisition channels that lead to predictable and sustainable growth. This way you’ll invest in the channels that create the best return on your investment.

Want quality traffic? Identify one or two customer acquisition channels that lead to predictable and sustainable growth. Click To Tweet

The 19 customer acquisition channels

According to the book Traction by growth experts Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, there are 19 customer acquisition channels you can use to drive growth.

Customer acquisition channels
Image credit: startupjuncture.com
  1. Targeting blogs – Guest posting on blogs your customers read.
  2. Publicity – Getting your name mentioned in traditional media outlets like magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV.
  3. Unconventional PR – Publicity stunts and customer appreciation techniques.
  4. Search engine marketing – Placing ads on popular search engines.
  5. Social and display ads – Ads in people’s social media feeds and banner ads on other websites. (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  6. Offline ads – TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, yellow pages, billboards, direct mail, etc.
  7. Search engine optimization – Improving your ranking in search engine results.
  8. Content marketing – Creating regular content people love to read and share. (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  9. Email marketing – Serving content directly to your subscribers’ inbox. (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  10. Viral marketing – Growing your customer base by getting your existing customers to refer new customers (“going viral”). (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  11. Engineering as marketing – Building useful tools and resources to get in front of potential customers.
  12. Business development – Creating strategic relationships with other businesses. (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  13. Sales – Using a refined sales funnel to turn prospects into new customers.
  14. Affiliate programs – Arrangements with other people where you pay them for customers and/or leads.
  15. Existing platforms – Leveraging other platforms (like websites, apps, or networks).
  16. Trade shows – Opportunities to showcase your products, usually to industry insiders like distributors. (Popular eCommerce acquisition channel.)
  17. Offline events – Engaging with people in-person, often by sponsoring events like conferences or meetups.
  18. Speaking engagements – Giving educational talks to people who could also become customers.
  19. Community building – Fostering relationships among your customers to create a community.
Ready to dive into one (or a few) customer acquisition channels? Check out these free resources.

We’ve used the book Traction a lot in our marketing program and growth planning at Jilt. It’s definitely worth your time, whether your eCommerce company does $20,000 or $10 million in sales.

You can start with this abridged version of the book from one of its authors: 78 Takeaways from Traction Book.

Which channel is right for you?

As you can see, there are a lot of unique ways to drive traffic to your store. Even if you wanted to invest in all of them, you probably don’t have the resources. (And that’s not a great strategy, anyway.) So you need to take a more targeted approach and the right channels for your business.

Keep in mind that the amount of traffic you get from a particular channel is entirely irrelevant. What’s important is the value those customers provide – the revenue they create, the word-of-mouth they spread, etc.

This means when it comes to investing in a customer acquisition channel, you’ll have to choose the ones that deliver the best return on your investment (ROI).

There are three steps to finding the right acquisition channel(s) for your eCommerce store.

Step 1: Look to your buyer personas

Your eCommerce buyer personas are critical resources to help you determine the customer acquisition channels that will have the most impact on your business. (If you haven’t created personas for your customer segments yet, follow the steps in this post: The critical components of effective eCommerce buyer personas.)

The information in your personas should help you weed out the acquisition channels that don’t help. For instance, let’s say one of your personas is John, a husband who buys his wife trendy Mother’s Day gifts on behalf of his young kids. John is triggered to make a purchase when Mother’s Day comes around.

It’s safe to assume that speaking engagements, trade shows, and engineering are poor ways to reach John. Even guest posting on blogs wouldn’t reach John because he probably doesn’t read gift-related blogs, and content marketing might not work well either, because it’s doubtful John reads about Mother’s Day gifts most of the year. But publicity, search engine marketing, social/display ads, offline ads, or existing platforms might be great ways to reach him.

Step 2: Consider your budget

Next, take an honest look at your marketing budget. Some channels might be out of reach for you at the moment, so you’ll have to put them aside for now.

For instance, trade shows are an excellent way to put your products in front of distributors, wholesalers, and big box retailers. But, trade show costs (including travel, floor displays, sample products, and fees) can run $20,000 to $60,000.

Even if your eCommerce store does a few million dollars per year in sales, that expense might be too tough to bear all at once, so that channel is out of reach. Instead, you might find it easier to invest in free or low-cost channels, like SEO, guest blogging, paid ads, content marketing, or affiliate programs.

Step 3: Run minimum viable experiments

At this point you should have a short list of potential acquisition channels from the big list of 19 that are affordable and would resonate with your customers.

The next steps are to decide on the one or two that have the most potential impact and then test them out to make sure they produce a positive ROI. That way, you won’t waste a bunch of resources on a channel that doesn’t make you any money.

Test customer acquisition channels by running small experiments that gauge success and impact. Click To Tweet

Create a small experiment to test each acquisition channel. A minimum viable experiment is the smallest type of experiment you can run to get some data. It’s a lean startup approach to growth.

Customer acquisition channels
Image credit: strategicality.com

There are three components to good experimentation:

  1. Determine a desired outcome and a way to test it – Create a strong hypothesis and the absolute minimum experiment you need to validate or refute your idea.
  2. Measure the results – What was the outcome/result? What changed?
  3. Accumulate learning – What did you learn? How does that information support or change other things you know? (Update your buyer personas if you learn something new.)

We can best explain this with an example. Let’s say you think an affiliate program will help you attract new customers and drive sales.

You could buy and install an affiliate / referral marketing tool and spend a lot of time and money to launch a full-blown affiliate program. Or, your could test your idea by reaching out to a group of regular customers with a message like this:

Hey [NAME],

We’re opening a small, invite-only affiliate program for [COMPANY NAME]. We’ll give you a $15 credit for every friend you invite who spends at least $50. Simply instruct them to put your full name in the “Referrer” field when they check out.

Thanks!

[YOUR NAME], [COMPANY NAME]

This is a pretty low-tech approach, but if you limit your test program to a small group of frequent buyers (people who are avid customers), the manual work should be minimal. Remember, this is only a test. It’s not meant to scale the way its set up, but rather to give you enough data to determine if affiliate marketing will actually be worth the time and expense to set up. If you’re pleased with the results, you can then implement an automated solution at scale.

Next, measure your results. Let’s say you invite 200 people, of which 75 participate, and 22 actually refer a friend. Does an 11 percent success rate make it worth your time? Did you make money on those sales after you paid the commissions? Don’t forget to include the cost of any tools you would have to integrate to make a scaled-up program work.

That’s just one example, but you can see how running small, low-tech tests can yield powerful results that can help you determine which traction channels to invest in.

By running small, simple experiments, you can evaluate the effectiveness of an acquisition channel before you invest. Click To Tweet

Don’t be afraid to try new things

This three-step approach will help you settle on one or two (maybe three, but don’t spread yourself too thin) acquisition channels, but you’ll find it useful to occasionally try new things.

While some channels are obviously better for eCommerce stores than others, it’s important not to dismiss any out of hand.

“Each traction channel has worked for startups of all kinds and phases,” says Gabriel Weinberg, one of the Traction’s authors. “The right channel is often an underutilized one. Get one channel working that your competitors dismiss, and you can grow rapidly while they languish.”

If you run experiments into new channels before diving in with both feet, you’ll identify the ones that work the best without wasting your marketing dollars.

Free download: 19 resources to get started with the major customer acquisition channels

About the Author Beka Rice

Beka is the head of product at Jilt. She works on app improvements, integration plugins, helping merchants improve recovery campaigns, and shares tutorials on reducing abandonment or improving recovery on our blog.

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