As business owners we all want to get more customers, that’s a given (I talk in other blog articles about getting more from your existing customers but that’s a story for another article).
There are four main ways to get more customers in digital marketing: SEO, PPC, social media and email. Each method has different characteristics. Let’s take a look and weigh up the pros and cons of each.
Let’s set out some important characteristics which as a business owner you will want to know how each method stacks up.
These characteristics are:
|How long it takes to get the customers
|Difficulty of obtaining customers this way
|Cost per customer
|How long will the work/money you invest last?
Now, in digital marketing there are four main routes to get more customers. Each can be used on its own, but they are all best when used in tandem with some of the others.
PPC – Pay-Per-Click Marketing
PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click. This means advertising online. You pay an ad-carrying network such as Google or Facebook to display your ads to their users. It’s called Pay-Per-Click because (mostly) you only pay when a user clicks the ad and visits your page.
Speed: very quick to set up. You can be up and running and bringing customers to your website or social media page in a day, theoretically. In practice, budget at least three/four weeks to plan a campaign, design the ads and launch.
Cost: on some networks the cost is very high because you are competing with other businesses who supply the same services. You are literally bidding against your competitors. Remember, in business it’s usually the business that is prepared to spend them most money to acquire a customer that wins.
Difficulty: moderately easy. The networks make it extremely quick and easy for you to start giving them your money. The difficulty comes in making the advertising profitable. This is called optimisation and often requires expert input.
Example of a good fit. A business that would be a good fit for PPC might be an e-commerce store selling gadgets that are also available at competing stores.
Lifetime value: short. When paying for customers, you must make sure you do everything to retain them once they have purchased. Ensure they are added to your email list, for example.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It means making improvements to your website to allow your site to rank higher in searches. When users search for businesses like yours you want to be shown in the search results. That’s what SEO does for you.
Speed: slow. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. We find results usually start coming in about one two months. If you can’t wait that long, try PPC instead.
Cost: moderate. If your business is a good fit for SEO then the cost of optimising your website should be reasonable. Costs start at a few hundred pounds per month for smaller, localised businesses. Costs go up when your business has more competition or operates in a wider geographical area.
Difficulty. It depends. If your website is particularly well-suited to SEO it could be very easy to make a big impact. Again, if your competition is high then it can be much harder. As difficulty goes up, your costs will tend to be higher.
Lifetime value: high. Although SEO is an ongoing project, usually done for the lifetime of a business, work invested into SEO tends to last a long time. A website which reaches the highest levels of search can stay there for a long time, providing the SEO is ongoing so that competitors cannot steal the higher positions.
This method involves using social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to attract customers.
There are two ways to use social media to get more customers: free/organic and paid. I’m going to place paid social media advertising into the PPC category (see above).
Speed: slow. It takes time and dedication to build an audience on social media. Unless you are already famous! Ways to build an audience faster include amplifying your voice via influencers, offering free giveaways, posting useful/usable knowledge-based material that your users will love!
Difficulty: hard. It’s hard to convert a follower from social media to a customer. It takes time to build relationships and gain trust.
Lifetime value: moderate-high. Once you have built a relationship with a social media follower, you have the opportunity to sell to them many times over a number of years, providing you don’t destroy their trust.
Cost: free to high! Given that social networking is free for nearly all users (some networks like LinkedIn do have paid-for membership levels) the cost can vary wildly. It depends upon how often your type of business needs to get in front of your audience and how much effort/trust it takes to convert them from follower to buyer.
Using email for marketing is perhaps the most obvious form of digital marketing. You build a list of clients or prospects and keep them regularly updated with new products, services and offers. It’s a good idea to also email them valuable knowledge-based information that will help develop their trust in you and put them in a good state of mind to buy from you when their time comes.
Speed: can be slow to build an email list. Your list must be kept up to date – prospects who have not purchased or refreshed their interest in six months are often considered to be out-of-date and should be removed.
Difficulty: can be difficult to build an email list. Other methods of digital marketing will need to be employed such as PPC to get customers to a place where they will sign up to your mailing list. You can also add them (with permission) from your personal contacts and real-life networks.
Cost: cheap. Providing you are prepared to build your list organically, there’s no reason it should cost much to build.
Lifetime value: high. A high-functioning email list is one of the best way of converting followers to buyers over and over again.