Brian Balfour, the CMO of Boundless, shared some great advice in this OnStartups article Building is Not Enough: 5 Practical Tips for User Acquisition.
Based on our own experience, we wanted to expand on three of Brian's tips in a little more detail.
1. Don't Test a Lot of Channels at Once
Brian calls it the old 'throw everything up on the wall see what sticks' strategy, which is a pretty accurate way to describe what happens.
In the past, we experimented with this strategy by purchasing media from 6 - 10 different ad networks for a campaign. And guess what happened?
The campaign bombed.
We learned that in purchasing media, you must focus your efforts on a few key media partnerships to avoid stretching your budget, data segments and available inventory too thin.
The same can be said for a multichannel strategy.
Avoid turning everything loose (SEM, social, display, etc) all at once simply 'for the sake of going live' ... Instead, employ a roll out strategy for each channel that allows your brand to test & optimize each individual channel before moving on to the next.
2. Understand that paying for users is okay
All new users are acquired directly or indirectly.
An example of direct user acquisition would be running paid search ads.
Indirect acquisition would be SEO or viral acquisition, which is seen as 'free' from a media standpoint but actually has a price tag attached to it in terms of man hours.
The speed at which your brand learns how to acquire new users means everything: the quicker you can learn what does / doesn't work to acquire new users, the better.
So don't fight direct user acquisition programs -- embrace a paid user acquisition strategy to learn quicker!
3. Avoid the A/B Testing Death Trap
'But what if we change the purchase button to blue instead of orange ...'
'How about we move the copy to THIS side of the email ...'
These are all examples of marketers falling into the A/B testing abyss: They end up testing so many versions of marketing programs that the data generated by the efforts becomes inconclusive (and worse, sucks up your precious time to analyze).
While it's great to A/B test creative, landing pages & lead forms, you want to be careful about the amount of energy your company puts into these efforts.
Instead, it would be better to focus on testing things like:
- Messaging: Are you connecting the right audience to the right message?
- Targeting: What audience targeting tweaks could you make to bring in more users?
- Activation Methods: What different channels, strategies or tools could you utilize to activate new users?