In a Performance-Driven Economy, Customer Acquisition Takes Center Stage

PX logoIt’s getting harder and harder to relate to John Wanamaker’s famed quote regarding the ROI of advertising. For more than 100 years, marketers enthusiastically nodded along to the notion of, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” But these days, the notion of blind investment in customer acquisition initiatives has become a foreign concept to most.

Today’s marketers, particularly on the media-buying side, have access to powerful tools that have shed greater light on the impact of activities throughout the entire sales and marketing funnel. New technology has enabled marketers to not only justify their budgets, but also to pinpoint what’s working, what’s not, and immediately make real-time adjustments to their campaigns. Now, that imperative to understand and adjust on the fly has come to the realm of customer acquisition and lead generation, which until recently was one of the last bastions of murkiness within our industry.

A New Stage of Maturity

In a business environment that is all about performance, today’s marketing executives are under a microscope to deliver new sales leads while constantly justifying their marketing spend. For too long, customer acquisition efforts have been fractured and ad hoc, making it difficult for marketers to fully understand their ROI by lead source and across campaigns—and to optimize their efforts accordingly. But that’s changing. Emerging players in mar-tech are disrupting the traditional lead generation process and bringing a new paradigm of accountability and optimization to the space.

The future of customer acquisition will look a lot less like the herd of cats to which buyers are accustomed, and a lot more like the modern marketplaces that have emerged within the digital media realm. Formerly disparate customer acquisition sources and functions are being bundled together in a way that lets customer acquisition marketers gain a holistic view of the health of their campaigns and take action in real time to improve results. The immediate benefits of this integrated approach—as seen with the emergence of media-buying marketplaces more than a decade ago—will be evident in the following areas.

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Efficiency: Reducing Waste Through Integration

One of the main challenges facing lead buyers these days is the fact that they don’t just purchase customer leads from one source. According to an industry survey we just conducted, 66% of acquisition specialists are working with up to 10 sources. Often these relationships are managed in a vacuum. This process of one-to-one management is often manual and can be extremely labor intensive, even for marketers with well-refined workflows and processes.

Today’s customer acquisition marketplace tools can not only streamline the onboarding process for new lead vendors, but it can also dramatically increase efficiency when it comes to viewing results and making changes to campaigns across vendors. Rather than pulling and comparing spreadsheets in varying formats across all partners, an automated exchange can provide the dashboard through which buyers can compare all campaigns, gain insight, and take action. And if a change is desired—say, a pricing change across all partners—that can be accomplished with a simple update by the buyer within the management tool. Previously, such a change across two dozen partners might have required two dozen emails or phone calls—not to mention follow-ups.

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Results: Translating Data into Action

The bottom line of this massive transition within the customer acquisition space is that lead generation campaigns can at last become as performance-driven as marketers have always desired them to be. New marketplace tools are democratizing the industry and at last shifting more control to the buyers themselves.

Emerging customer acquisition marketplaces are providing buyers with the insights and tools they need to take action. By enabling buyers to customize KPIs for their campaigns and then view the results—across all vendors—through that lens, these new technologies are helping marketers decide which sources to prioritize and how to adjust their bidding strategies to maximize ROI. When you think about it, this type of accountability is the natural evolution of the customer acquisition space—and a long-overdue upgrade to the marketing toolset.

John Wanamaker might not have known which half of his spend was being wasted, but today’s marketers don’t have to accept such uncertainty. As the customer acquisition toolset at last catches up to its media-buying counterpart, marketers not only know when their dollars are being wasted—but they can also do something about it.

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