chapter 4

Audience Acquisition | Finding (and Keeping) Customers for Your Clients

Encouraging the clients we work with to drive long-term customers and not simply web traffic is essential to the success of their business, and your client relationship.

Before a merchant is advised to begin spending money on marketing for audience acquisition, they must start by better understanding their target audience.

There are many low-cost entries to get a brand’s message in front of an audience, however we must first ensure it is the right audience. Listen to them, and customize how you deliver ads and content to them accordingly. After all, your client is after long-standing customers and not simply website visitors.

Who is your client’s audience?

It all starts with the planning. Before encouraging any promotional spending to acquire or build an audience, research should be conducted to find out what the client’s existing customer base looks like, and where lookalikes of these customers may be hanging out online. You can get a good sense of how to understand your client’s audience in Rob Mill’s chapter, User Research. 

If the merchant has a low customer base, you should take a look at their competitor audiences. A few questions to find out about the brand before you embark on any audience acquisition include:

  • Who already buys from them? 
  • What do they buy? 
  • Where are they geographically from? 
  • What interests do they have? 
  • Are they on social media? If so, who influences them?

Social media planning

This may sound slightly intrusive, but having a dipstick into key audience likes and influencer triggers may help us identify content trends, new products, and ultimately help us create content that will get the highly desired engagement, shares, and new audience base that our clients are after.

A good, low-cost place to begin is with social media insight. Many brands tend to look at “what” individuals tweet, but I encourage you to delve slightly deeper and help your clients understand more of what makes their desired audience tick.

Pro tip: What someone tweets give us an indication into how they want to be perceived. However, who they follow on social media gives us a stronger insight into what really makes them engage online.

We will also be able to identify “where” our target audiences are talking and, therefore, where we should focus our promotional efforts: Facebook? Blog comments? Twitter? Instagram?

The key benefits of this kind of planning include:

  • Product promotion focus for the merchant 
  • Ideation and content planning 
  • Campaign messaging 
  • Media planning and long-tail keywords

Some of the best social media-listening platforms on the market that will help identify these key audience insights include tools such as Brandwatch and Sysomos, which merchants could deem a very expensive overhead.

There are free tools on the market such as SocialMention that can provide much more scaled down levels of insight around a brand, product, keyword, category, or person.

Another useful tool that will give you a better understanding of a client’s customer base (and appropriate ad targeting and content creation strategies), is Demographics Pro. This software allows a user to analyze influence, and target customers that matter the most. This is done through the system interrogating a brand’s audience, and looking at the content they engage with daily across social media—systematically breaking down demographic and psychographic data.

Tools like this allow analysis of the right audience, targeting customers that matter most to a brand through the content they truly wish to engage with, and not the content the merchant thinks they want to see.

Lookalike buckets

Once you’ve acquired these insights, you should create lookalike buckets to begin ad targeting in various channels. For example, you may wish to deliver a lead generation campaign for a merchant, and in doing so you may drive the majority of these email address leads away from competition and discount-focused websites.

You may therefore wish to create a new subscriber list in the merchant’s email marketing tool called “Compers.” We are now in a position to personalize biweekly or monthly email broadcasts with this audience, during times when the merchant may be having trouble moving particular merchandise. Siloing ensures that this type of communication is carried out away from the merchant’s existing loyal customer base.

Another way of segmenting an audience bucket is to use social listening and profiling tools to identify that, for example, 50% of a competitor’s social audience are within a specific age range, living in a particular area, listen to a particular music artist or genre, or follow a specific football team.

This insight is extremely powerful as trends like this will allow you to build audience targeting buckets within the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter ad platforms, targeting specific audience buckets accurately, and therefore helping improve conversion for the merchant.

Targeting the right audience

Email marketing

Driving an audience to a merchant’s site just once isn’t enough these days. Our content and ads have to remain sticky with as much analysis behind our audience acquisition strategy as possible. We need to keep them coming back, and a way to do this is through email marketing. Every time we help publish new, interesting, and shareable content via the merchant's blog, we should also be sending these posts out through existing email lists.

Continually optimizing mail lists through metrics such as open rates, shares, and click-through rates are key variables.

Social media

A client’s existing customer base is its biggest and most powerful sales force. You should encourage fuelling this audience with useful and shareable product information or branded content. There is a greater chance of a happy customer sharing product information or branded content than someone new joining your merchant’s audience.

The opportunity to turn existing customers into brand advocates is
a valuable one. Alongside creating advocates in social media, pushing new audiences is key. Using our granular audience targeting from our social insight exercise, we are now able to identify key audience buckets through paid social advertising, or content promotion through most social channels.

Social media is very much a “pay to play” environment now. In order to get a merchant’s most basic content seen by their existing audience, let alone
a new audience, you typically have to pay for any eyeballs. This is why it’s imperative that the insight piece is carried out initially, to ensure your client’s marketing budget is being spent on the right audience segments.

Pro tip: Ensure that you publish all shareable social content in one place (typically the blog), and use social media channels as “spokes”. This way, the home of the content is always the merchant’s site, offering a larger chance to sell or create a long-standing customer, as well as benefitting their SEO.

No lost conversions

Inbound marketing is the easiest traffic any merchant can get, but more times than not, it’s the most difficult to retain and communicate with ever again. Converting the weekly traffic that would otherwise bounce soon adds up, and could be extremely effective for any ecommerce brand. 76% of shopping carts are abandoned at the checkout stage, which is a huge drop off when spending so long driving such a targeted audience to the merchant’s site. Abandoned cart recovery tools such as Ve Platform or Shopify’s built-in tools allow a merchant’s website to identify a potential customer with ease.

For example, if a user is travelling along the purchase journey, comes to the fulfilment form, types out their email address, but doesn’t go any further, abandoned checkout tools allow you to capture the user’s email to follow up and let them troubleshoot any problems they may have had on the site. This is also an opportunity to provide them with a discount code to encourage them to return and complete their purchase. 

Measure, optimize, and improve

We must remember that growing a brand audience is a journey and not a destination. Audience acquisition campaigns involve a continual process that needs to evolve and adapt to new audience interests week over week, month over month, and year over year. The only way to appear relevant with re-occurring and new audiences is to constantly measure engagement and behaviour, and deliver ads and content accordingly.

You can assure your clients that while it may take time, with quality will come quantity.


About the author

Nicola Tappenden is the founder of Belle Digital, a UK-based agency of developers and designers focused on commerce.

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5. Analytics | Becoming a Strategic Advisor on Client Data

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