Earned, Organic and Paid Channels are often the focus of the Digital Marketing agenda at any company large or small, established or startup. In this post i’ll focus on the Paid acquisition of new customer for startups.

Weather you need to maximise your ROI in ad spend because you are ‘broke’, or because you want to grow the right kind of traffic from your budget this post/train of thought is for you.

Buying the right Kind of traffic is Key

No shit sherlock, i hear the trolls scream… But this way of working is a bit deeper than a shill statement of intent.

First… Understand what a good customer/user/person is

Any user is a good user right? Well in the early stages when you purely want to grab some ‘traction’ number you might like to show a nice high number, but what are those users actually doing for you?

Much more important long term is to define your prefect user (which we will call a core user), what they do and how you can track those users/behaviours. This may be the one who spends the most, who trains the most API’s on your system, or who provides you with the most free content, whatever.

For me a Core user is someone who signs-up, regularly uses the tool, and promotes us to the community. Thats enough for me right now.

Second… Find your Current CPA

Once you know who the ‘Core user’ is and how to track them, you can then start to acquire them at a good CPA (cost per acquisition). Your CPA with an Adwords campaign may be $2 – $200, but the important thing is that you know what the CPA is.

Adwords is a typical tool used to ‘buy users’ via advertising. It’s not a bad one either if you use it properly. it does have a bad rep due to noobs and chumps failing to use it properly, but I assure you I’m running at a very nice CTR and Conversion Rate. One great thing is you can set it up to give you a close approximation of a CPA to buy users.

Lets Assume you are happy to pay $20 per new user regardless of any other factor. So you have a CPA target of $20 CPA.

Core Users CPA (CU CPA)

Now, if you can measure how many of those Users are Core users you can work out how many core users you get per dollar, I call this CUCPA and its often higher than the regular CPA. This is a very useful metric though lets say its $35 instead.

Third… Pivot (how 2000’s) your approach

You want to buy more core users right? They are just better in every way.

You can get some nice wins via UX tweaks etc… but if you want to double or triple you Conversion rate, and reduce your CPA. nice.

However for the Big win, start thinking about your users, who they are and how else can you buy them. For a Saas product that speeds up a service I simply offered the cash I would normally spend on Adwords as the payment for a project I wanted completed by freelancers already using an inferior product.

Welcome to Freelancer.co.uk, Employers post projects and a cost, and freelancers bid to do the work. Its the perfect place to buy core users for most tech projects.

Freelancer.co.uk have no advertising program I would care to use, but I can post a project using my CPA money as Bait for user. here is how it goes:

  • Create a brief for a Job which requires they use your product
  • Post the Job to freelancer
  • Ask people send samples in there application
  • Employ one of the bidder at the end and pay them when they complete the job.
  • Engage the user in conversation and convert them to a community member or brand advocate

For $105 I want 3 Core users
I know if a user uses our tool successfully once, they are twice as likely to become a core user, and that they are already the perfect users as they are already bidding on jobs that use my SaaS product competitors.

So when I post the job and 10 people bid, all having used the tool successfully once, discovering its awesomeness, I can be confident that I’ve got 10 (potentially core) new users for the price of 4. Plus I am going to turn one of them into a brand ambassador – and Have some work done for me. Win.

The New CPA and CUCPA is much lower now using this method, hence “Shopping clever when buying users”.

Where are you buying your Users from and how?

This obviously wont fit every situation, but the thinking behind it will. Where are you buying your traffic from and how?

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