While attending the Shop.org Strategy And Innovation Forum in Orlando today, I had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of Social Shopping with Carrie Johnson from Forrester Research. We each did a twenty-minute presentation with about fifteen minutes of questions and answers. One individual asked our thoughts on where online merchants should best devote their time - on retention or acquisition?
It's oldest discussion in the Marketing book - focus on keeping your existing clients thrilled or wooing a new Consumer over to your brand?
In a perfect world, it's both and everything in between. In the real world, the general Marketing rule is that retention is lot more cost effective (re: cheaper) than acquisition.
I think the power of Search and the growth of Google changes how we define acquisition. There's a new reality: every day thousands of potential new Customers are fingers deep in the Search Engines looking for your products and services (it could be hundreds, it could be thousands of people). If you're working on any level of acquisition in your Marketing efforts (for shame if you're not), and you're not present on that first page of Search Engine results (organic, paid or both), I'd argue that you're not really doing acquisition at all (and your Marketing is a failure).
It's kind of ridiculous to be spending ad dollars on radio (as an example) in hopes that someone hears your spot, remembers it, and is motivated to action when another person was actually raising their hands in a Search Engine and screaming, "hey, I'm looking for you," and you are nowhere to be found.
Advertising and Marketing budgets need to be shifted (more than ever) to maximizing your Search efforts. If you're tapped there - meaning there's a healthy flow of mass keyword purchases that are constantly being tweaked, added too and adjusted - then mass advertising is an excellent compliment to your activities. Where do these potential Consumers - who are searching but not finding you - get lumped? It's not retention (they never bought from you), and it's not acquisition if you're not in front of their faces when they are searching for you.
Acquisition or Retention might not be the right question anymore. We have verifiable proof that most of the companies out there are not active enough in their organic and paid Search Engine strategies. Jesse James was once asked why he robbed banks? To which, he answered: "that's where the money is."
Have your acquisition or retention strategy discussion after you're convinced that you've been in front of the people who are proactively searching you out first.