Customer Acquisition in the UK

Customer acquisition in the UK is not as new as you may think. It’s been around since the 1950’s in the form of telemarketing, and since the early ‘noughties’ (2000 – 2001) as online customer acquisition. Today it is considered by many to be the fastest growing segment in online advertising, and more and more companies are turning to buying customers as a key resource for growing business.

What is a customer?

A customer, often known as a sales lead, is a piece of information about a business or consumer who has confirmed their interest in a product or service and given permission to be contacted to learn more or regarding a potential purchase. The information gathered will typically comprise contact details and basic qualifying criteria.

What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition is the collective term for any marketing activity that results in the acquisitions of customers. This could be offline, in the form of direct marketing or telemarketing, or online, where a form is filled in by a web site visitor or following and email or search engine request.

The UK customer acquisition market

The customer acquisition market in the UK is thriving, in all probability aided by the current economic crisis meaning that businesses are keen to spend money on marketing that delivers guaranteed results. The annual IAB (Internet Advertising Board) online advertising spend study estimated that £41 million was spent on customer acquisition advertising during 2010, increasing by 20% to around £50 million in 2011. Their Online Customer Acquisition Snapshot published at the end of 2011 found that a third of businesses responding to their survey allocated over £100,000 to customer acquisition during the year and that over 40% intended to increase their customer acquisition budgets further in 2012. Similarly, in a 2011 survey of over 200 Business to Business marketers conducted by B2B Marketing, 80% listed customer acquisition as either their top or one of their top priorities.

In parallel, the number of companies offering lead generation services has increased dramatically over the last 5 years, and several options are available for a business looking to outsource their lead generation:

  • One-stop shops: single sites that offer customers for a huge selection of verticals. Typically B2B focused, these sites fund their activities by aggregating customers and sending them to more than one prospective buyer.
  • Affiliate networks: place your cost per lead offer on an affiliate site, choosing how much you are willing to pay; the offer is then redistributed to the network’s partner sites that deliver traffic and, hopefully leads. B2B or B2C focused, affiliate networks vary in their performance depending on how offers ‘fit’ with their partner sites. They also take a percentage of earnings, so you have to get your cost per lead right.
  • Vertical experts: companies (like MVF Global) dedicated to specific verticals, B2B or B2C; they are experts in targeting the relevant audiences for each vertical and use whatever are the best tools to deliver leads – PPC, SEO, Email, Advertising. Some vertical experts will also qualify leads by telephone before delivering them.

  • All of the above companies can help with customer acquisition, but it's well worth thinking hard about which approach will best suit your needs.

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