Busting Through the Barriers to Digital Acquisition

In Digital, Featured by Dave Raley

There’s something about having been around long enough to say those fated words, “Well, back in the day…”

Over the past 10 years, easily the most common question in our industry has been How can we acquire people online?

Well, when it came to acquiring people online, “back in the day…”

  • – Cost to acquire was too high
  • – Volume was too low
  • – Long-term value (LTV) often wasn’t as strong

Cost. Scale. LTV. Those used to be the barriers to digital acquisition.

But no more.

Over the past several years, we’ve broken through every single one of these historical barriers. Today, a growing number of our partners are bringing in more than half of their new donors and customers online. They’re bringing them in at costs lower than traditional media, in volumes competitive with traditional media and at long-term values higher than traditional media.

The future is here — now.

Let me share some examples, because I can’t underscore enough how important these breakthroughs are, and because so many organizations believe this myth: You can’t make digital acquisition work.

COST TO ACQUIRE online is no longer a barrier

It used to be that the cost to acquire a donor digitally was regularly and significantly higher than the cost to acquire using offline channels. This shocked many organizations in the early days. Digital is cheap or free, right? So why is the cost higher? Well, it turns out that even at 1/10 of the cost, if you get 1/100 of the results, it still can cost more.

That’s no longer the case. In one instance, a client was acquiring new donors online at a cost of $79, compared to $127 to acquire in direct mail. That’s 38% LOWER.

Cost to acquire isn’t always lower for digitally acquired donors. It depends on a number of factors, including the strength of your offer and the quality of your digital presence — your website and social media activity, in particular…

Acquiring a sufficient VOLUME of new people online is no longer a barrier

As I mentioned earlier, a growing number of organizations we work with are now bringing in more than half of their new donors and customers online.

One organization has more than doubled the number of new donors online this past year, and now brings in nearly three out of five new donors online. We’ve been rapidly scaling that investment for the past two years, with no signs of slowing.

At the same time, volume isn’t all-important like it used to be, because we’ve found ways to get higher value and better retention online.

Which brings us to the final barrier we’ve busted down…

LONG-TERM VALUE for the digitally acquired is stronger than ever

This one isn’t universally applicable. For some organizations, the retention and LTV of their digitally acquired donors was always strong.

But for others, retention and LTV weren’t as strong as they were for people acquired through traditional channels. We had a hypothesis: perhaps it was because the ONLINE acquired donors were being primarily cultivated OFFLINE.

With a willing partner, we decided to test this hypothesis by transforming the digital cultivation program of a client who was already doing very well in digital acquisition. Within six months of revamping the cultivation treatment, we saw the LTV of new online donors increase from $373 to $470 — an increase of 26%!

So, what should you do?

If you’re one of the many who still believe digital acquisition hasn’t yet “arrived,” question that assumption! We’ve found that if an organization has a compelling offer, a solid web presence and a digital cultivation plan, the sky is the limit.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is: Digital acquisition is here today. It works.

If digital acquisition is working for you, double down!

If acquisition isn’t working for you, take a good hard look at your offer, your channels and your targeting strategy. Or email me, and I can put you in touch with someone who can take a look at your situation.