Top Customer Acquisition Channels for Online Businesses

Ioana Cozma
May 21, 2024
November 15, 2023

Online businesses have specific challenges in customer acquisition, such as gaining visibility and trust.

To solve these issues, you must use the right acquisition channels.

And you’re on the best page to get started. We’ll:

  • Discuss 7 online and 4 offline customer acquisition channels
  • Share insider tips, stories, and examples
  • Analyze which customer acquisition channels fit eCommerce, B2B, and SaaS companies

Let’s dive in.


  • Online Business Customer Acquisition: Discusses challenges in gaining visibility and trust, with a focus on both online and offline acquisition channels.
  • Online Channels:
    • SEO: Enhances visibility and organic traffic, vital as most people search before buying.
    • Paid Search and Display Advertising: Offers immediate visibility; popular among marketers.
    • Content Marketing: Develops valuable content to attract and retain customers, building trust and authority.
    • Social Media Marketing: Increases brand awareness and customer engagement.
    • Email Marketing: Utilizes personalized content for direct customer contact and higher conversion rates.
    • Influencer Marketing: Leverages influencers’ follower bases for brand awareness and trust.
    • Affiliate Marketing: Extends market reach through affiliates’ networks.
  • Offline Channels:
    • Print Advertising: Targets specific demographics; offers high credibility but limited tracking.
    • TV and Radio Advertising: Good for broad market reach but involves higher investment.
    • Events and Conferences: Facilitates direct interaction with potential clients, ideal for B2B and niche businesses.
    • Cold Calling: Engages directly with leads, requiring a well-researched and personalized approach.
  • Specialized Channels for Specific Sectors:
    • eCommerce: Focus on digital channels like referral programs and influencer marketing.
    • B2B: Utilize lead generation websites and targeted digital marketing.
    • SaaS: Employ community building and digital referral programs.

Online Acquisition Channels

Let’s begin with the online channels you can consider.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Goal: Enhance online visibility and organic search traffic.

89% of companies use their websites for customer acquisition. That’s because 81% of people will run a Google search before buying your products.

Search engine optimization allows your website to rank high, so those 81% of people can find you.

You’ll need to optimize your website with relevant keywords, write relevant content that answers people’s needs, and organize your products in neat categories.

SEO also entails tackling technical issues, such as improving website speed and ensuring mobile-friendliness.

Once you rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs), you get increased organic traffic, a higher likelihood of attracting potential customers, and improved brand credibility.

2. Paid Search and Display Advertising

Goal: Immediate visibility.

Paid search and display advertising allows you to appear first in search results for specific key terms.

Tip: Use Google Ads to target those keywords and select specific target customers instantly.

A huge advantage is that you can use search advertising effectively for each buyer journey stage to boost awareness and sales.

That’s why paid search is the most popular customer acquisition channel, used by 86% of marketers.

Pro tip: You need the right strategy before and after running your paid ads campaign.

Insider Story

At inBeat, we rely heavily on data.

We start with thorough research into our clients’ companies, the market, their competitors, and the target audience.

We test and optimize all our creative assets.

And, if the data shows this is a good tactic, we power our social media ads with UGC to reduce ad fatigue and CPAs.

For example, we decreased NielsenIQ’s CPAs by 75% on all marketing channels.

We did that with TikTok ads to explain how their inbox decluttering app works. And we used different micro-influencers to attract potential customers across a wide range of demographics.

2. Analyze Competitors

Key points:

  • Study competitors’ strategies, marketing tactics, and prospective customers to identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Learn from competitors while developing unique value propositions that set your business apart.

A thorough competitor analysis helps you identify opportunities you can leverage, such as niches and messages your competitors aren’t targeting.

You can also zero in on high-performing strategies they’re using that you can reverse-engineer

Here’s how to perform this competitor analysis to identify the best channels for customer acquisition:

1. Identify your main competitors: List your direct competitors, meaning businesses with similar products and services with the same target audience. Then, list your indirect competitors – companies that compete for the same customer base with distinct products.

2. Analyze your competitors’ online presence:

  • Website analysis: Examine their website structure, content, and user experience.
  • SEO strategies: Use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to understand their search engine optimization tactics.
  • Social media analysis: Look at their social media channels to see engagement levels, content strategy, and audience interaction.
  • Email marketing: Subscribe to their newsletters to understand their email marketing strategy.

3. Evaluate their sales channels:

  • Direct and indirect channels: Look at how they sell their product: directly, through partners, online, or offline channels.
  • Customer journey: Understand their customers’ steps from discovery to purchase.

4. Look for gaps and opportunities:

  • Identify any potential market segments they might be overlooking.
  • Determine if there are any channels (like certain social media platforms or online events) they’re not leveraging effectively.
  • Adapt strategies that work well for them to increase your conversion rate.
  • Look for areas where they are lacking and consider how your business can fill those gaps.

5. Develop Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP):

  • Based on the analysis above, identify how your product or service can stand out. This could be through unique features, pricing, customer service, or innovation.
  • Craft your marketing messages to highlight this UVP.

Insider Story: Aura Parental Control

In the case of Aura Parental Control, we saw that our competitors weren’t making the most of social media to target young parents with toddlers.

And most of Aura’s audience uses social channels to learn about their products. They are also preoccupied with their kids’ safety while using smartphones.

That was the free niche we could use to build Aura’s unique value proposition:

Insider tip: Combine your paid ads strategy with website SEO and content marketing for long-term results.

Often, it’s not about organic vs paid customer acquisition; it’s about leveraging both.

3. Content Marketing

Goal: Develop engaging, valuable content to attract and retain an online audience of satisfied customers​​​​​​.

Content marketing improves your customer acquisition efforts in the long run.

Creating informative, relevant, and engaging content entails solving your prospective customers’ problems by focusing on their pain points. For that, you’ll need different types of content, such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Industry case studies
  • Interactive content

This approach:

  • Boosts your SEO efforts, increasing your search engine visibility
  • Builds trust
  • Establishes authority in the industry
  • Drives engagement
  • Leads to increased brand loyalty and customer retention

4. Social Media Marketing

Goal: Brand awareness, customer engagement, and direct traffic generation.

3.8 billion people are using social media regularly. And a large chunk of those people are your potential customers. That’s why this channel for customer acquisition is very lucrative.

You can use social media marketing to create:

  • Social media posts that serve as a basis to interact with your audience, or:
  • Paid marketing campaigns

Either way, social media marketing allows you to engage with your target audience through regular posts, interactive content, and other customer engagement strategies. Benefits include:

  • Collecting your audience’s feedback to optimize your products or brand communication
  • Staying on top of your ideal customers’ minds
  • More traffic to your website

All this leads to direct conversions and increased brand loyalty.

Pro tip: To get increased trust and credibility among potential customers and easier collaboration with influencers and other businesses, register your business with right structure (corporation or limited liability company).

5. Email Marketing

Goal: Build and leverage email lists.

Collecting email addresses and sending personalized content leads to a direct point of contact with your customers.

These effective customer acquisition channels can be used for:

  • Promoting products, discounts, or events
  • Sharing company news
  • Nurturing customer relationships with interactive content
  • Sharing customer testimonials and stories
  • Retargeting people who’ve abandoned their baskets

Basically, email marketing is a powerful tool for higher conversion rates and customer retention.

And it’s also one of the cheapest channels for customer acquisition.

Pro tips:

  • Use gated content, such as access to a whitepaper, to get more qualified leads in your list of addresses.
  • Leverage user-generated content in your email marketing to convince people in the first stages of the customer sales funnel.

6. Influencer Marketing

Goal: Tap into the influencers’ follower bases.

Working with trustworthy influencers will enhance your brand awareness and trust.

Influencer endorsements increase customer acquisition by giving you access to highly qualified leads ready to purchase.

Niche influencers are especially great at increasing your conversion rates.

Pro tip: Highly engaged nano and micro-influencers like the ones from inBeat hold 22x more conversations with their audience about your products.

Therefore, high-quality influencers don’t just boost awareness; they skyrocket your sales and create long-term loyalty.

Insider Story

We used niche influencers to help Soylent popularize its new product lines across a wider audience.

These influencers spoke to potential customers interested in outdoors, hiking, gaming, etc. But they all have something in common: they need a delicious, healthy, on-the-go snack.

And that’s Soylent:

Plus, this cost-effective strategy got the brand over 5 million impressions with 35 reusable assets.

7. Affiliate Marketing

Goal: Extend market reach and drive sales.

Affiliate programs allow you to leverage your affiliates’ networks to promote your products or services.

Your affiliates are incentivized to generate more leads and conversions because you’ll pay them a commission.

So, this performance-based marketing strategy:

  • Extends your market reach.
  • Drives your return on investment.
  • Powers up your SEO strategies with more unique content and inbound links from authoritative websites.
  • Allows you to follow specific and easy-to-measure customer acquisition metrics.

But to reach those results, you must first choose the right affiliates.

Remember that these people will be like an extension of your sales team.

So, they must be reputable, have authoritative websites with solid traffic, and be highly professional.

Offline Acquisition Channels

Offline acquisition channels work well for many customer demographics. Certain offline channels are underutilized, so they give you an awesome opportunity to build awareness. Others allow you to interact directly with prospects.

So, let’s run through them.

1. Print Advertising

Main goal: Target specific demographics and local customer bases​​.

Print ads offer a highly targeted reach compared to other channels.

If you post your ad in a niche magazine, you can reach a very specific and relevant audience. Plus, print media has a higher level of trust, so your brand will borrow that credibility.

And people often hold onto magazines for longer periods, so brand recall is higher, too.

Here are the disadvantages:

  • Print advertising can’t be tracked and measured in real-time like paid online ads.
  • Static print ads can’t be interactive, so they’re arguably less engaging.
  • Print advertising is less cost-effective.

Still, you might choose print advertising over paid online ads if you’re a:

  • Local business targeting a specific community: The local print media is a trusted source of information for community members. People who read these publications are likelier to respond to ads from local businesses. And that translates into a higher conversion potential.
  • Luxury brands targeting high-end demographics: The tactile experience and visual quality of print complement the premium nature of a luxury brand. Plus, magazine readers probably have more disposable income and interest in luxury brands.

2. TV and Radio Advertising

Main goal: Reach broader markets with higher investment.

TV and radio are expensive paid acquisition channels. Still, they allow you to attract new customers fast, especially if you:

  • Target a local market
  • Are a larger company that wants a broad reach

In the first scenario, you’ll probably use a local station to attract a niche audience.

In the second scenario, you’ll use a national TV or radio station.

In both cases, though, you’re not interested in precise targeting. Your product may be generic, and you want quick exposure.

3. Events and Conferences

Main goal: Direct interaction with potential clients.

Getting high-quality leads is one of the biggest customer acquisition challenges. But interacting directly with potential buyers can help you solve this problem.

Networking events are essential in sectors like:

  • B2B or high-end retail: In these niches, direct contact and trust play a significant role in decision-making. Face-to-face interactions with your customer base also allow you to understand your clients’ needs better.
  • Niche businesses: Imagine offering specialized services like NLP reprogramming to entrepreneurs. In this case, events allow you to prove expertise, establish authority in a specific field, and connect with a highly targeted audience interested in your specialized services.

Basically, events and conferences lead to direct sales, better feedback, and tight professional relationships.

So, you can either start attending conventions and events in your industry or create your own. You can even consider a cross-promotion with another company if you’re targeting a local audience.

4. Cold Calling

Main goal: Engage directly with leads through personal communication.

Cold calling is one of the most effective channels for customer acquisition.

If you know the unwritten rules and don’t spam people.


  • Don’t buy a list of leads from a third-party
  • Don’t break GDPR rules

Instead, do your due diligence.

  • Build a solid sales team and marketing team.
  • Have them create a buyer persona and do their research to find quality leads.
  • Find these leads’ public contact information.
  • Find their preferred mode of communication, such as phone calls, emails, or social media platforms.
  • Contact them with personalized messages and benefits. Avoid generic, mass messages that seem spammy.

Get the most out of your paid media with inBeat TikTok Ads Agency

Specialized Channels for Specific Sectors

After going through these online and paid acquisition channels, you may have a better idea of where to start.

But don’t mix all these channels chaotically into your customer acquisition strategy.

You need a solid plan based on solid numbers. So, evaluate your competitors, audience needs, and business goals.

That said, some channels fit some industries better than others. Here’s what to consider:

1. eCommerce Channels

Pro tip: Focus on digital channels like referral programs, influencer marketing, and affiliate networks to drive online sales​​.

Here’s why these are your best options:

  • Wide reach: These channels can reach a global and diverse audience. That’s essential for eCommerce businesses that operate online and aren’t limited by geographical boundaries.
  • Targeted marketing: These are very targeted marketing efforts, meaning you can reach specific and diverse audiences across the board.
  • More trust: These channels leverage the trust and credibility of real people. These are your customers, influencers, or affiliates, and they have engaged loyal audiences. This trust can drive more sales than your brand’s traditional advertising or blog posts.
  • Data-driven insights: Affiliates, referral programs, and influencers provide valuable data and analytics. Thus, you can understand customer behavior, preferences, and trends. And that means you can adapt your business and marketing strategies to optimize these numbers.
  • Cost-effectiveness: These strategies often have lower upfront costs and are performance-based. Therefore, you can maximize your budget because you only pay for actual sales or conversions.

Related: 10 Strategies to Improve e-Commerce Customer Acquisition Cost

B2B Channels

Pro tip: Leverage lead generation websites, paid advertising, and targeted digital marketing for business clients​​.

These B2B customer acquisition channels offer distinct advantages compared to other channels.

First, you get direct access to business clients. Secondly, you get efficient targeting plus precise result tracking and measurement. That’s why these channels are very effective.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Lead generation websites: These websites attract and capture high-quality leads. Unlike general advertising, they focus on gathering information from interested parties. That means you get more personalized and effective follow-up. And trust us, you’ll need to follow-up when selling to company decision-makers.
  • Paid advertising: Offers precision targeting, especially on platforms where your business clients are active (like LinkedIn). Paid ads are more efficient than broader channels like TV or radio, where targeting is less specific.
  • Targeted digital marketing: This channel allows you to build long-term customer relationships and showcase your expertise. You can create customized content specifically for your business clients’s needs. And offering precise solutions backed by data is extremely effective in convincing decision-makers.

SaaS Channels

Pro tip: Employ specific online strategies such as community building and digital referral programs for SaaS businesses​​.

These specific online strategies are highly effective for SaaS customer acquisition in terms of:

  • Increased conversions (e.g., app downloads)
  • Decreased churn rates

Here’s how:

Community building:

  • Increased conversion rates: Establishing an online community around a SaaS product builds long-term engagement, trust, and customer loyalty. This approach turns your users into advocates, leveraging a strategy similar to word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Decreased churn rates: SaaS products have a high learning curve, even the most user-friendly ones. And a tight community helps new users learn how to use your SaaS solutions, thus minimizing uninstalls or contract cancellations.

Digital referral programs:

  • Increased conversions: These programs entail offering incentives to your existing customers for new referrals. Referrals come from trusted sources, which enhances the likelihood of conversion. So, this method is more cost-effective and efficient than cold outreach or paid ads.
  • Decreased churn rates: Loyal customers who refer other customers to your product can explain how your software works. And they can help new prospects pick a suitable pricing plan that includes all the features they need. This customized assistance means more new customers are likely to remain loyal to your product because they’ve picked the right solution for their needs.

Plus, these customer acquisition strategies also increase your customer lifetime value considerably.

Which Customer Acquisition Channel Will Work for You?

Take all the information in this guide with a grain of salt and lots of grains of data.

For example, if you have a SaaS company, don’t just stick to community building or digital referral programs. Many SaaS companies use content marketing, SEO, and social media quite successfully.

And if you have a B2B, you can use affiliates or influencer marketing to reach your potential customers.

The suggestions above are just specific channels that work best for some niches.

You should adapt these suggestions according to your business goals and current situation. That’s why you need to follow the data.

inBeat can help you get started.

Just like we decreased Nielsen IQ’s CPAs by 75% and have helped Soylent get 5+ million impressions for its new product lines.

We can do the same for you with data-driven, results-focused strategies.

Let’s schedule a free strategy call, and we’ll build the best plan for your customer acquisition needs.

Want more examples of successful influencer marketing strategies? Check out our case studies.

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