Why we’re ditching Google AdWords and putting all of our money in Social.

Julien Jacques
Jul 21, 2015 · 5 min read
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As we finish the last few touches to maptiks before we launch, I’ve been working on trying to figure out the most efficient, highest converting channel for acquiring new customers. We’re a SaaS that provides mapping analytics for Open Layers 3, LeafletJs and Google Maps API.

Here’s, roughly, how we tested 3 online customer acquisition channels and built a community of 250 people in 4 weeks.

In short, Google AdWords is an inefficient way of engaging in a community. Tapping into a community in the early stages of developing a product is key to getting feedback and building something they’ll actually want to pay for.

In the early stages, It’s all about engagement.
When marketing a new product or service the first step is to figure out where these people actually live and engage with them. The idea is to do it on the cheap, hustle, and go get some feedback from your potential clients. If you’re opening up a restaurant, try handing out free samples on the corner of a busy street and gauge peoples honest reaction.

For us, our clients (geospatial or GIS developers) are in their offices, scattered all over the world. Many of them run their own consulting gigs. Many of them are the only geospatial developer in a 3000 person company. Many of them sell their services online. It’s a lonely job. So where’s the community and how do you talk to them?

Can’t find the community? Build one. Seriously! Go out and build one. If you want to build a long lasting business, being an influencer and a thought leader will be one of your strongest marketing tools. So go out and join the community or build one. If there’s no community, your customers probably don’t exist.

Here’s what we did. We stole an idea from another scattered group of working professionals — digital nomads who work remotely. To solve the community problem, www.nomadlist.com created a Slack team and started inviting digital nomads from all over the world. We did the same thing, but for GIS Developers. It worked. Woo!

In the 1st day we had about 25 signups, by day 2 there were 145 members and by the end of the week we had 225 members, of which were mostly GIS Developers who are building maps online. Basically, 225 people of our potential clients in one place. This is incredible!

The Slack community may not directly affect our business, but it has had a significant influence on spreading the word about our product. While people were signing up for the Slack community, our company email signups were skyrocketing along with it. And not just randoms, but executive level, decision making people at massive companies. Oh, and it was free.

So, why are we ditching Google AdWords? Google Analytics tells a clearer story.

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Google AdWords just isn’t cutting it and frankly it’s kindof expensive. It has a < 1% conversion rate, it brings a lot of traffic to the site, but clearly the visitors are not engaged with an avg. 12 second session time and so few signups.

I’ve seen this many many times before with Google AdWords. Low conversion rates, low engagement rates etc.

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Moreover, we’ve spent about $440 on AdWords and got 2 conversions meaning our Cost Per User Acquisitions (not even a paying customer) is about $220. That’s a lot of money.

Social is killing it. Twitter 4 da win!

Social on the other hand is getting us a 2.31% conversion. It’s actually better than that because this only shows direct conversions — meaning someone who came directly from twitter and signed up in the same session.

But let’s say it’s accurate. We’ve spent $105 on Twitter Ads in that time period and got 11 conversions. That’s $9.5 per conversion. A little expensive for my taste, but way better compared to the $220 for Google AdWords.

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This is not the whole story though. That Slack community we built was actually more of a test to try and figure out how our potential client would discover something they like. We had an open ended “How did you hear about us” which provides a clear winner — Twitter. Here’s the data.

Others said Reddit, friends, and an email we sent out. But we know, without a doubt that our target market lives on Twitter, and that’s where we should be spending our time and money.

Google Analytics also doesn’t do a great job at showing LinkedIn conversions. Because of the nature of LinkedIn’s messaging system, it’s difficult to see the LinkedIn conversion.

So to properly track outbound LinkedIn cold emails, you kindof have to do it the old school way and track it on a spreadsheet.

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Copy, paste everyone you connect with and once they’ve signed up, go back to your sheet and update it.

It sucks, but it’s important to test. In our case, we reached out to GIS Developers and saw a 18.75% conversion rate and 12.50% funnel completion.

Now we just have to figure out how to scale our outbound LinkedIn efforts and we have a meaningful customer acquisition channel.

In conclusion after testing a few customer acquisition channels, we have a sureshot, inexpensive strategy for acquiring new clients.

  • Twitter: 2.31% conversion
  • LinkedIn: 18.75% conversion
  • AdWords: 0.62% conversion
  • Slack: ? But great promotion

Sorry AdWords, you’re cut.

It’s important to test your own. Every marketing strategy will be different. It involves testing, tracking and exploiting the most efficient channels.

If you’ve read this and learned something, click the like button. I’m trying to gauge if people are getting use out of this, and I’ll keep posting my journey through the digital marketing world.

Some tools that we used:

  • Google Analytics FREE
  • HubSpot CRM (for sales management) FREE
  • Autopilot (for email nurturing) SUPER CHEAP
  • Slack (for being awesome and building communities) FREE
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator (for cold emailing potential clients) NOT FREE
  • Segment (for retargeting, tracking and other good stuff) FREE
  • UnBounce (for building awesome landing pages) NOT FREE
  • Zapier (to make your systems talk to each other) FREE
  • AdWords (for CPC and retargeting) NOT FREE
  • Twitter (For engaging with users) FREE + ADS
  • Facebook (For retargeting) FREE + ADS
  • Canva (For designing cool graphics) FREE

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