Which Customer Acquisition Approach Fits Your Business – Mongol Horde or European Colonizer?

Jul 28, 2016 | Marketing Strategy

So here you are, at the end of a long, glorious run. Your ads were hitting just the right
audience. You knew them well and pulled them right in. As the leads came in faster, the cost
went down, and everything was blue skies, sunshine, and rainbows.

Then things started to change. Response rates fell and costs started to climb. You spent
money and energy trying to fight the rising cost curve, but the audience was saturated. Those
who were going to respond already had, and no matter how you tweaked content, the rest had
already made the choice not to buy. Worst of all, you fell farther and farther behind your monthly growth targets!

Now you need a new audience, a new territory to take over. But how do you figure out which new
audience will produce the way you need it to? You could make the mistake a lot of smart
marketers make, and select an audience by educated guess (at best) or gut-feel (at worst) and
sink a lot of cost into testing and attempting to optimize that audience until it booms or busts.

But that would be repeating the cycle of insanity. Probably not the best strategic approach for
your business or your client’s. Not if you know a smarter way. Not if you know when to use the
Mongol Horde versus European Colonizer approach to drive new customer acquisition and

Mongol Horde

Here’s how it works. So you’re looking to occupy new territory. With Mongol Horde approach,
you find an audience, attack it with your most sophisticated ads, and exhaust every possible
opportunity until it’s all used up. Then, in classic Mongol Horde fashion, you pick up camp and
move on to the next territory.

Though by connotation, the Mongol Horde Model would seem “bad,” the fact is, under the
right circumstances, it can be a really good approach. But there are risks. Some new territories
are rich with opportunity and play out like a gold mine. Others look promising to begin with,
but the gold you hoped for turns out to be brass.

European Colonizer

With the European Colonizer approach to opening new territory, you develop your audiences
over time. You could choose, for example, a wide range of potential audiences, say 20 of them,
in order to identify the three, five or seven that the data suggest will be successful. Now, there
is a higher front-end cost to this approach, because you are managing a budget across a
portfolio of audiences, some that won’t pan out. But the benefit of developing prioritized list of
audiences comes in greater sustainability and predictability in lead flow over a far longer period
of time. It’s good to be king!

And again – sometimes it’s good to be a Mongol Horde. Deciding which approach will work best
for you is a function of two things: how quickly you need results, and how long you will be in
the market. If you are selling something that has a short term window—months, not years,
then the Mongol Horde strategy makes sense. If you plan to be in the market for years, not
months, then the colonizer model could have a big personal and professional payoff.

What about you? Which approach do you think you’ll try with your current lead acquisition
challenge, Mongol Horde or European Colonizer?

Get in touch with our acquisition experts and let us help you decide!


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