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Customer Acquisition Channels, Compared and Ranked

SEO Blog
Customer Acquisition Channels Tn

Last updated: March 6, 2024

Customer acquisition takes place across multiple channels, with each channel bringing strategic value based on a prospect’s stage in the customer acquisition funnel. These conduits to customers can be divided into two categories:

  • Primary Customer Acquisition Channels: Primary channels are the centerpiece of customer acquisition, offering leads both conversion-oriented and educational content meant to “nurture.”
  • Supplemental Channels: Supplemental channels are used in conjunction with one or more primary channels, but aren’t effective at generating leads from scratch.

Below, we provide a ranking & brief analysis of every available customer acquisition channel in 2023. We distinguish them by function (primary vs. supplemental, lead generation vs. lead nurturing); pros and cons; and average ROI.

Customer Acquisition Channels, Compared

RankChannelFunctionLead GenerationLead NurturingPros and ConsAverage ROI 
1Thought Leadership SEO Primary✔️✔️High ROI and versatility. Provides content for other channels.
Campaigns take time and require intensive content production
2Speaking EngagementsPrimary✔️✔️High ROI & direct contact with key decision makers in your industry.
Requires a talented speaker who is also an expert and a great deal of legwork.
3WebinarsPrimary✔️✔️Good way to build trust
Requires high-quality webinars.
4EmailSupplemental ✔️Low cost & works off repurposed content
Quality mailing lists take time to build.
5PPCSupplemental✔️ High short-term returns with immediate results.
Expensive long-term with diminishing ROI over time.
6ABMSupplemental✔️✔️Precisely targets high-value, excellent-fit clients
Limited application, high-risk
Highly Variable
7PodcastsSupplemental ✔️Opportunity for entertaining long-form content.
Requires a charismatic expert.
8Organic SocialSupplemental ✔️Relatively low CAC. Can repurpose content to reduce cost.
Campaigns take time to build an audience.
9Paid SocialSupplemental✔️ Precision audience targeting
High CAC
10Trade ShowsSupplemental✔️ Direct contact with target audience
Expensive & highly competitive.

Next, we’ll discuss how to combine these channels to achieve the most effective use for varying budgets and companies.

Customer Acquisition Channel Budget Breakdowns

In this section, we offer ideal budget breakdowns for your customer acquisition program by company type.

Small B2c Budget
Small B2C
ChannelFunctionBudget %
Thought Leadership SEOLead Generation – Primary50%
EmailLead Nurturing – Primary20%
Organic SocialLead Nurturing – Supplemental20%
Paid SocialLead Generation – Supplemental10%

Smaller B2C companies should begin their customer acquisition strategy by investing in SEO to begin building the framework for sustainable long-term customer acquisition. To supplement the SEO campaign at minimal additional cost, content should be repurposed for email and organic social marketing. Paid social campaigns should be used sparingly to drive new sales while waiting for organic campaigns to begin producing results.

Midsize B2c Budget
Midsize B2C
ChannelFunctionBudget %
Thought Leadership SEOLead Generation – Primary40%
EmailLead Nurturing – Primary20%
Organic SocialLead Nurturing – Supplemental15%
Paid SocialLead Generation – Supplemental15%
PPCLead Generation – Supplemental10%

As with lower budget B2C companies, most midsized B2C businesses will see the best long-term returns from investing in organic channels for their customer acquisition. With a higher budget, however, these companies can choose to invest more in paid lead generation, both PPC and social.

Startup B2b Budget
Startup B2B
ChannelFunctionBudget %
Thought Leadership SEOLead Generation – Primary60%
PPCLead Generation – Supplemental20%
EmailLead Nurturing – Primary15%
Organic SocialLead Nurturing – Supplemental5%

Due to the longer sales cycles of B2B transactions, filling the sales pipeline as early as possible is important. As a result, these companies should devote some customer acquisition budget to PPC despite its lower long-term ROI. The best long term investment for B2B customer acquisition is Thought Leadership-based SEO, so a larger portion of the budget should go to it.

Midsize B2b Budget
Midsize B2B
ChannelFunctionBudget %
Thought Leadership SEOLead Generation – Primary40%
Public SpeakingLead Nurturing – Primary15%
PPCLead Generation – Supplemental15%
Paid SocialLead Generation – Supplemental10%
ABMLead Nurturing – Supplemental10%
EmailLead Nurturing – Supplemental5%
Organic SocialLead Nurturing – Supplemental5%

For midsized B2B companies, public speaking becomes a valuable customer acquisition channel that provides exceptionally high returns if you have a skilled speaker. Paid social can be used in addition to PPC for short-term lead generation that reaches a different audience segment. ABM is often a worthwhile investment as well for many industries, despite its inherent risks. Thought Leadership SEO, Email, and Organic Social require less of the overall customer acquisition budget due to increased efficiencies in content creation.

Enterprise Budget 1
ChannelFunctionBudget %
Thought Leadership SEO Lead Generation – Primary25%
WebinarsLead Nurturing – Primary20%
PPCLead Nurturing – Supplemental16%
Speaking EngagementsLead Nurturing – Supplemental10%
ABMLead Generation – Supplemental8%
EmailLead Nurturing – Supplemental5%
PodcastsLead Generation – Supplemental5%
Paid SocialLead Generation – Supplemental5%
Organic SocialLead Nurturing – Supplemental3%
Trade ShowsLead Generation – Supplemental3%

At the enterprise level, businesses have more choice, as larger budgets support investments into all of the above customer acquisition channels. Putting a little budget into each channel allows for experimentation as well as efficiency of spend, as content can be repackaged across each channel (for example, a white paper can be the subject of a keynote speech, a webinar series, several blog articles, and a podcast).

Choosing the Right Customer Acquisition Channels

Choosing the correct mix of marketing channels and executing well on each one is a challenge for even the most experienced marketing teams. While many companies attempt to do everything in-house to save money, doing so often costs more in mistakes and missed opportunities.

For this reason, many companies choose to work with an experienced partner. Our agency takes a thought leadership-centered approach to customer acquisition, creating unique content that’s useful to your audience for both lead generation and lead nurturing. We also provide consulting services to advise you on the best customer acquisition channels for your particular company. Feel free to contact us to discuss a partnership.

Evan Bailyn

Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.