Brittany Fleit

For many industries, the most important activity for a company is customer acquisition. Learning how to first get a user base and then how to keep and reward their loyalty trumps almost all other needs. This year at ad:tech, customer acquisition is practically dominating workshops and speeches. Though most of the featured presentations focus on social media (read: Facebook ads), there are a few companies that break the mold and give us something new.

Direct Agents and MediaWhiz are two of those companies.

Built from the ground up by brothers Josh and Dinesh Boaz in 2003, Direct Agents now partners with some of the industry’s biggest names. From the beginning the company was performance-oriented, putting their clients first and providing services in all channels of marketing, such as prospect email marketing, affiliate marketing, lead generation, search engine marketing, targeted display and (of course) Facebook advertising. They’re showcasing their new mobile offering and working on a dashboard to visually simplify managing campaigns.

MediaWhiz is another customer acquisition company that provides a consultative services called the Program of Continuous Improvement. The program is an ongoing optimization for clients, constantly refreshing its strategy by traffic, sources, landing page designs, etc., to deliver the most effective results possible.

Both companies strongly value testing and experimenting with these channels to bring a unique, fully-customized plan to every client. Having worked with companies affiliated with them, I know firsthand the attention and resources they bring to each client.

Direct Agents and MediaWhiz sat down with me to discuss the trends they feel are influencing customer acquisitions—what’s on the rise, what’s on the decline and how they are paving their own path.

The number one advice I heard from these companies is to “always be on top of what’s happening tech-wise and what’s happening with clients. Go to tech and mobile seminars to learn best practices and outreach. Constantly test and discover new products.”

CEO of Direct Agents, Josh Boaz, explained his company’s techniques in a more detail. “Email is the number one acquisition tool that we use ... You can try display, social media and mobile but email is a cost-effective, tried and tested medium to reach customers. Through email, you can generate a campaign and see results very quickly. Display takes longer, there’s more testing involved and it’s not 100 percent you’ll be successful every time. But with email, if you have good value proposition, you can be efficient about it.”

We began discussing the heavy-handed role social media campaigns are playing this year at ad:tech, how Facebook-focused the audience is and how other channels of advertising and acquisition can often get shoved aside. Boaz states, “In the past, I’ve been disappointed when there are 100 companies doing the same thing, so I’m interested to see how companies are doing things differently now. In terms of advertisers, we’ve seen a lot of trends in our industry; some key categories have a lot of copycats. Basically, it’s competitive but not innovative. If one company does something well, everyone runs after it. Facebook advertising is a part of any digital marketing campaign, and as an acquisition tool it has plus and minuses. The type of consumer you reach through Facebook is browsing to interact with friends—not to see marketing messages. But that’s why ad:tech is a great place for networking and reconnecting with people. You see trends, what’s happening—that’s how you learn. Companies come and go, but ad:tech shows you what’s up-and-coming.”

MediaWhiz’s SVP of Media Peter Klein agrees. “Social media is a hugely understated misnomer. It’s not just Facebook; it’s Linkedin and Pinterest, it’s people trying to consume all kinds of media. The thing about social media is it allows you to really build the customer relationship. But you have to understand all the social channels and I don’t see that here. I think lead generation is the most critical aspect. I’ve talked to bigger brands and mom-and-pop shops, and they don’t realize that we figure out different angles to market a consumer and different ways to drive traffic or find new customers. Lead generation is always going to be a huge piece… it’s critical and we have to migrate more people that way.”

Klein also believes that mobile will be the new social in the coming year. “Every year there’s a new channel of marketing opening up and people want to jump in and make money. It’s like the Wild Wild West; these new marketers have no business experience, they’re like locusts that come in and destroy crops, they have no ethics for the client. For the people who do things right, it’s a black eye. This year mobile is really starting to take root and that will be the new trend. If you look at stats, 30-40 percent of people are viewing email or other content on a mobile device. Everyone has smartphones, Kindles, iPads, etc. You can see that mobile has more and more people ready to buy apps, drive traffic and click on banners. Mobile is going to be a major channel for everyone. You may not have a page to “like,” but you have all the different analytics you can track… Step outside your comfort zone and experiment and find what drives results immediately.”

Walking around the Expo floor, it’s easier there than the sessions to see how new startups are representing other facets of user acquisition. Booths line the aisles, luring passersby with promises of increased ROI and claiming client-focused proposals. Perhaps next year at ad:tech, some of these startups will receive enough funding to ride up the escalator to the third floor where they too will get their moment to shine as speakers in the private presentations. Then, we’ll get a better scope of how effective marketing campaigns involve so much more than simply what’s popular.

So the question remains: next year, will acquisition still revolve around trends, or will it have moved on to demonstrate the bright and bold innovations within each channel?

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech San Francisco event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.