Home Articles Why rent the eyeballs when you can own? (Online marketing at its...

Why rent the eyeballs when you can own? (Online marketing at its most clinical.)


This is the fourth installment in Anthill’s The 10 Essential Tools of Online Marketing eSeries. To register, click here.

So far, we’ve looked at the Success Page, Google Analytics and Calling Cards. You might have noticed that when talking about these three tools I emphasised one thing above all else — their role in the collection of prospective customer details.

That is the focus of this fourth installment and the underlying purpose of our fourth essential tool:

An Eyeball Collection Strategy

No, I’m not talking about some gruesome or macabre practice more likely associated with the works of Edgar Allan Poe than a commercial series on marketing.

I’m talking about decreasing your reliance on traditional media, or at least maximising traditional marketing outcomes.

Why rent the eyeballs when you can own?

It was the irrepressibly astute Seth Godin who first introduced me to this concept. It’s simple. It’s radical. And it just keeps proving itself right, as the interwebs become a more and more influential marketing channel.

In one of his many, many blogs (from several years ago), Godin posed the prescient idea that the monopoly of traditional media over the attention of consumers is likely to be whittled away by the democratising forces of the Internet. (Although he didn’t sound like such a wanker when he said it.)

He posed that, while the only model available to marketers for most of the 20th century was to ‘rent’ the attention of prospective customers (via the purchase of advertising, on radio, television, in newspapers, magazines etc), these same marketers would soon become increasingly able to cut out the middle-man, and ‘own’ the attention of their audiences.

For example, a website is often used (and treated) as little more than a digital brochure designed to promote a business. More sophisticated organisations now also frequently use their websites as a lead generation tool or as a storefront.

And then there are a very small few that have also begun to usurp the monopoly of large media companies and use their websites as a source of news or industry information — and, in doing so, they have made the transition from ‘renter’ of attention to attention ‘owner’.

“But I don’t have the resources to become a content creator?”

Of course, as implied in the last installment, ‘eyeball ownership’ requires content.

This is the first objection that most people (business owners, in particular) come up with when presented with the suggestion that they could (dare I say ‘should‘?) consider the extension of their website’s purpose to become a ‘news channel’ or ‘information resource’:

“I don’t have the resources to become a content creator?”

However, while uttering this justification (i.e cop out), it’s surprisingly often the case that these same people already have a company Twitter account or a company Facebook fanpage (or a personal Twitter or Facebook account).

And what are these?

Well, a Twitter account is often referred to as a ‘micro blog’. It can also be used as an industry aggregator. Facebook is already the world’s largest news organisation — it provides user generated and highly localised ‘news’.

Sure, while most of the time Facebook and Twitter might only provide ‘news’ of relevance to very small groups, like family or friendship groups, they are both news channels, nonetheless — often providing content far more compelling (to their target market) than what is produced by ‘official’ news outlets.

In other words, both of these — Facebook and Twitter — are existing and commonly used examples of ‘eyeball’ ownership. If you have one of these you are already in the ‘news’ business.

Think about it.

Essential Tool #4: An Eyeball Collection Strategy

If you’ve been paying attention over the past three installments, the beginnings of an ‘eyeball acquisition’ strategy should already be starting to emerge in your mind.

Hopefully, you have begun to start dreaming up potential ‘calling cards’, you might be contemplating where to promote these offers and you might also be devising ways to measure their success (in relation to the commercial goals of your business).

But remember, this is only the fourth installment! And there are still six to go.

So, if you are still having trouble seeing the trees for the wood, don’t dismay. The role of each piece in this digital puzzle will be revealed in time.

Rather than delve into social media — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc — there are far more simple ‘baby-steps’ that can be taken to get started. For example, let’s briefly return to the the three forms of Calling Card mentioned in the third installment:

a) The Checklist;
b) The eBook; and,
c) The eSeries.

In direct relation to these three forms of Calling Card, here are three online products that can be used to help you own the eyeballs.

The Checklist = Wufoo

Just to remind you, a Checklist can often be a Quiz or a Survey. It’s hopefully offers a headache-cure to your target audience, such as:

  • Are you venture capital ready? Complete this checklist!
  • Are you properly safeguarding your baby against birth defects?
  • Does your boyfriend really love you? Take our two minute quiz!

As explained previously, this option is particularly helpful as a lead-generation tool — simply because the survey can be seeded with questions that can be used to inform a follow-up email, phone call or meeting.

Our favourite online product for creating Checklists is Wufoo.

It’s our favourite because it’s so incredibly easy to use, the form can be embedded within almost any web-page and it just keeps getting better and better.

It can be used to manage your ‘Contact us’ form. (But it’s sooooo much more effective than a ‘Contact Us’ form.) It can be used as an ‘Event Registration’ tool. (It even has a ‘Promotion Code’ function.) It can even be used as an online store! (If you just link it with PayPal.) And, of course, it can be used as a dynamic checklist.

Here is a sample, that I created for this post in less than half an hour.

The eBook = eCover Creator

As explained in the previous installment, an eBook is simply a fancy name for a PDF file. It can also be described as a White Paper or Fact Sheet.

The main goal when developing any eBook is to make it as appealing as possible to the target audience. Remember, even if it’s a digital product that cost nothing (other than your knowledge and time) to create, it still needs to be of ‘high perceived value’ to your prospective customer.

There are two ‘must dos’ that will go a long way to helping you achieve this purpose:

1. Give it a very descriptive name.

The title of your eBook should clearly articles what it’s about. If your eBook is about, say, online marketing, there’s no point calling it…

“The OM Revolution!”

Call it…

“The 10 Essential Tools to Online Marketing”.

This will help it tweet better too. (More on that later.)

2. Give it the appearance of something of value.

This means, make it look like something that could be bought from a store. Compare the two images below. Which one is more desirable?


We all know what an eBook is. We don’t expect to receive a hardcover book (or DVD) sent to us via snail-mail. However, the appearance of a hard-cover, physical item is of ‘higher perceived value’ than something that isn’t.

To create 3D looking covers, we use eCover Creator. It’s very, very simple to use. It’s simple and as elegant as the promotional video, you can see here.

The eSeries = Aweber

The eSeries is one of our favourite tactics at Anthill, simply because you only need to create the content once (like an eBook) but you can use that content to: a) Acquire eyeballs; b) prompt multiple visits to your website; and c) present sales messages as part of the email.

The easiest way to explain an eSeries is to simply point out that you are participating in one now. (This is the fourth installment.) If you have stumbled across this article and are not a participant in the eSeries, click here and follow the prompts.

The online product that we use for managing an eSeries is Aweber. This is for two reasons. Firstly, it has an incredibly easy to set up pop-up tool. (“Pop-ups! I hate pop-ups!” Yeah. We hear you. But I’ll be revealing some pretty interesting statistics about pop-ups later in the series, that might just change the way you think.) Secondly, it has an autoresponder function. This is what allows you to set up a series of emails to be sent in a sequence. (Once a week, for example.)

There’s a pretty good video on autoresponders here. But it’s probably faster to simply set up an Aweber account and start testing. (It’s free for the first month.) Here’s a link to Aweber.

Let’s bring this back to basics

In this past, you may have spent your marketing dollars inviting people to visit your physical store. You may have invited people to call you for a free quote and consultation. More recently, you may have used the same budget to prompt a prospective customer to visit your website.

Whatever your goal, you would have traditionally spent your money renting the attention of another organisation’s audience.

The purpose of this installment is to point out that perhaps your marketing budget would be better spent acquiring that audience — inviting them to follow you on Twitter, become a Facebook fan, or sign up for something that prompts them to provide you with their email address.

This way, over time, you will no longer need to rent those eyeballs… simply because those eyeballs will be yours. Yes, you will have graduated from an eyeball renter to an eyeball owner.

TOOL #4: An Eyeball Acquisition Strategy

Don’t just pay someone to ‘rent’ the attention of their audience.

Pay to acquire that audience by creating reasons for future customers to provide contact details.

This will allow you to speak to your prospective audience again and again and again.

In time, you won’t need to rent at all.

This was the third article in the 10-part eSeries. Check your inbox for future installments.

Not signed-up to the eSeries? Use the form below.