Regardless of whether self-employed, freelancer, SME or a large company – all have the same problem: No matter how good the offer is, how innovative the product is, or how user-friendly the service was designed to be – you must find customers who are ready to pay in order to establish yourself on the market. Customer acquisition is the deciding factor in a project’s success or failure. And because it is so important in business, some promising methods have emerged over the course of time. Yet there are also some misunderstandings about this topic. We’ll clarify them for you.
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What is customer acquisition?
Customer acquisition is a component of sales. It is not only about defining the target group. Rather, it is the specific goal of getting a prospective customer to become a paying customer. In this matter, the type of customer you are dealing with or what you are selling generally doesn’t matter. For this reason, the transitions from customer acquisition to marketing are fluid. Regardless of whether it is B2G, B2B or B2C, it is still referred to as customer acquisition when freelancers, the self-employed, or large businesses attempt to find customers for their products or services.
There are various methods of customer acquisition. These depend on the relationship between supplier and the customer.
The distinguishing feature of cold calling is that the company has had no prior contact with the individual, company, or government authority. You proactively establish communication with the potential customer, make them aware of your own offering, attempt to persuade them to purchase something and/or establish a business relationship. The resources used for this purpose are diverse: letters, emails, fliers, and even telephone calls are conceivable when cold calling.
However, there are currently many restrictions on cold calling. In the United States, cold calls to home numbers may only be made between 8am and 9pm. Cold callers must clearly identify themselves. They must adhere to the “Do Not Call” list. And they must obtain your written approval before taking money from your bank account. Lastly, they must be clear and honest about the product or service they are selling.
In the case of warm calling, the company has already had prior contact with the individual or company. In most cases you are dealing with former customers who haven’t made a purchase in a long time and now should be contacted again. This step is often simpler than cold calling, as you only have to remind the customer base about what you have to offer. The customers being solicited have after all already been interested in the company in the past – and if they didn’t have a bad experience, the odds are just as great that they’ll opt for their products or services again.
However, warm calling also refers to when you have previously made contact with an individual in a professional setting without them immediately becoming a customer. If you meet someone at a trade fair, for example, and write this person an email a few days later with further information on your products or services that could be of interest to them, this can also be considered warm calling.
Tips and tricks for customer acquisition
Anyone who randomly speaks to people and then attempts to convince them of the quality of their product will only very rarely reach a deal. You should heed certain guidelines when warm calling so you don’t only have to rely on luck.
It should be noted in particular that it’s best to avoid random interactions as much as possible. For this reason, it’s important to have an exact understanding of your target group. The target group should ideally confirm how the acquisition is supposed to proceed and which tools you should utilize for this purpose. The difference between business customers and end consumers is an important factor, as is the age demographic of the target group. This means that you will not reach an older audience online as well as you would a younger target group.
The more precise you are in selecting your contact persons, the lower your waste circulation. This in turn makes customer acquisition more profitable.
By deliberately focusing on a target group, it will be easier to determine the type of marketing appeal. Without a well-thought-out system, however, your efforts won’t proceed smoothly or be very efficient. With an acquisition system, in contrast, you can manage who completes the acquisition, when it is completed as well as the number of acquisitions. In doing so, continuity is the most crucial component. People who invest effort in customer acquisition unevenly and proceed without a real plan will inevitably be disappointed. If instead you consider how many resources you can free up for customer acquisition in advance and also create a working plan, the odds of steady customer growth are good.
If you don’t want to lose track while acquiring customers, CRM software can be of help to you. You can use it to manage long-term customer data and to document your efforts with respect to customer acquisition and customer care.
Regardless of the target group you are appealing to, you should always keep in mind the so-called KISS principle: Keep it short & simple. You have little time and this also applies for your counterpart. It is therefore important to convey your message quickly and simply. Admittedly, the medium, target group and situation do always have an influence on the scope of the appeal, yet the credo nevertheless remains the same in every case: be as brief as possible. Anyone who can summarize the advantages of their own offer in a few, significant catchwords will be the most persuasive, whereas if the potential customer has to first listen to a lengthy statement, the initial interest will quickly wane. However, if you win over the other person with a brief appeal, you can provide additional informational material as things proceed.
The so-called AIDA model can also be helpful with customer acquisition. Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action – your appeal should prompt this action sequence. You should therefore begin with a good hook that generates attention, then pique their interest and desire, and finalize with a clear call-to-action (in this case, make a purchase). This structure can also be quickly understood by potential customers and is a more direct path to success than redundant explanations.
With customer acquisition, you should not only consider the hard facts, but also the potential customer’s emotional side. Decisions are often based on intuition and therefore also associated with feelings toward the product, supplier or seller. This is why you should always emphasize making a personable impression. Authenticity and honesty are important: If the person you are appealing to doesn’t trust you, they won’t invest any money in you.
Successful customer acquisition: 5 methods
In order to successfully acquire customers, businesses have recourse to various methods that have been proven especially useful. Other methods, however, have meanwhile more or less disappeared from everyday business: Though cold call acquisitions may still be common practice in some sectors (especially in the B2B sector), the legal regulations for cold calling have nevertheless caused this method to disappear from the repertoire of most salespeople.
Mailing and emailing campaigns
One of the oldest methods – perhaps aside from old-school door-to-door sales – is sending letters. In the internet era, mailing letters has in a sense gained in significance. Because most people no longer receive as many letters as they did a couple of decades ago, printed documents get more attention on a daily basis. In addition to letters, postcards are another suitable example for this type of acquisition. This method, however, also has postage costs associated with it.
With internet mailing campaigns, you can save money on postage. An email is quick and cost-effective. However, there is also a significant risk that the contact person will mark unsolicited emails as spam so you’ve already lost. Also, we do not advise you just randomly write to people whose email addresses you have received from questionable sources. Individuals should first give their consent before you incorporate them into your mailing list. In doing so, your emails will be accepted more frequently – this increases your chances of success when acquiring customers.
If the person has already consented to receiving emails from you (for example, by signing up for your newsletter), then they are also more willing to look at your offer more closely. Consumers and business partners who opt to receive your emails are already interested in the company or the products being offered. And, in the case of a strong appeal, this interest quickly leads to a specific purchase decision.
Online marketing provides all sorts of tools for customer acquisition – far beyond simply sending emails. While you make use of a so-called push method (because you are actively sending the message to the recipient – thus practically “pushing” it into the market), many other aspects of online marketing involve so-called pull methods. Here, potential customers decide more or less on their own whether they want to accept further information about what you’re offering.
When it comes to advertising on search engines, for example, the users themselves have an influence – through their selection of specific search terms – on which information they want to receive. With an SEA campaign you ensure that your ad is displayed after specific searches are made. The user probably has a specific interest in the particular topic and can find further information via your ad. SEO efforts and landing pages function in a similar fashion. The latter are for potential customers who conduct searches according to specific terms. They are also an information source – as a business person you can use such landing pages for well-placed sales communications.
Passive customer acquisition
If executed well, you can have a third party take on a large portion of your customer acquisition. Referral marketing is based on the idea that business partners will refer you to others and thus practically take over appeal efforts to customers on your behalf. This has two immediate advantages. First of all, you’ll of course save time and money that you can invest in other activities. Furthermore, most consumers view recommendations by others as more credible than the “self-praise” featured in direct marketing. This is because a company only praises its own product out of economic necessity.
However, if others have also had a good experience with your offering and are willing to proactively promote it, it makes customer acquisition significantly easier. Interested parties then come to you instead of the other way around. In order to be recommended, however, you must, of course, persuade others through your quality services and products – and more so than the competition. A personable and helpful demeanor toward the customer also increases your chances.
You can, however, by all means also offer monetary incentives so that customers will recommend you. In addition to prizes involving “customers promote customers” programs, affiliate marketing in particular has proven itself effective in recent years. With this method, content providers distribute links to their products on the internet and in return share in the revenue that’s generated via these links. If you choose your partners well and make sure that their content is thematically suitable for the offered product, then you will often achieve astonishing results.
If you don’t have the capacity to successfully acquire clients and would rather not rely on the opportunities in referral marketing, you can also hire special companies to make acquisitions for you.
Especially in the case of long-standing business relationships in the B2B sector, personal customer acquisition is very important. In order for a business partner to invest large amounts in your product or service, they must be convinced by both the offer as well as the business as a whole. Nowadays it is hardly still customary for a representative to make an unannounced visit. Door-to-door sales (in other words, unsolicited visits by salespeople) often puts potential customers in an uncomfortable situation (i.e. they don’t want to be rude, but the same time would like to get rid of the unwanted visitor) and furthermore costs a disproportionate amount of time and money.
Being present at trade fairs and conferences is, in contrast, still just as important as ever. There you meet business professionals and buyers who visit the trade fair with a specific interest. So instead of having to randomly approach people, potential customers in a sense come to you. During events like these, you also have the opportunity to intensively grapple with potential customers’ desires by having personal conversations. Hardly any other method of customer acquisition enables you to have such positive personal interactions.
Even in the era of online marketing, traditional print, radio, and TV promotion has not become completely irrelevant. For many sectors, it is admittedly more worthwhile to invest in traditional media and to run traditional advertising campaigns. The target group has an important role here as well. In some circumstances, you are more likely to reach an older audience offline. If you work in the B2B sector, trade journals are also very suitable for a targeted customer appeal. With this method, sometimes a well-placed ad can clearly reach your specific professional audience better than a widespread online campaign.
You should not use just one method for acquiring customers – a healthy mix is more promising. However, don’t make the mistake of laying too many foundations at once. Decide on a few select methods (which are suitable for your offering and target group). Once certain methods have proven themselves and your system has first achieved success, then you can incrementally optimize and add to them.