6 minutes reading time

5 types of customer acquisition

My primary concern here is the acquisition of new customers, not to the re-acquisition of existing customers. Some of the listed forms of customer acquisition are very common (eg. telesales or mailings), others such as the acquisition by partners are not as well known, especially in smaller companies. Use this list to challenge your sales status quo and try different strategies for winning new customers.

Telesales or telemarketing

A still widespread form of customer acquisition is the phone call. The salesperson tries to reach out to the person in charge, to present the product or service via the phone. For complex products, the first phone call is usually only a door opener to further talks. Many companies therefore set up a call center or external sales agents, who shall take the first step and approach potential customers. If this is done and the person seems to have a general interest, a sales representative from the company reaches out to deepen the relationship. He or she knows the product or service far better than the call center agent and hence can be more helpful to the customer. Plus his conversion moving the process forward will be much better.

In many industries, telesales works very well as a means to establish the first contact. But you have to pay attention to the legal constraints so that you don't violate the law. In Germany and other european countries for example, you're not allowed to just call companies you don't have an existing business relationship with. Frequently, this law is circumvented by working with external parties, for example call centers or sales agents. The call center then approaches the contact, which they as a call center had a "relationship" with. The called it before for another client. That only works as long as most people don't know the specific law, so be careful when taking this risk.

Mailing by post, bulk mail or e-mail

The mailing is an equally widespread form of customer acquisition, which is often used in combination with other forms of acquisition. But again, in some countries you have to consider the laws. Again, we'll take Germany as example. They differentiate between bulk mail and electronic mailings. The latter is prohibited, just as the unwanted call. This is due to the increasing number of advertising emails, that can be send out at zero costs. An e-mail marketing mailing is quickly created and at no cost to the sender. In classic letter mailings, at least some costs occur. Hence the sender has to get back at least the expenses he had for printing and sending out the mailing, which leads to less companies blindly mailing every potential customer.

Basically I'd say that mailings by post or e-mail are good in the first place, to stay in touch with existing customers. Mailings to acquire new customers, in addition to legal issues are just one thing: annoying. Don't do it.

Have you ever thought about "joining" an existing newsletter? Reach out to newsletter publishers that target your potential customers and try to integrate your content into their newsletter. You'll not only get into touch with many new people, but will also gain reputation being integrated into the newsletter they follow and respect.

Online marketing, Adwords

So far we've talked about push strategies of acquiring new customers. When calling or mailing some person, you're pushing information to them. Online marketing within search engines works kind of the other way around. The potential customer is already looking for some sort of solution and when searching Google or other search engines, you're waiting for him with a targeted ad that serves the need.

When the potential is already searching for a solution, he or she is much more likely to run your trial, get in touch or request a proposal - whatever you're trying to sell. Plus he's in the mood right now, compared to you cold calling him while he's picking up his kids from school. That makes online marketing targeted and efficient.

When going for online marketing, especially for Adwords on Google & Co, you should try to narrow down your target audience as much as possible in order to prevent advertising the wrong people with the wrong product. Even if online marketing mostly works on a pay per click basis - some people will always click your ad and have a look at your offer. Then they realize it's not what they're searching for and move back to the search engine. That leaves you paying for the click and google marking your ad as irrelevant for the search term.

Acquiring customers through partners

If you want don't want to build a large distribution channel itself or you simply can't easily access your potential customers, then you should consider the acquisition through one or more partners. Many new products can be integrated into an existing product and thus marketed 'on the fly'.

Let's say your offering some new market analysis tool, then there are certainly medium-sized consulting companies that you can integrate with or build your sales on. They might want to use your tool for their services and will do the sales for you.

As nice as this sounds, acquiring through partners of course has it's drawbacks: First, it will only work as good as your partners are. If they don't sell, you don't sell. And if they stop selling your product because they found a better solution at your competitor, you'll not only lose a customer but a part of your sales strategy. So pay attention very carefully and build trust and close relationships with your partners. The stronger the partnership, the better it's for both.

Referral marketing & recommendations

You obviously can't force your existing customers to recommend your product or service to their peers, but you can definitely influence the likelihood of recommendations. The baseline for recommendations is of course a solid performance. If not even your existing customers are satisfied with your service, why should they tell it their friends. Nobody would. But if you have good relationships with your customers, there are many ways to foster recommendations. Be it simply asking for an introduction or using them as a testimonial for similar companies. It definitely helps to convince consulting companies of our CRM software as we're well known as a CRM provider in this industry. Make it easy for your customers to tell their friends, for example by integrating a way to send a recommendation straight out of their software (if you're a software provider for example).

Hopefully this post helps you to test and identify the right types of customer acquisition for your business and for yourself. Not every type will fit your business model or character. If you hate contacting people via phone, then don't do it. You'll probably be bad at it and won't win many customers. Try other types or find someone who's more into cold calling.

Axel von Leitner
Axel von Leitner