Customer acquisition: Getting customers for your startup

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Many have toyed with the idea of ​​leaving the employee life behind and trying to be self -employed. Stop making your skills, talents and qualifications available to other employers, but be your own boss and build a small business. But before you can even get started, the first big question arises: With which legal form do I start my independent career? Anyone who takes the step alone can set up a small business , which is often considered the quickest and easiest way to set up an independent existence. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when running a small business, such as customer acquisition.

Independence has its price: insecurity. In the end, success depends on the number of existing customers and whether they will come back. The acquisition of customers is therefore one of the (survival) most important tasks for young companies – with which, however, many founders have no experience or are even overwhelmed.

Many a freelancer finds it extremely difficult to acquire new orders or accepts orders that don’t pay off at all. The main thing is to be able to do something. The following recommendations and checklist show how you can get new customers and the next order more easily.

Acquisition Definition: Forms & Synonyms

What exactly does acquisition mean? The term originally comes from Latin; the verb “acquirere” means “acquire”. This means measures for customer acquisition, which can include the following forms of acquisition:

➠ Advertising
➠ Email advertising
➠ Mailing
➠ Personal sales
➠ Search engine marketing
➠ Telephone marketing
➠ Newsletter advertising

The following terms are synonyms of acquisition: customer acquisition, customer canvassing. By the way: If the acquisition is not about winning new customers or selling products, but about getting money or other resources, the process is called “fundraising“.

Cold calling and warm calling: the differences

Acquisition or new customer acquisition is considered by many to be the supreme discipline. Regardless of whether you are a freelancer, freelancer, self-employed or work in sales for a company: You cannot survive on good recommendations alone. Especially since the acquisition is a good opportunity to determine customer requirements. There are basically two different types of customer acquisition: cold calling and warm calling.

Cold calling

This is the form of acquisition “dreaded” by some sales people, because it is about convincing potential customers of your own products and services who have not been customers before. This initial approach has some pitfalls. In Germany, for example, cold calls to private customers (B2C) are prohibited unless you have expressly consented to this at an earlier point in time. Acquisition letters are also considered cold calls and, like cold calls, may not  be permitted in accordance to the law against unfair competition. In B2B (English for “Business to Business”, relationship between two companies), on the other hand, cold calling is not a problem.

Warm call

In warm acquisition, existing customers are used by making renewed contact with former customers who “jumped away” a long time ago. In some cases, existing customers were previously neglected, but now the potential is recognized or the contact persons have changed. This win-back is facilitated by the fact that the old contacts already know your product and thus often show you a leap of faith. This form of acquisition also includes contacting potential customers who are otherwise fleetingly known. For example, this can be joint memberships and networks such as Xing or LinkedIn. You can just as easily draw conclusions about online purchasing behavior.

Various acquisition paths lead to the goal

You know this from your own experience: someone tells you about a really great new thing and you get the urge to try it too. This works for products such as the current hype surrounding e-scooters and also for services, such as a new restaurant or a new hairdresser. From the point of view of those who offer these products and services, a distinction can be made between two different acquisition methods, whereby both cold and warm acquisition can be used:

Direct customer contact

This is the personal face-to-face approach, for example at trade fairs, in pedestrian zones, airports or supermarkets. Usually there are small gifts: Goodie bags are distributed, information material such as flyers, product tasting and inexpensive trial subscriptions are common measures to put potential customers in a good mood.

Indirect customer approach

There is a bit more diversification here: Instead of a direct approach, the indirect customer approach includes all external activities that can attract the attention of your target group. On the one hand, this includes the design of your website and the operation of various social media channels . On the other hand, there are targeted measures such as placing advertising and advertisements.

Advantages and disadvantages of different acquisition forms

There are many different ways and opportunities to make acquisitions. In the end, the question is: Which one really works and brings the most success when acquiring new customers? Each variant comes with different pros and cons, so you’ll need to weigh up what’s the best choice for your situation. We compare the most common acquisition channels and show the respective pros and cons arguments for and against to help you with the selection:

Acquisition in the newspaper

For a long time, advertisements in daily or weekly newspapers were a very popular and widespread acquisition method, and today there are still numerous advertising banners and advertisements from companies in newspapers and magazines. The benefits are obvious: it’s an easy way to reach a large audience quickly. If you sell tens of thousands of copies, you can potentially generate a multiple of the attention from other channels with one ad.

However, there are several problems with acquisition in the newspaper. So many simply overlook and ignore the ads and for modern companies it can seem very old-fashioned. In addition, there are comparatively high costs if you want to do a well-placed and thus conspicuous customer acquisition in a large and well-known newspaper. Finally, there is no way to measure the success of acquisitions in a newspaper. So you don’t know if the investment is actually worth it. Such an acquisition can be useful for regional companies, for example, in order to generate attention. Companies should also know their own target group and assess whether they are even part of the readership.

Acquisition on the phone

Telephone acquisition is an absolute classic. Potential customers are called to convince them of your offer. A big advantage is the very personal approach. You can respond directly to questions, problems and needs, explain very clearly what you offer.

Unfortunately, there are also some disadvantages here: Perhaps the biggest problem is the rare acquisition success. Only a few can be convinced directly on the phone, you are often turned off and are accordingly frustrated. Therefore, the time investment is enormous. You can also only contact business customers when making an acquisition on the phone, since cold calling is prohibited for private individuals. In most cases, other acquisition channels are available, but many companies continue to rely on phone calls. However, these should only be used as a supplement and should not be the main focus of acquisition.

Acquisition on own homepage

Nowadays, no company can do without a professional website. This lends itself to acquisition. The first place to seek answers to problems or when looking for products is always the Internet. Anyone who is correctly positioned and can be found here is making extremely successful acquisitions. The biggest advantage is that you can directly offer the solution to a current problem. For example, a potential customer searches Google for “roofers in Nairobi” – anyone who appears here gets a lot of attention and can look forward to many orders. If your own homepage runs well, the acquisition works almost automatically.

A disadvantage is that a successful and SEO-optimized website is not a sure-fire success. You need to provide good and relevant content, target the right keywords and also invest money. However, all of this is worthwhile to drive acquisition.

Acquisition via social media

In addition to the homepage, social media are becoming increasingly important when it comes to acquisition. Many people spend hours on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and the rest. Companies should not miss the opportunity to get some of the attention. A plus point is the direct exchange with potential customers. Feedback and communication is very easy via social media and can improve acquisition. The low costs are also advantageous in order to potentially address a very large audience.

Nevertheless, acquisition via social media is difficult because obvious advertising in the networks is rejected. The strategy should be better focused on building brand awareness, providing information and insights to drive interest.

Acquisition tips: step by step to your next order

Despite all the preparation, the following applies, of course: As an entrepreneur, you must stand behind your products and services 100 percent. Only if you can talk about your offer with passion and enthusiasm do you have the chance to convince potential customers. With the right preparation and strategy, the next job comes along:

identify addresses

First of all, of course, you have to know who is interesting for you as a customer. Technically, this is called lead generation. Without the right contact details , you cannot make any acquisitions. Targeted marketing measures can help you get the right leads. That also includes:

➠ Online advertising
➠ Content marketing
➠ Own research
➠ Own trade fair presence

Prepare Pitch

Many freelancers who are new to selling and acquiring their products get discouraged too quickly. This is often because they approach acquisition with false expectations. Unfortunately, one or two phone calls are rarely enough to get a new order. As a rule, a little more work is necessary: ​​entrepreneurs usually need at least seven contacts before the order is confirmed. Therefore, a solidly prepared pitch is the be-all and end-all of successful acquisition.

If you inform your counterpart extensively about the product and can bring good arguments why your offer is the right one for this customer, your chances of success increase.

make contact

Personal contact follows next. Hardly anything can top a face-to-face conversation, as facial expressions and gestures help to emphasize what is being said. Due to time constraints, it often stays with phone calls and e-mails. Despite the best preparation, making contact does not always go smoothly. The trick is then to remain calm and, above all, not to be discouraged. You can even use a customer rejection to your advantage: simply ask your contact person why he decided against your offer. With a bit of luck, you will get valuable insights that will help you with your next acquisition round.

Follow up and listen

The best product and the greatest service cannot be sold if the potential customer needs something completely different. An important prerequisite for successful acquisition is therefore the ability to listen.

Don’t just start talking about it, but also let the customer have their say. The more you learn about him and his needs, the greater the likelihood that your product or service will sell. It’s also a sign of appreciation when you listen to and respond to your customer – and this also has a positive effect on the sales process.

To graduate

If everything goes well, complete the job, successfully acquired. Some customers take a little longer to decide. It is therefore important that you do not give up too early and stop your acquisition measures. But you shouldn’t be too pushy. Every now and then a message, Christmas cards or New Year’s wishes ensure that you are remembered.

The monthly newsletter also fulfills this function, with which you can also offer real added value, for example by drawing attention to innovations or giving tips. When your potential customer finally needs your product, they already know who to contact.

Don’t be afraid of failure in the acquisition stage

Synonyms for acquisition such as “customer acquisition” already suggest it: It’s about “winning” someone for yourself (and your own products or services). It’s a bit like an application – you try to convince the other person of your achievements. Just as there can be a job rejection in the case of an application, salespeople and the self-employed have to take failures into account when it comes to acquisition. A no is rarely nice – regardless of whether it is about a potential partner, a job or a possible new customer. Three things are important here:

Never take the rejection personally

It is not you as a person who is being rejected. The product or service you want to sell can also be excellent. Perhaps the customer was already taken care of or does not need anything of the sort, or the competition was faster or cheaper. Not bad. The cancellation does not even mean that there is no interest in the future.

Learn to deal with frustration

Realize that rejections are normal, even prevalent, in the job. The more routine you gain, the less you’ll mind getting rejected. As the saying goes: “The customer hasn’t already bought.” So you can only win. And against the occasional stress, for example, sport or meditation helps.

Be realistic.

No salesperson can achieve 100 percent success all the time. You’re not always in top form either. Or the interlocutor got up on the wrong foot. Happens. So don’t expect too much. It’s important to aim high, yes. But they also have to remain realistic in order to motivate people in the long term.

5 tips for phone acquisition

Telephone acquisition in particular causes stomach ache for many self-employed and freelancers. But you shouldn’t, because it’s an excellent way to get the next order without much effort. The tips serve as a checklist and can be ticked off directly in the browser. And this is how the telephone acquisition can succeed:

  • Defining the target group

Calling up and down the telephone book at random does not lead to the goal of telephone acquisition. Rather, you have to define your target group in advance and give it some thought. If you don’t know how to get new contacts, you can also contact so-called address dealers who can sell you addresses from your target group.

  • Setting goals

Another aspect of acquisition is that you set yourself a quantifiable goal. Therefore, set yourself very specific guidelines. For example, they can look like this: “By the end of the week I would like to have spoken to 30 potential new customers and have the addresses of 50 new contacts.”

  • Identify contact persons

Simply calling the head office and asking for an employee from the purchasing department or even the managing director unfortunately doesn’t get you very far either. For a successful telephone acquisition, you should know in advance who you want to speak to. Therefore, try to find the right decision-maker. For example, you can use professional networks or call the company and ask about the right employee. At the same time, try to get his direct number. Then hang up and call again. Equipped with a name and telephone number, the sales pitch runs better on the phone.

  • Introduce concisely

The person you are talking to on the phone will probably not have much time to talk to you. Therefore, you should definitely not waste valuable sentences. Think about a short and concise introduction of you and your company in advance. You can even practice these in advance so that you have them ready in the specific situation. Perhaps a guide will also help you with the most important data, facts and questions that you would like to answer or ask during the interview. Immensely important: Do not stick slavishly to the guidelines or to your prepared presentation. The conversation should sound lively and not rehearsed. Both things are there to support you and to take away the nervousness before the telephone acquisition. But not to be said one to one in every conversation.

  • Just start

You can take this tip with two meanings. On the one hand, it means that you should not start with the “toughest nut”, but choose a contact who is (probably) well disposed towards you and with whom you can easily reach your previously set goal. On the other hand, the tip also means that you shouldn’t spend too much time preparing for the call. If you research too far in advance and come up with a tiny guide, you will hardly have time for the actual acquisition. As with most other things, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.