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Building B2B Customer Acquisition Strategy

What if I told you that what you know about building B2B customer acquisition strategies might be wrong? Let me share my story with you.

I was born in 1991 as a very average boy. As I grew up, I became extremely curious. I wondered about everything.

How are roads built? Why is the sky blue? Why don’t we see the turtles that our planet is supposedly standing on, and why on earth doesn’t Santa Claus pay me a visit, even if I sit under a Christmas tree and patiently wait until morning for him to arrive? How do the gifts get there?

Additionally, I made tons of new friends. It was so easy back then. My parents would invite a random couple from work who had a son, and we would become friends within minutes. The same happened in kindergarten and then in school.

As I got older, it became harder to make friends. I would stick to one or two people and wouldn’t open up to new connections so easily anymore. Maintaining relationships with my existing friends began to consume too much energy.

Moreover, time gradually became a constraint. Studies, sports, hobbies, and oh boy… that girl next door.

Infancy to Prime

Doesn’t that story remind you of how businesses are born? One of my favorite books on organizational cycles, “Managing Corporate Lifecycles” by Ichak Adizes, features a great chart illustrating how companies develop and reach their prime. Then slowly—I would say dissolve, though Ichak uses the term “death.”

Chart sourced from Adizes.com

While companies are in their infancy, they actively participate in corporate social lives. They attend trade shows, meetups, and business trips with multiple meetings per day, celebrating every new customer they acquire.

As companies mature, they gradually build their customer bases, and fitting each subsequent new customer into their portfolio becomes increasingly difficult.

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    The Art of Customer Acquisition

    The Art of Customer Acquisition

    There are many reasons for this. Some are compliance-driven, others are cost-driven. The more mature the company, the less it wants to spend resources on uncertain activities like customer acquisition.

    Customer acquisition is indeed an uncertain endeavor. You never know how much ROI you are getting from your budget. It all depends on… everything and nothing. You see, customer acquisition is not a linear, efficient process. I’m a firm believer that it is more an art form than a science.

    You could quantify the customer acquisition process, produce SOPs, design KPIs, write OKRs, and use any other sort of modern abbreviation, yet there is always going to be that one person who’s making three to four times higher sales, who acquires more clients than the whole department combined. But why?

    Why listen to me? 

    My career started in a family business. When I was around 16, I began helping my father by emailing his clients.

    He didn’t speak English very well at the time, so I acted as a translator with a personal interest. He would pay me a small commission every time I successfully arranged a visit with one of the prospects.

    Later, I moved to a more independent role as a new business development representative. I researched the internet, looking for multi-brand boutiques selling clothing, reaching out to them, visiting them or inviting them to our showroom.

    In just over a year from starting my position, I was involved in every activity even remotely related to new customer acquisition: trade shows, new collection photoshoots for ads, customer calls, and more.

    At some point, I left the family business in search of a better life. I shifted to the construction industry, where I managed to help my employer enter the Irish and British window and door market. Armed with a phone and audacity—and surprisingly, even to myself—I succeeded.

    Now, more than a decade later, I run a small consulting company and write this blog. And I’m writing it—to prove to you that I’m worth talking to, or at least listening to first.

    And if there is something I’ve learned over this time, it’s that customer acquisition strategy is not one-size-fits-all. It’s a series of measures, actions, and approaches that must be carefully crafted to fit your business.

    This article is my take on sharing a fraction of my knowledge with you in return for your attention, and hopefully, a meaningful conversation.

    Is your business ready? 

    Even before you start thinking about your customer acquisition strategy, begin by asking yourself a simple question: “Is my business ready for an influx of prospects?”

    Is your business ready? 

    Take a moment and read that again. Notice that I’ve used the term “prospects” instead of “customers,” and there’s a reason for that.

    If you run a company, you likely know how to handle your existing customers. But what about prospects? Do you know how to engage with them?

    Prospects are a much more demanding type of customer. They will require you to do free work, spend money and time, and most importantly—they are craving your attention.

    So, before you dive into formulating your customer acquisition strategy, you should mentally prepare for the fact that you are embarking on something new.

    You are developing a new strategy for your business where you need to be agile, open to changes, quick, capable, resourceful, and all this while maintaining your existing business operations.

    What’s your offering? 

    Secondly, do you have a clear value proposition for new customers? For prospects?

    Why should they start buying from you? Do you have attractive and appealing packaging for your offering?

    If you meet a prospect in an elevator, can you explain in 40 seconds or so what you are trying to sell them?

    Don’t overlook this exercise. Simply take a pen and notebook. Invest ten minutes of your time to write this down. This could save you more time than you think.

    At the very least, this will give you a starting point, because more likely than not, this will change once you launch your strategy and start receiving customer feedback.

    Business Development vs Sales

    The first component of your successful customer acquisition strategy is understanding the nature of your strategy.

    Is it a business development strategy, or is it a sales strategy? Bear with me.

    Business Development

    In a nutshell, business development occurs when a high-profile professional, like yourself, picks up the phone and starts engaging in meaningful conversations with a prospect with whom you want to do business.

    You don’t necessarily know what the outcome of that conversation will be, since you are engaged in business development. You are exploring new opportunities, which may or may not align with your existing business model.

    Your conversation could lead to a partnership, acquire a new customer, or provide valuable insights into what the market looks like now and where you may need to pivot your offering.

    Business development is about developing a new pattern of behavior for your business that can be replicated and then scaled. 

    Sales

    On the other hand, sales are something more tangible. You may have a small or large team of sales representatives. Generally, they share the same type of profile, with a few exceptions.

    But in sales, you repeat the same pattern every day.

    You know your sales channels, techniques, and approaches. You are repeating what has worked before. You may implement minor changes and shift approaches, but generally, you are not doing anything alien to your business.

    Sales could be oriented towards new customer acquisition or they could focus on upselling to your existing customer base.

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      The Right Approach

      Seems obvious, but too many companies forget to approach their potential customers the right way. You don’t expect a taxi driver to give you a phone call offering his services. Instead, you would call a company or use an app like Uber when you need it, not the other way around.

      Secondly, know who you are talking to. Get your customer profile right.

      I’m not talking about a “Middle-aged white male” type of description. I’m talking about your understanding of why your customers are buying from you and how you can find them. If you had a database of all the companies in the world, what filters would you use to find them?

      Customer Quadrant Model

      One of the best books on sales theory I’ve ever read is by Neil Rackham, titled “Rethinking the Sales Force”. It features a brilliant chart called the Customer Quadrant Model. 

      When deciding on a customer acquisition strategy, this chart simply cannot be ignored. 

      It essentially guides you on how to act, depending on how your customers perceive your business.

      Customer Quadrant Model

      Imagine buying staples for your company. How important are staples to your business? Not very, right? You wouldn’t close your doors if you ran out of them.

      Secondly, how hard is it to find a staple supplier? You would probably just Google it, or go to the nearest stationery store.

      Now ask yourself a question. Would you hire an agent to go around offices offering staples?

      This example illustrates the absurdity of the wrong approach, though it’s not always so evident.

      You sometimes don’t know if you are in the Strategic Partnership quadrant or in the Managing Risk quadrant. It takes time and commercial acumen to figure this out.

      Once you sort out this little challenge, you can move forward.

      Packaging your product

      I will never forget when I started my position in the construction industry and my boss and I began exploring the Irish and UK markets.

      We had a couple of meetings already arranged and we needed samples of the windows we were selling.

      Packaging your product

      Samples are very hard to produce because they require the same process as producing the whole window. Yet, they are small and easy to carry.

      The head of the factory simply replied, “Sell first, then we’ll provide you with samples.” Thankfully, he wasn’t my manager. We shared the same manager and I was provided with samples before we engaged in meetings.

      But that illustrated to me how many talented people, who know and love their product, are completely detached from understanding the sales and customer acquisition process.

      They’ve been on the other end of the table, they have purchased components themselves. They requested samples, they’ve gone through sales collateral. But sometimes they just forget that they are now on the different side of the table and it’s time for them to invest.

      Make sure your product is well-packaged. It should be an integral part of your strategy. Even if you are selling a highly corporate, niche product, remember—humans always prefer a good image to functionality. Always.

      Not Only Great Product Matters

      If your customer happens to see both you and a competitor on the same table, your customer will choose the one they like most, not necessarily the one that suits them best. Here are just some of the criteria:

      • Whose sales rep looks better
      • Whose product looks cooler
      • With whom they had a better experience

      Some might say that’s a corrupt approach. Well, it is what it is. We are human at the end of the day and never underestimate that fact:

      • Samples
      • Demos
      • Printouts
      • Presentations
      • Videos
      • Instructions (I’ve seen cases where instructions became a selling point and were never used after the purchase)
      • Reviews from other customers (if that’s possible)

      Types of Customer Acquisition Strategies

      Let’s briefly touch on the types of strategies for customer acquisition:

      • Inbound. This customer acquisition strategy focuses on making prospects reach out to you. It could involve various marketing channels like running ads, creating content, or participating in trade shows.
      • Outbound. In this strategy, you reach out to customers. This could include telemarketing campaigns, door-to-door sales (typically in the B2C segment), or sending cold emails.

      Both strategies can be one of two types (or both):

      • Digital. Present on the internet, like running ads on LinkedIn.
      • Offline. Present in the physical world, like making phone calls.

      Acquisition Channels

      Here are various customer acquisition channels that have proven to be the most effective in the B2B segment.

      Private Network

      The most efficient, yet least scalable way to source new paying customers is through a private contact network. Most businesses start off by leveraging the founders’ contacts and connections in the industry. You could also leverage your salespeople’s network and reward them for that.

      Outreach

      Good old cold calls and cold emails. While many specialists believe this method is dead, I think it deserves a second chance. If the value of your deals allows, try sending a gift along with an invitation to a meeting and see what happens. Use LinkedIn to source contacts.

      Content Marketing & Search Engine Optimization

      We’re a Salesforce consultancy and have found that blogging is the best source of leads for us. It keeps us independent from any partners and companies who might otherwise turn to competitors. What are competitors doing in your industry?

      Email marketing

      Build your email list and maintain it. I hear a lot of marketers say that email marketing lists will remain with us forever. For example, I run the CRM Crafter weekly email list to connect with our prospective customers and stay connected to our site visitors. Go ahead and subscribe; I’m sharing my insights every Tuesday.

      LinkedIn

      I absolutely adore this network for finding new customers. Just learn how to use Sales Navigator, and you will never be short on leads. It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some, it’s an absolute gold mine.

      Trade fairs

      While the trend is that trade fairs are slowly dying out, some are transforming and still work. If your industry has a major fair, go for it.

      Running ADS

      Running ads is a great way to boost your customer acquisition campaign. The only problem nowadays is costs. Large companies have monopolized ad space in many industries, but there’s always some room for a smart approach. Remember that optimizing marketing spend based on customer acquisition cost will lead to better ROI.

      Partner networks (reseller, affiliates, agents)

      Last but not least, among customer acquisition methods is leveraging your partner networks. Build partnerships, help your partners by cross-selling their products to your customers, and get new customers in return from them.

      Final word

      If there were one takeaway from this article, it would be this: There are only three ways new customers can learn about you—One-on-One meetings, seeing your ads, or consuming your content.

      I hope this article has helped you a bit with your strategic customer acquisition efforts. If you happen to need a helping hand, we’re Salesforce professionals and we help our customers implement customer relationship strategies using the most up-to-date tools and techniques. Remember—first consultation is always free.

      On that note, I’d like to wish you a great day.

      Cheers,
      J.

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        System Thinker, Technology Evangelist, and Humanist, Jeff, brings a unique blend of experience, insight, and humanity to every piece. With eight years in the trenches as a sales representative and later transitioning into a consultant role, Jeff has mastered the art of distilling complex concepts into digestible, compelling narratives. Journeying across the globe, he continues to curate an eclectic tapestry of knowledge, piecing together insights from diverse cultures, industries, and fields. His writings are a testament to his continuous pursuit of learning and understanding—bridging the gap between technology, systems thinking, and our shared human experience.

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