What is Customer Acquisition?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Customer acquisition is a broad term used to identify the processes and procedures used to locate, qualify, and ultimately secure the business of new customers. There are many different strategies used as part of the acquisition process, with some methods being more effective with specific types of potential clients. In spite of the many and sometimes contradictory ideas that surround the central idea of how to earn a customer, there are a few essentials that are included in just about any type of acquisition plan.

Establishing rapport is an essential part of the acquisition processes.
Establishing rapport is an essential part of the acquisition processes.

One of the basics of any acquisition effort is to identify quality potential customers. This is sometimes accomplished with the use of telemarketing as a means of locating individuals and businesses who either express interest in or already use products similar to those produced by the business. From this initial list, these leads are then qualified a little further, using various research methods to determine if there is any solid chance of making a sale with a given lead. If there is a good chance, and the contact is interested in learning more about the products offered, his or her status is usually upgraded to that of prospect, and assigned to a salesperson for further interaction.

One type of customer acquisition is telemarketing.
One type of customer acquisition is telemarketing.

Establishing rapport with the prospect is essential to any successful customer acquisition effort. Here, the salesperson finds ways to identify with the stated wants and needs of the prospect, and how the products offered can relate to those wants and needs. At the same time, the salesperson will go further and attempt to identify unstated needs, based on data provided in ongoing conversations with the prospect. This type of activity can lead to identifying additional wants that can be met by other products that the salesperson has to offer, or inspire additional ideas of how the prospect can obtain a greater value from purchasing the products he or she already is considering.

Attending to problems reported by customers in a survey may help businesses increase customer acquisition rates.
Attending to problems reported by customers in a survey may help businesses increase customer acquisition rates.

Key to the customer acquisition process is understanding the role of customer perception throughout the process. A successful salesperson knows how to really listen to the prospect and get a firm idea of how that prospect feels about the potential of the products offered for sale. Seeing the relationship from the prospect’s point of view makes it possible to proactively deal with possible objections raised by the prospect before they are voiced. In addition, the added perspective can help the salesperson connect with the client in a manner that is rarely possible otherwise. The end result is that understanding customer perceptions makes it easier to forge a relationship that not only results in a sale, but also in strong customer loyalty, provided the products live up to the claims presented during the sales cycle.

Finding ways to identify with the stated wants and needs of a customer is important to customer acquisition effort.
Finding ways to identify with the stated wants and needs of a customer is important to customer acquisition effort.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Sneakers41 - I agree that doing some sort of direct mail or social media marketing is important but I also think that doing a press release at the local Sunday edition of the Neighborhood section of the paper can also get the word out about the business.

I think that once a customer does come in the door, a business has to have a way to track that customer in order to follow up with them so they can develop a relationship.

Some businesses do this by asking customers for their email or contact information and then offering a rewards program while other companies will do this by offering some sort of random drawing.

Restaurants do this a lot. I have seen some restaurants have a big fish bowl and ask customers to drop in their business card in order for a customer to win a lunch for two or a catered lunch for an entire office.

The customer has nothing to lose and the business gets a ton of leads to market to in the future. I have never won anything this way, but I always throw my card in there just to see if I win.


@Icecream17 - I think that it makes a lot of sense for a school to do that. I also think that sometimes a business has to offer a promotion of either a heavily discounted product or service so that a new customer will consider this business.

I know that I come across a lot of new businesses through direct mail and I visit new businesses that offer enough of a discount for me to try their product or services.

It really lowers the risk of the unknown which is something new businesses have to overcome. I also think that posting testimonials on the website can also increase the chance that a customer will do business with a company.

I think new businesses can also seek published information of residents in their immediate area and send them information on promotions and special offers in order to try to get their business, but they also have to have some sort of social media marketing because the internet is the main source that people use when seeking out information.


@Suntan12 - I have to say that I used to hate doing cold calls, but its part of sales. I know that customer acquisition programs can also include open houses.

Many realtors and well as private schools use this method to obtain new customers. For realtors, the open house not only gives prospective buyers an opportunity to view the home, but it also give other potential realtors a chance to see if the home is something that their clients would like. Private schools also offer this opportunity to prospective students and families in order to grow their pool of potential candidates and eliminate the possibility of empty seats in the fall.

I know one private school that does this and also has a waiting list in order to ensure that the classrooms are filled to capacity.

Many exclusive private schools will give the siblings of currently enrolled student’s priority in order to promote the level of customer retention at the school. This priority status for legacy candidates really enhances the customer experience for the family and builds loyalty for the school over time.


I just wanted to say that when I used to work as an account executive for a technical staffing firm we would always try to develop sales leads from customers that worked within the other divisions of the company.

Since this staffing firm also offered accounting, clerical, and legal staffing we could always use this information when we placed our prospecting call. It was considered a warm call because our company had already done business with this company, but not in this division.

We also used lead generation lists that our division director purchased and tried to do some cold calls in order to get more potential prospects.

These were our best customer acquisition strategies that we were able to put together.

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