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The Art of Acquiring Friends...And Customers Too

The Art of Acquiring Friends...And Customers Too

August 14, 2014

Acquiring Friends

“Acquiring friends does not mean waiting at home for your cell phone to vibrate. Acquisitions of this kind require serious motivation, very specific strategies, and the courage to risk,” says psychotherapist and author R. Yaakov Salomon.

I wholeheartedly agree.  

To have good friends means being a good friend, and that means making a concerted effort.  

As my family and I have spent our summer in Israel, I noticed that my son was spending a lot of time on his own. Back home he enjoys activities with friends, but because he doesn’t speak Hebrew all that well, he hadn’t found many friends in the neighborhood here. So I decided we should strategize to help him meet some of the local children. First, we got a soccer ball and started kicking it around in the neighborhood. Then we invited some of the local kids to come and play soccer with us, and after we tired ourselves out, we gave out candy.  

So how did our strategy work out?  Great! Since soccer is popular in Israel and candy is popular everywhere, it was a marvelous way to break through the communication barrier and our plan helped him to forge some new friendships.  If you want a friend, then be a good friend. That requires an investment.

Acquiring Customers

The same general philosophy translates into the business arena. For example, if you give out fudge in front of your store, it’s likely that if you give out ten pieces, perhaps four people will come in and two of those may buy something.  Grocery stores have been giving out free samples for ages and wineries are famous for their wine tastings. And don’t forget all the giveaway items at trade shows and conventions.  Giving something opens the door to a conversation that can start a relationship.

On occasion, free giveaways may even help acquire more customers than the actual product.  A great story comes from Avon, the world’s largest cosmetics company.  It was founded by a door-to-door book salesman who was giving away free samples of perfume to acquire female customers.  As it turned out, their interest was more in the cosmetics than in his books, so he gave up book sales and established the California Perfume Company, the forerunner of Avon.

Know Your Audience  

One very common mistake is offering the wrong bait for your clientele.  Giving, in any situation, means providing something that will resonate with your audience. Will country music lovers appreciate a hip-hop DVD?  Will a Sci-Fi fan appreciate football tickets on the fifty-yard-line?    

A great example of knowing your audience comes from a landscaping client of ours. He had a very hard time figuring out how to incentivize his sales team to cross-sell services like pruning, planting, lawn care, and building patios and driveways. He tried everything from punishment, to gifts to bonuses, but nothing hit home until he invited them all to a barbecue. It wasn’t about the money, in this case, but about bringing everyone together to share a good time. What a shocker. If you would have asked me to predict it’s success, I would have failed. But now we know when the stomach talks louder than the brain.

You Can’t Use Minnow Bait to Catch a Whale

But what happens when you want to acquire a “big fish” — a high-level, influential client? Chances are you’re not going to attract a $100,000 client with free candy or a mouse pad.

You’ll need to raise the stakes to pique their interest.

A medical client of ours attends trade shows in search of a specific type of buyer. To reel in high-end prospects, they distribute expensive Waterman pens. But they don’t just give these pens away; rather, they laser-engrave the prospect’s name on the pen caps. If the prospect schedules a meeting, they receive the other half of the pen. It’s a giveaway that takes more careful planning, but for reeling in the big fish, it’s a more appropriate approach.   

The Golden Quadrant

How do you know what to give? There are four possibilities. I call these the Golden Quadrant.  Your gift selection will fall into one of these four categories:

1.  High cost, high perceived value.  This is where you spend a lot to wow a potential client. But unless you’re Oprah Winfrey — giving away a car to everyone in your audience — this is a little too pricey (and risky) for most businesses.

2.  High cost, low perceived value.  This means you’re trying to impress, but missing the mark.  A leather CD case, for example, might fall into this category. The item might cost $30 or more, but it just doesn’t make that big of an impression. Similarly, a $90 bottle of wine might be misperceived if your prospect isn’t an aficionado; non-wine enthusiasts don’t attach much value to fine wine.   

3.  Low cost, low perceived value. Fine for mass giveaways to get your name out there. But to really forge a relationship, a T-shirt or Bic pen just don’t go very far.  

4.  Low cost, high perceived value.  This is a winning combination — what I call the Golden Quadrant. It means you aren’t spending a lot of money, but you are providing something of value to your target customer.  Of course, the “low” in “low cost” varies depending on the potential return.  It might mean spending $1 to get $500 worth of business, or $50 to get $25,000 worth of business. Both are legitimately “low cost” marketing options.   

Acquiring Customers 101

In business, I follow the words of my mentor Al Fleishman, co-founder of Fleishman-Hillard, the world’s largest public relations firm. He taught me that people do business with people they know, like, and trust. It all begins by establishing a relationship and that’s where giving comes in. So acquiring a friend is where it starts, keeping a friend is where it stops.

If you are looking for a good friend, you will search your whole life. But if you look for opportunities to be a good friend you will be happy all the days of your life.

  • Therefore, you want to:
  • Have a plan to acquire and make new friends.    
  • Use the right bait for the right audience        
  • Don’t use minnow bait to catch a whale. Raise the level of bait to catch the big fish
  • Seek out low cost, highly perceived gifts.
  • Acquiring new friends is the beginning of a process, not the end (that’s just not real.)

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,