How to make acquisition warm and personal

Without orders, no turnover. As an entrepreneur, you are all too aware of this. Where and how do you find new customers? And once they are customers, how do you retain them? 2 experts explain how to use acquisition to reach customers in person, and how to build a relationship with them afterwards.

Cold-calling has been largely replaced by visiting networking events and social media. “When you call a company, you will probably be forwarded to the secretary. And she has likely been trained to keep you out. Phone calls are outdated”, says Daniëlle de Jong. And large-scale, impersonal emails do not work either, Jan Boon adds: “Businesses dislike cold acquisition and might even be annoyed by it. That makes it a poor way to reach your target audience.” 

Networking events 

Jan Boon, acquisition coach and speaker, helps entrepreneurs with acquisition. “Entrepreneurs who are good at their craft sometimes struggle with finding customers and the sales process.” For Boon, networking events are the best way to meet other people. “If I see someone by themselves, I enjoy approaching them. You shake hands, ask the other what they do, and before you know it you are talking. They will usually ask you the same, making it easier to tailor your story to the other person. 

If you see people standing in groups or pairs, look closely at their body language. People who are facing each other squarely are usually not open to someone joining them. If you see people with a more open stance, you can certainly try to connect.” 

More interested, less ‘interesting’ 

As a speaker, trainer and author, Daniëlle de Jonge helps entrepreneurs to make their businesses more attractive. “I chose this field because I noticed that lots of people struggle with acquisition and commerce, or find it scary. I want to show business owners how they can be both commercially oriented and service-oriented at the same time. Sales pitches have given way to genuine attention and interest.” 

According to De Jonge, quite a few people find it difficult to make small talk when they do not know anyone. “Try to find network meetings with speakers you like or with businesses you find interesting. This will give you a topic that the other attendees are also interested in. If you like people, you will like networking.” 

She continues: “During a networking event, avoid pitching your company. Sales and networking do not really mix well. Instead, try to build a relationship. Explore whether you have any links with the other person and what you could do for them. Keep your introduction short, talk about the event itself and show interest in the other person. There is a chance that you may not go into business together right away, but at least you will be in the picture. Even if there are no business opportunities for you together, the other may connect you to someone in their network. 


And De Jonge has more tips: “Ask for a list of participants before the event so that you can approach people you are interested in via LinkedIn prior to the event.” 

The new networking 

Social media is the new networking, De Jonge claims. “Networking has mostly moved to LinkedIn. You could go to a 3-hour networking lunch, but you could also spend the same amount of time on LinkedIn and approach considerably more people. Looking to connect with someone? Avoid using templates. They are too ‘sales-like’ and impersonal. Instead, personalise your LinkedIn invitation. You can always find a reason for connecting with someone. For a more compelling invitation, try to think of a reason why the other would want to connect to you!” 

2 examples 

  1. ‘I do a lot of work for legal firms. I saw that you are with Firm X. We do not know each other yet, shall we link?’ 
  1. ‘I saw that you will be attending event X soon. I would love to meet you there. Shall we link?’ 

Content, content, content 

According to De Jonge, using online content is important for all business owners because it will let you reach your target audience through different channels. “Online content contributes to brand awareness and customer loyalty. Ideally, you should create your own content in your own tone of voice and style. Creating content takes time. However, there are more types of content than long articles. Short snippets, photos, and videos are just as effective. Consider posting on LinkedIn every Tuesday, for example. You could share something about yourself or a hot topic in your industry. Consistency and brand recognition are key.” 

Be the expert 

Boon likes LinkedIn as a medium to increase engagement. Because unlike, say, Facebook, people use LinkedIn for business purposes. To expand their network or gain knowledge about a specific topic. “Write posts and respond to others' posts. About what? Your experiences or customer stories. Do not just try to send, but ask questions, tell people about events, and take part in discussions. Make sure you are seen as an expert in your field. Reviews are another good way to make this happen.” 

“You can also share content by writing a whitepaper or e-book. After a person downloads your content, send them follow-up emails with interesting content like webinars, in the hope of ultimately scheduling an appointment. Be patient. No one wants to get 5 unsolicited emails a week. Patiently build frequency and exceed expectations, for instance by sending a discount code after a while”, Boon recommends. 

Advertising through social media 

If you have the budget, Boon thinks social media advertising is a good option. “Target your audience as specifically as possible, so make sure you know what demographic you want to hit. The first step is figuring out your ideal customer. What problem are you solving, how do you approach it, and what result does your solution produce? Creating personas - detailed descriptions of the various users of your product or service - is a good place to start.” 

From customer to ambassador 

How do you build a relationship? De Jonge: “Customers are people, not walking, talking wallets. Show interest and try to understand the customer's needs instead of treating your customer as an invoice. Instead of fixating on sales, focus on the person and your relationship. Try to get to know the other first and look for leads afterwards. The most important question to ask is: ‘how can I help you?’ In some cases, you might not be able to help, but know someone who can. Having this discussion is a good way to deepen the relationship with your customer.” 

Retina management 

According to De Jonge, research shows that you need an average of 7 contact moments before people decide to do business with you. “So, multiple touchpoints, both online and offline, are essential. De Jonge calls it retina management, but you could also call it staying in the picture. Try to find a way that suits you. A good place to start is reaching out to people you would like to work with once a quarter.” 

Know, like, trust 

For Boon, it all begins with getting people to know you. “The next step is getting them to like you, followed by creating trust. Try sending a postcard once in a while. Pick an interesting card and write a personal message with your company details on the back. People do not get a lot of physical mail nowadays, so you will definitely stand out. Reach out to them after a few days and ask for an appointment. A graphic designer shared another good example with us. He sends prospects a tea box of his own design with 3 different tea bags. Along with the tea box, he sends a message telling the recipient he would love to meet sometime and promising to bring the matching tea glasses.” 


“Deliver quality products or services and listen to your customer”, Boon continues. “Stay in touch. You never know whether you might be able to help each other out in the future. Ask your customer what they like best. Would they prefer a phone call or meeting in person?” 


In De Jonge’s eyes, sending a personal gift is a touchpoint. “Try to send a practical gift. If your customer is concerned about the environment, consider giving them a sustainable coffee mug. Choose an unexpected time. During the holidays, people are usually drowning in gifts. Good options include the first day of autumn, the longest day of the year, or your 10-month business anniversary. Picking a unique time will help you stand out.”