Strategies for customer acquisition

How should you approach customers and sell your product or service? One way is bringing in new customers. Another way is increasing revenue from existing customers. Read our tips for an effective customer acquisition strategy, and discover online acquisition techniques that would suit your business.

What is customer acquisition? The term acquisition comes from the verb ‘acquire’, and means to bring in, or gain. So, customer acquisition is bringing in customers for your business. If you work on acquisition, you try to reach potential customers, set up an appointment, or secure an assignment. There are different ways to do this. The 2 most common ways are cold acquisition and warm acquisition.

Cold acquisition

Cold acquisition refers to the situation in which you do not know your potential client yet, and you approach them unsolicited. It is a combination of acquisition and marketing. You offer your product or service through different channels. You can use promotion teams handing out newspapers in a shopping centre, or give a presentation at the office of a potential customer, for instance.

In general, cold acquisition can be very difficult, because your first hurdle is always convincing your potential customer to, at least, engage with you. As a result, the cold acquisition success rates are often lower than in warm acquisition. On the upside, when successful, it can generate something very valuable: new contacts or customers.

Tips for cold acquisition:

  • Are you first primarily looking to extend your network? In that case, consider networking during network events, business conferences, and seminars. You can also start at more informal moments, such as during your travels or at a birthday party. Introduce yourself by telling your personal story. Ask for the contact details of the person you are talking to, so you can approach them later if they are open to what you have to offer.
  • Make sure you are well-prepared. If you have multiple contacts you want to approach, list them in order. At the top of the list, you place the person or company you believe is most likely to want what you are offering. Do your research, find out who you need to speak to, and what the company of your new contact does.
  • Try scheduling your meeting with the right person at a time that is convenient for them.
  • The pitch for your product or service must be clear and to the point. Know exactly what you do, who you are doing it for, and what your added value is. What distinguishes you from the rest. Tailor your sales pitch to your audience. Focus on the problem they are facing, and explain how your product or service can be the solution.
  • Close your pitch with a call to action. For example, a follow-up meeting or call, or sending a quotation.
  • Initiate the follow-up to your pitch, making it easy and convenient for your potential customer. Do not give up too easily. If you show understanding whenever you catch them at a time that is not convenient, this will leave a positive impression.
  • Keep in mind that you are no longer allowed to use cold calling to approach a sole proprietorship, general partnership (vof), or professional partnership.

Warm acquisition

Warm acquisition refers to when you approach an existing customer. For example, someone who expressed an interest earlier, or who purchased your product or service. Meaning, you are not total strangers.

In warm acquisition you offer something, such as a new product or service, to a warm contact. Extending a contract or rewarding loyal customers with a good deal, for instance.

Tips for warm acquisition:

  • Keep in touch with existing relations. Contact them regularly.
  • Make sure that you bring added value to those moments of contact. For instance with new information that might interest them or an attractive offer.
  • Share interesting news and useful websites, or introduce your contacts to people in you own professional network. Show them that you are there for them, even if you cannot make a sale.
  • Approach your customers with an extra product or service when you believe they would be interested. For example, for an event if they have a subscription to your YouTube-channel or magazine.
  • When approaching customers, timing is key. When the lifespan of the product they purchased from you is about to expire, for instance. Ask them for feedback. Are they satisfied with the product? Also ask if you can be of service.
  • You can approach your existing network for extra sales, but you can also ask them to post a review or recommendation on your website, aggregator websites, or search engines like Google. A study by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) showed that increasingly more customers read reviews when looking around before making a purchase. Did you just start and do you not have any customers yet? In that case, have your product or service tested (for free) and ask for feedback.
  • Encourage your customers to recommend you to others. Word-of-mouth advertising brings in new customers. Pepijn van Rooij of Performance College uses the ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS) to measure his customers’ loyalty. He gives surprise gift vouchers to enthusiastic clients for them to pass on. 95% of the gift vouchers used became a new client with Van Rooij. “The advantage here”, he believes, “is that you and the new client immediately discuss the core of what you have to offer. You no longer have to spend time on cold acquisition.”

Online acquisition

Online, you acquire assignments and customers through social media, your website, influencers, or online platforms, for example. If your online and offline branding is consistent, you demonstrate credibility and strength. While you are talking to a potential customer, they might be looking at your website or social media at the same time.

Here are 6 methods for online customer acquisition:

  1. Self-employed professionals ('zzp’ers' in Dutch) and clients meet on online platforms. Clients post their assignments and search for qualified and available self-employed professionals. And vice versa, as a self-employed professional you can also visit these platforms to look for projects or to promote yourself. Examples of online marketplaces for self-employed professionals in the Netherlands are:, Werkspot,,,, Lancelots,, Indeed, and Planet Interim.
  2. Social selling is warm acquisition through social media. You use your social network to tempt your target audience to make a purchase. You share some of your specific knowledge and start a conversation. This creates interest, value, and builds trust with your target audience. The first time you engage personally with someone, they will usually perceive this as a warm contact.
  3. What is the difference between social selling and social media marketing? In social media marketing, you use messages or advertising to target the right person at the right time. In social selling, you build a relationship with your potential customers to help them in their purchasing process.
  4. Through social media, you have many opportunities to connect with your target audience. Make sure that your social media channels are up-to-date, because the various platforms are constantly and rapidly evolving.
  5. Lead generation is a process in which you gradually pull potential customers into your sales funnel. In this process, it is important that you measure the right online variables, and know how to interpret these. For example, your potential client is looking at your post on social media, and clicks on the link to your website. They arrive at a page dedicated to inviting them to leave their contact details, or download some information. In the next step, you approach them with interesting information or an offer.
  6. Online marketing has endless possibilities. You can, for example, reach new customers through influencers or search engine marketing:  SEA and SEO. If you want to be methodical in your online search for new customers, set up a marketing plan.

Acquisition in accordance with the rules

When collecting, using, or processing data, make sure you comply with the privacy laws and the Telecommunications Act. This applies to both offline and online customer acquisition. Make a distinction between business data and personal data.

For English subtitels to the video below, click the settings wheel, click ondertiteling and select English.

Video: Start looking for customers (step 10)