Wednesday, November 09, 2005
7 Customer Acquisition schemes your competitor is hiding from you.
Customer Acquisition is beyond doubt the number one priority for all serious business owners. Whether you're a merchant or an associate/affiliate of a merchant, your goal is to grow sales. That is why the best in your industry are closely guarding their customer acquisition techniques. Regardless of what they're telling you, they will not give up their competitive advantage and will hide their techniques and true motives behind "smoke and mirror" tactics.
Things aren't always what they seem.
Two men are walking in a forest when they come across a deep hole in the ground. "Wow, that must be really deep", says one man after throwing in a pebble and listening for the sound. "Lets throw in one of those large rocks and see how deep it goes." The men throw in a football-sized boulder and wait anxiously for the sound... Nothing! "There is a railway sleeper over there in the bushes", said the other man. "Help me throw it in, it's definitely going to make a sound". The two men heave the railway sleeper into the hole and watch it disappear in the darkness...again, Nothing! Suddenly a goat appears from the forest. It runs full speed between the men, leaps into the air and falls into the hole". Just as the men exchange looks of utter bewilderment, a farmer comes running out from the trees yelling "Hey, have you guys seen a goat around here?" "Sure did", replied the men. "It was the craziest thing. It ran right past us and leaped into that hole". "Nah, can't have been my goat", said the farmer. "My goat was tied to a railway sleeper".
The moral of the story is, "Don't believe what you perceive". Many successful businesses will guard their customer acquisition secrets by trying to convince you they've got to where they are by good honest hard work. Others will distract you by trying to sell you their unique system, packaged and guaranteed to generate you overnight success.
So what are your competitors really doing? Listen closely, I am about to reveal to you, the top 7 schemes they're using to boost their sales and baffle their industry peers like yourself, making you wonder what the heck you're doing wrong.
#1) Perception Management. Online businesses in particular are excellent perception managers. You've seen them before, professional looking web site with images of sexy sales people ready to take your order. Often however, they're one-man operations run from the spare bedroom. No insurance, enforced customer privacy, or quality merchant processes. But on the surface, it's intimidating to competitors and assuring to new customers.
#2) Strategic alliances. Most businesses do not make it on their own. Joint Ventures, and behind the scene business deals are often the true reason for rapid customer acquisition. Alliances are generally only revealed if customer acquisition can be further enhanced through brand alliance.
#3) Puppet Masters. Many businesses are in fact just small branches owned and controlled by a larger third party. They can afford to run without profit while lucratively appearing cost-effective. The business often exists not for profit, but as a strategic tactic to ensure the parent company has a finger in that market segment pie.
#4) Leveraging. Most of today's technology would not be here without yesterday's inventions. Imagine your home if plastic was not invented. Business is the same. Competitors will invest their time and money on safe, fast and cost-effective outcomes. Innovating new ways from scratch is risky. Leveraging existing customer acquisition services is favorable. For example, by creating incentives for your customers to recommend you to their network of contacts, is a viral marketing technique that leverages the customers you already have.
#5) Super-leveraging. You cannot use leveraging alone, as your competitor will have the same advantages you have. So unless you have the funds to buy out the customer acquisition service before your competitor discovers it, you need be creative and innovate smart methods before them. These are your intellectual property and competitive advantage, so guard them well. For example a merchant with an affiliate program would super-leverage it using a "customer acquisition exchange" service. This delivers a new sales channel (customer reciprocation) that can be competitively used in many creative ways to boost business.
#6) Intelligence and surveillance. Not only do successful business super-leverage known services for customer acquisition, they also super-leverage as a strategic intelligence move. For instance, online merchants will use Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising services like Google and Overture not to bring customers directly but to learn about their competitors and how much they pay for customer acquisition. Remember, they're in the game to win and the more they know about their opponent the easier it is to manipulate them.
#7) Precision systems. A market leader will use targeted and measurable strategies. Every element is monitored and adjustable. Through trial and error, your competitor will tweak the customer experience for profit and growth. It is a systematic approach to customer acquisition that successful organizations like McDonalds use to thwart their competition.
So there you have it, just a few of the secret happenings that go on behind the scenes at your competitors business. Look out for more information about how to decipher your competitor's business model to take the lead.