The Difference Between Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition

It's important to make the distinction between lead generation and customer acquisition. Learn the differences and ways to improve your prospecting strategy.
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Are you acquiring customers or just generating leads?

While these two ideas are closely related, it is important to distinguish between them. Not doing so can cost you a lot of time and money and lead to frustration for you and your potential clients.

Lead Generation

At its simplest, lead generation is the process by which you find and qualify potential customers and clients. It can start with inbound marketing, email blasts, cold calling, or any number of other techniques. The goal of an effective lead generation strategy is to get you a list of leads who have indicated that they’re interested in what you have to offer.

Think of a clothing boutique in the mall. Everyone in the mall is a lead because they have chosen to walk around a retail haven, a structure designed for shopping.

But not everyone is a qualified lead. Some people are just browsing. Others are taking advantage of the free air conditioning. Even those who are there to shop might not be interested in the specialized clothing the boutique offers. They might be looking for video games or books.

The people inside the boutique, however, are more qualified. They have chosen, even if just out of curiosity, to scope out the store and its selection. But if they leave the boutique without making a purchase, they are still just a lead.

Maybe they weren’t in the mood to buy that day. Maybe they didn’t like the clothes the boutique had to offer. Or maybe the sales team dropped the ball. No matter how close the lead came to buying, they did not make the transition to customer.


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Customer Acquisition

To transform cold leads into clients, you need a customer acquisition strategy. This process involves lead generation, but it includes much more.

Rather than just compiling a list of potential leads to dump on the sales team, a customer acquisition strategy has the client’s needs and interests in mind from the beginning. The goal is not only to qualify the leads but to nurture them.

In our boutique, this involves targeted advertising and messaging to get the right potential customers into the shop. Once inside, she should be engaged by friendly staff who are genuinely interested in the her needs. They should ask questions to determine how they can best help the customer. They should be informative and helpful even when it doesn’t lead to an immediate sale. The goal is to form a bond with the customer so that when it comes time for the sale, the decision is already made.

With great customer acquisition, you get decision makers who are primed for your product or service. Their pain points have been identified. Their interest and budget have been qualified. All that’s left is closing the sale. And a solid acquisition strategy will provide you with all the information you need to make that close.

How to get the most from your customer acquisition

Too often, businesses want to jump straight from leads to sales. They want to take a shortcut like buying a list of emails they can spam, hoping to get a few quick wins. Or maybe they might seek out a list of names that have gone through some steps of qualification. They then begin cold calling that list, praying that one or two connections will make it worthwhile.

Solid customer acquisition takes effort though. You have to get to know your buyer before you ever talk to her. You have to develop a level of trust before you give her the sales pitch. This isn’t always necessary when you’re dealing with inexpensive commodities.

But when you are providing a valuable service, when you’re looking to build a lasting relationship, you must nurture your leads, not badger them. This is even more essential when working in a B2B space where a decision maker’s choice affects an entire company.

So what does the process of acquiring customers  look like? It isn’t easy, but, fortunately, it’s not complicated either.

Great prospecting: If you want high-quality customers, you have to start with high-quality prospects. An effective prospecting strategy will take advantage of big data to find you decision makers in need of your solution.

  1. Stellar outreach: Prospects will remain prospects unless they are contacted with an outreach strategy that shows them that you understand their struggles. (Learn why email lead generation is the #1 resource for winning new clients.) At Sapper, we find it effective in reaching clients and opening the door to communication.
  2. Authentic engagement: For long term clients, you have to play the long game. Engaging with prospects over time builds trust and awareness, making the final step easier.
  3. Epic closing: The most promising prospects in the world are not valuable until they finally sign on as customers. Whoever is tasked with closing clients must have great closing skills, or the rest of the process is wasted.
  4. Promise fulfilling: Once a lead has become a client, you need to hold up your end of the bargain. Over-deliver to keep your current customers thrilled. Referrals and reviews are still one of the most effective ways to get new clients.

Bottom Line

Don’t settle for a lead generation campaign when what you really need is customer acquisition. Develop a customer acquisition strategy that creates a clear path for your clients.

To find the leads that turn into your next best customers, check out our Ultimate Guide to Cold Prospecting below.

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Prospecting

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About The Author

About Sapper Consulting

Sapper's sales prospecting team becomes a natural extension of your existing sales efforts, helping you find new leads that are a great fit for your business.

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