The dominant model of client and customer acquisition is broken because it’s based on selling.
That might seem like a strange thing to say, but I want to convince you otherwise. Let’s use an example from health care.
Optimizing for performance metrics became all the rage in the 90s in the British health-care system. Identify key metrics tied to performance and better outcomes and maximize for those. Makes sense, right?
Then came the “hello nurses.”
They first appeared in British Emergency Departments where there were very long wait times to be even seen let alone treated. To improve performance, hospitals assigned nurses to do nothing more than greet people as they came into the department.
This dramatically reduced the wait times to be seen and made the hospital look much better on paper, but added nothing to the quality of service. In fact, it added an extra expense.
In an even more cynical move, one hospital instructed ambulances to circle the hospital, sometimes for hours, until the department was ready to see the patients.
Why? Because the government had set a maximum four-hour time limit on admitting and treating all emergency patients. By keeping people in ambulances for hours they technically reduced the time between being admitted and treated.
Gaming metrics is easy, profitable and often unethical. This is especially true in business…
The high cost of confusing metrics with signals
Let’s say you want more leads.
You hire an agency and they sell you on a lead-generation funnel with a lead magnet (a free downloadable in exchange for your email).
You put the work in to produce a genuinely valuable lead magnet and the agency sets up the ads, landing page and lead capture tech. Then you turn on the ads.
Leads start to come in. Lots of them.
No. Not at all.
The industry standard for most lead funnels is about 2% conversion to sale. And that’s considered a win.
Think about that number for a moment.
Imagine hiring someone to bring you water in a bucket and by the time they get to you 98% of the water has leaked out.
Two percent is insane. It means 98 people out of 100 who agreed to give you their email and downloaded your free report were dead ends. In what universe does that make sense?
In the universe of bribes, that’s where.
The marketing agency optimized for generating leads by bribing people to get on your lead list. Because that’s what you were paying them to do.
Your new lead-gen funnel is a bribe machine to get contact details from people who have little or no interest in you or your offer. They just reptile-brain clicked for a digital trinket. They were never leads in the first place. This is hello-nurse marketing.
Lesson? Never optimize for the number of leads. Ever. And never pay someone to do it either. Because that’s exactly what you will get.
It’s worse with sales.
A skilled copywriter has so many tricks to boost sales, and if you pay one to optimize for that, they’ll likely pull all those tricks out of the bag. You’ll get you your sales, but you’ll have to deal with the refunds, poor fit clients, reputational damage and everything that comes with that. Trust me on this. I’m a copywriter.
Does that mean lead and sales metrics are useless? Not at all. They are important signals. Just not metrics for success.
But there is an alternative and it’s the one your best clients and customers are looking for. The place to find it is in a magical kingdom…
The R2 Effect (or where your best clients come from)
Think about the millions who make visiting Disney World a once-in-a-life-time holiday.
Or the people who line up outside Apple for a new iPhone. Or the hikers who only wear Patigonia. Or the coffee drinkers who only buy locally roasted, single-origin beans.
None of these people were born Apple or Disney fans. And they certainly didn’t know anything about roasting dates or flavor extraction when they were kids. These customers and clients were created.
From behemoths like Apple to kitchen-table startups, generation after generation of great companies have built their businesses around client creation as opposed to selling. And this is a hugely important distinction.
Here’s what that looks like for Disney…
Right now, Disney is offering a life-sized, working replica of R2-D2 for $25,000. Do you think they have a sales funnel? Or offer an R2-D2 PDF download to generate leads?
No. Because their business model successfully created their buyers even before they released the product. They just had to let people know it was available.
Their marketing did all the lifting. It created their ideal customer. The sale is, for all intents and purposes, pre-made.
Disney understands something most businesses don’t…
Your best clients and customers are not acquired. They are created.
That distinction, the choice between selling or creating clients/customers, is at the heart of every marketing strategy. It’s either one or the other. The question is, do you want to be in the selling business or the client-creation business?
How you answer will have a profound impact on your business and your future.