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Are You Churning Customers or Cultivating Them?

Feb. 1, 2022
Finding customers is a strategic choice: Deciding between targeting potential buyers and developing long-term clients will determine everything about your marketing program.

Businesses need customers in order to stay in business. How a business acquires its customers depends on a simple choice: Either churn through potential prospects until you hook one, or expend the energy and time to cultivate potential customers. The difference between churning through potential customers versus cultivating clients influences everything about a company’s marketing program.

The “churn” acquisition strategy is not exclusive to business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, but it is a fairly common B2C tactic. It works very well in markets where anyone can be a customer. When you think about omnipresent advertising, it is likely churn acquisition: billboards for a regional service, influencer marketing for a weight loss product, a mailer with a location-based service offering (cleaning, windows, etc.), radio automotive ads, or wireless provider TV ads.

The churn acquisition strategy relies more heavily on acquiring new customers than on retaining repeat customers or growing the relationships with current customers. It thrives on one-time sales and that is reflected in the advertising channel choices and messaging. (There is a reason churn acquisition is sometimes termed “churn and burn”.) In this model, sales staff are focused on closing the deal quickly, without multiple engagements. Speed is the way to win with churn acquisition. Few business-to-business (B2B) enterprises can afford to operate on the churn acquisition model.

Churn acquisition works less effectively in niche B2B markets because there number of companies that could be interested in your product or service is limited. If the whole sample universe of potential customers is 5,000 companies – churning through them would mean you burned all those valuable first impressions, a situation from which it could take years for you to recover. By focusing on near-term gains you effectively give yourself fewer opportunities overall.

For B2B businesses, cultivating customers is a slower-growth strategy, one less focused on quick-turn sales than on building relationships. At a minimum, to achieve effective marketing this strategy requires a strong brand reputation and excellent SEO strategy.

Additionally, placing the business (and staff) in a position of thought-leadership establishes more potential reasons for customers to bring their business to you. By using cultivation as a customer acquisition strategy, you plant the seeds of interest, water them with knowledge, and harvest the rewards.

A marketing strategy that cultivates customers might look like this: Case studies, speaking engagements, articles in industry publications, possibly a video channel or podcast – anything that highlights knowledge leadership and industry alignment. It would involve being present and engaged in the industry (omnipresent at industry events.)

Cultivating customers is a strategy of being in service to customers, educating them about relevant technologies and opportunities, and supporting their business programs and goals. It’s a strategy that involves concentrating on building and maintaining long-term relationships and growing through word-of-mouth referrals.

For a sales team, cultivating customers is a sales cycle that is likely to include multiple visits and personalized proposals at the high dollar level. Typically, the actual sales process is less self-service and more concierge. Working from a smaller pool of customers or potential customers means every sale counts toward building your brand – it will help to improve what people say about your company when you aren’t in the room. 

If you’re not sure which acquisition strategy you have adopted for your marketing program, have a look at your current marketing efforts. Are they focused on helping customers with a need? That would be a clue that the strategy is based on cultivation. Is the current marketing focused on broadcasting what you sell regardless of appropriate audience? You may be running a churn strategy without realizing it.

Good news. It’s a fresh year, and 2022 could be the year to change strategy and align your customer acquisition plan with your marketing program.

Alexandria Trusov is the Director of Marketing at Euthenia Manufacturing Group and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit

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