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An audacious pursuit of customers

By Dan Carrison

Sometimes a great motivational and advertising concept can be borrowed from an organization outside the world of free enterprise. One such concept is the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. With a little creativity, this format exclusive to law enforcement can be applied toward the happier end of “capturing” prominent, but elusive, business accounts.

Let us imagine a vendor posting a most wanted customers list on the walls (and website) of its establishment. Instead of mug shots, the vendor’s employees would gaze up at the flattering posters of the targeted CEOs. The descriptions of these “at large” customers would be the pertinent organizational stats that make the customer so desirable. And the “reward” would be incentives to any of the vendor’s stakeholders (employees, suppliers, stockholders) who could supply information leading to the “capture” of the customer.

Just as the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list motivates its agents, the vendor’s most wanted customers list would recruit the eyes and ears of the company’s workers. It might surprise many a CEO to discover how few employees in the organization even have an inkling of the top customer targets of the sales department. Why shouldn’t that be common knowledge? One never knows what can happen when the awareness of the entire workforce is being leveraged. Bits and pieces of information gathered from the network of relationships in the interactive business community could prove very helpful to the vendor’s sales department. But that information will not be communicated unless the rank and file is involved in the hunt.

By publishing its most wanted customers list, possibly through conspicuous ads and commercials, the vendor announces to the entire world its desire to serve the most prestigious accounts in the industry. That, in itself, implies a sense of confidence that may impress not only the target customer but other potential customers. And, obviously, the current suppliers of the most wanted customers would be put on notice that a determined competitor is coming after them and not afraid to say so

Just imagine a CEO picking up the Wall Street Journal and seeing his flattering “wanted” poster, and his company listed as the ambitious business goal of a vendor — publicly, fearlessly, audaciously. The impression could be nothing but positive. The name of the vendor would be forever ingrained in the CEO’s consciousness. He would investigate. What kind of vendor is this? And look! One of the most wanted customers recently has been “captured” and is now doing business with this audacious supplier. The CEO might call that company and ask about its experience with the bold supplier; he might tell his purchasing department to entertain a quote. He might say to himself, “Surely a vendor willing to go to these lengths — publicly — to acquire my business would try its very best to keep it.”

The ads might put a little peer pressure on the most wanted CEO. Company shareholders or board members might ask: “Why haven’t you done business with this vendor who has put his reputation on the line to serve you? Have you at least spoken to him?” The most wanted CEOs might find themselves under pressure to “turn themselves in.”

A vendor is known by its customers, but it can also be known by the customers it wants to serve. The higher the ambition, the stronger the vendor appears — for surely it wouldn’t aspire to serve a premier customer if it didn’t have the capacity to do so. A vendor with the courage to take on such an imaginative marketing campaign surely would be a salient feature on the business landscape.

Dan Carrison, a business writer and consultant, has authored or co-authored four management books: Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way, Deadline! How Premier Organizations Win the Race Against Time, Business Under Fire and From the Bureau to the Boardroom. Carrison is a general partner of Semper Fi Consulting and founder of www.ghostwritersinthesky.com. Carrison lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches corporate communication for the University of La Verne. He can be reached at dan.carrison@gmail.com.

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