Henry Ford’s Vital Lesson on Winning New Customers

Ask someone in business – ‘So, how do you get new business?’ and more often you get a blank look, and in an insipid voice they say: Well … we advertise I guess and we rely on walk-ins, and I guess that’s how we’ve always done it.

Now there’s a business that’s going broke!

So here’s a vital lesson from Henry Ford – of Ford Motor Company fame – on winning new customers:

Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car. He invented the assembly line – and that as things turned out was just as important. When it comes to the motor cars you and I drive today, it revolutionised everything. Mass production enabled cars to produced … en masse.

Without it, there’d be far fewer cars today and they’d be be much more expensive.

So – what does this have to do with winning new customers? Everything!

Most businesses win customers in the same way that car manufacturers used to make cars before Ford’s assembly line. It’s a much slower process, there are much fewer customers and it’s much more expensive.

What each business needs is a well defined, replicable “assembly line” … or process for winning new customers.  What does that look like? Well, it’s different in each business. But the key aspects of it are:

1.  It’s a process that repeats itself over and over again as a normal part of business.

2.  It involves five key steps:

a.  finding new prospects
b.  converting them into first time customers
c.  engaging first time customers in the next purchasing step
d.  developing the customer relationship to increase sales
e.  measuring & analysing the results, in order to fine tune the process*

3.  Everybody in the business knows the process, how important it is and their part in it.

Here’s an example. It’s a retail business that, amongst other things, sells gift vouchers. The people who mostly buy the gift vouchers are existing loyal customers. They buy them for the people they care for, people they want to impress, people they want to reward.

So – the recipient of a gift voucher comes in to redeem the voucher.

At this point, most business simply perform that transaction … and that’s the end of it. But STOP! Right here is a new prospect (their not a bona fide customer yet, because they haven’t spent their own money).

The “new customer” process has just begun. Here’s what it might look like:


The sales assistant recognises that this is the beginning of the process and realises how important this step is in the success of the business and the retention of his job (not to mention hitting his targets and being rewarded). So he gives the customer particular “5 Star” attention and service.

The customer is offered an absolutely compelling offer (something they just can’t afford to refuse) in order to take the next step in the purchasing relationship. Of course she accepts the offer, signs up and in return provides her email and mobile phone details.

Within 24 hours a brilliantly crafted, lusciously designed email arrives in the customer’s in tray that allows her to complete the step, and redeem the offer. And so … the process has begun … and will go on.

But in addition, the systems are in place to measure the new prospects who “walk in through the door”, the percentage who are converted into customers, by which sales person, through which offer, etc, etc – so that management can see what’s working and what’s not and fine tune the process to improve the results.[/box]


The systems will very from business to business. But this isn’t just for transactional businesses – it;s for every business (when I was running a consulting firm that hired consultants out at thousands of dollars a day, we too had such systems, even though the approach was far more sophisticated).

So here’s my question for you today.

Does your business have a Henry Ford Process for winning new customers?
Or is your business going broke?

It’s pretty much one or the other.