The Steve Carell Customer Acquisition Strategy


If you’ve watched Steve Carell (Michael Scott) in The Office, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a miracle his branch ever stayed open. That’s what I thought too. But there was a very interesting episode recently where Jan came to town with the aim of landing a major deal with a local business.

Here’s what happened:

Jan wanted to meet at Radisson. Mike didn’t. He booked tables at Chili’s.

The Radisson just says ‘business’,  Mike complained. Cue rolling eyes from Jan.

Jan tried to get into business mode at the dinner, only for Mike to undermine her. Each time Jan raised business issues, Mike would change the subject.

However, as the evening proceeded, Mike and the City official began to click. You could see they liked to hang out together.

And here’s where things got interesting.

‘Costs are our main issue’, said the City official, suggesting that the lowest price would win their business.

I know, Mike agreed with him but then as they were wrapping up, asked the City official if he was from around here. He was.

Same here, said Mike. Then he played his trump card. Dunder Miflin couldn’t compete on price. But, they’d be here, year in, year out. The money they made was reinvested into the local community. The out-of-town competitors would run companies like Dunder Miflin into the ground, take the money elsewhere and be gone.

Taking the long view, giving these guys the deal could be detrimental to the town.

Maybe this wouldn’t work in real life. Maybe business is too hard-nosed. But there is something in this. The takeaways for me were:

  1. We tend not to buy from strangers. Jan, smart, bright and all businessy for New York, didn’t hit the same notes as local boy Mike. Something to consider.
  2. Mike admitted their shortcomings (price) but gave the procurement manager an angle he could take to his boss (local investment).

Next week – product placement with Dwight Schrute