One of the biggest mistakes that many growing companies make is aiming for new growth without pleasing their existing customer base.
If you are a micro-business or small business with limited staff and financial resources, it is easy to see why you could be spending a majority of your time trying to increase your customer base. The concept is great, but be careful not to ignore your current customers who are the ones putting food on your table today.
While it is challenging to work for clients and market for new ones when you are short-staffed, it can be done. Here are my 5 tips to help you not to forget where you came from:
1. Pick up the Phone.
Whether you dial from your landline, cell phone or via the Internet, you just gotta make the call. Your customers want to hear from you. They want to know that you still consider them a value to your company and that you still appreciate their business. Just ask them, “How are you doing?” and ” What do you like most about our product/service?” and “Can I use your testimonial?” and “What can make the product/service better?” and end with, “Thank you. I appreciate your business.”
2. Use your existing customer base to get information that can create a campaign for gaining new customers.
Take this information and create a marketing strategy that is based on facts. The true facts are what your existing customers say about your products, services and the representatives who are the faces and voices of your business. The truth is convincing.
3. Be there for your current customers.
While you were in a staff meeting regarding how to get new customers, one of your existing customers may have been trying to reach you with more business. That was a missed opportunity from a client that you may have taken for granted. While it is best to have phone coverage, at the very least check emails and messages at specified intervals throughout the day.
I always talk about getting many avenue streams to truly diversify your client base in order to increase business continuity. But this doesn’t mean doing it at the expense of losing and appreciating your existing customers. Therefore, business growth should be planned for. Do not grow your business so fast that you lose out realizing the value of your current customers. To balance this out, do not take on more than you can handle. You determine this by asking yourself if the quality of your product or service will be compromised if you add more business without increasing staff to meet the needs of your current customers. This brings us to tip number 4.
4. Plan to add staff positions along with business growth.
You can add an outsourced position, a part-timer, or an on-hand staff member to take on some of the responsibilities of tending to some of your existing clients. I believe that handing over some duties that you know well and can be explained well enough to a newbie are the easiest ones to transfer. Do not leave it to your new hires to figure out how to handle your existing customers. Train them so that they realize that the growth of the company –even their newly created position is due to the increase in sales, and the perceived stabilization of repeat sales.
5. Set up a Retention Strategy.
In addition to making the phone calls that are strategically placed throughout the year, reward your customers for their business. Whether it is a holiday card or 10% off one of their favorite products or services during a special time of the year, or even donating to their favorite charity, you have just got to do something. It is the cost of doing business. The payoff in terms of “Return On Investment” can be invaluable.
In business, you experience a lot of “firsts”.
There is the first small sale, the first large sale, the first non-paying customer, the first paying customer, the first repeat-fast-paying customer, and so on. You cannot ignore your repeat paying customers in lieu of going after new business. This balancing act is essential to long-term business health.
Now, I know of some businesses whose focus is entirely on gaining new customers. They have no special deals for their current client base. And I know some of their customers who have left them as well.
Running a successful business takes heart. You have to care about your current customers. They have referrals and may even have more business for you.