Growth & Customers

9 simple steps to grow your customer base

Grow your customer base to help your business flourish

Want to grow your customer base? Customers are the lifeblood of any business, so it’s vital you can keep generating leads and retaining your existing customers.

But doing so is often a concern for businesses, with more than one in three companies saying that generating new business is their biggest worry.

We spoke to Mike Cockburn, managing director at positive psychology coaching company Sogno, and asked him to share his experiences of growing his customer base.

1Get to know your prospects and customers

There’s a lot of talk about personalisation and customer insight – that’s because it works.

Understanding your customers’ needs can lead to better insights into your audience and allows you to develop services that are matched to your clients’ needs. It can also help you stand out from your competitors.

And it’s not just consumers who like this approach. It also works for business clients too.

Mike says: “It’s important that we understand what our clients are trying to achieve: their mission, their goals. Then we look at how we can accelerate that and customise our services to meet their needs. It leads to a more balanced relationship.”

2Divide your time: support existing clients and look for new work

In simple terms, there are two ways to get more business: win new business and get your existing customers to spend more. It’s important to ensure you don’t focus on one at the expense of the other, as both are important for growing your customer base.

Mike says: “We do have a lot of repeat business and feel we offer the most value with long-term clients. But you need to keep bringing in new business too.

“Old business can falter if budgets change or people move on, so it’s important to look for new opportunities.

“You need to start a relationship early, so that it’s mature enough to deliver new business when your other work is completed.”

3Offer great customer service

To keep your existing customers coming back, it’s important you offer great customer service. In fact, research shows 78% of people have walked away from a sale as a result of poor customer service.

But if you get it right, it has a positive impact on your customer base and your bottom line. Loyal customers are worth up to 10 times the amount they originally spend.

Take the time out to evaluate your customer service, make sure you respond to your customers quickly and keep an eye on social media so you can offer great service online too.

Your customer numbers should grow as a result.

4Make the most of your networks

Ask a business owner where their customers come from and most will tell you that word of mouth is their main source.

Recommendations from others are valuable. “It’s the idea of social capital, the value of relationships,” says Mike. “If I know people that they know, then there’s an implied trust.”

Most of his clients come from networking, something he’s passionate about.

“I think people sometimes equate networking with sales and prospects can be sensitive to a sales approach,” he adds. “But if you recognise that only so many contacts will go on to be clients, then it reduces the pressure.

“The work we do is based on trust and openness, so the way we make contact is a good opportunity to demonstrate that. I meet up with loads of people and if I can help, they remember that. That can open new doors.”

5Look for partnerships with other businesses

Your ideal customer will already have relationships with other businesses and this offers a great opportunity.

By partnering with other firms that offer complementary services, you can not only reach a new audience but also potentially offer more to your customers.

6 Think big

If you’re a small business, can you work with a big company? The simple answer is yes.

But many small companies find it intimidating to make contact. Mike has a range of big clients, from Greggs to Kia, and says it’s worthwhile approaching large businesses.

He says: “Our success with clients goes back to developing a network of long-term connections. But small businesses now have more opportunities to work with big clients.

“I think that’s changed since the credit crunch. Big corporates may have been suspicious of smaller businesses in the past but they now recognise that they offer value and have lower costs too. There is less prejudice now.”

7 Play to your strengths

It’s definitely worth testing a range of marketing approaches and seeing what works. But remember every business is different, so you may find that some approaches don’t work. Don’t be afraid to drop these.

Mike agrees that you need to focus on what works for your business.

8Adapt as your business grows

It’s important to keep trying new ways of reaching your audience and don’t automatically reject things that might not have worked in the past.

As your company becomes established, you may find your customers come from different sources.

9Measure what works for you

As you try out new approaches, be sure to monitor where your customers come from and which sources offer the most value.

You can then keep refining your approach or scale up activities that work to grow your customer base further.