What every startup or entrepreneur needs is not only a great idea, a smart business model and a strong staff backbone, but also a growing customer base. One important way to attract more accounts is through your existing customers.
Aaron Goodin, CEO and Founder of Tack, a media technology startup, notes that, “What most startups often overlook is the value of their best, most vocal customers, and their ability to help companies acquire new customers.”
A company’s happy customers can become excellent representatives for your business. Goodin notes that once relationships are built with them, “new customers can be acquired through the use of existing client testimonials, referrals and press opportunities.”
He adds: “A good testimonial will substantiate your sales pitch, so go out and round up true, fact-filled success stories and share them whenever possible.”
Putting the action in satisfaction
The first step is identifying the satisfied customer. Goodin has found that “sometimes people will willingly take the first step of reaching out and thanking you for helping them, but more likely, you have to be proactive to get feedback.”
The next step in satisfying your clients so well they can’t help but spread the word about your business? “Ask them if they know of anyone else that could benefit from your services,” Goodin says.
Bernard Sandler, program developer for digital initiatives at York University’s Osgoode professional development, in Toronto, stresses the importance of offering excellent service to your current clients. One bad customer service session could bruise your company deeply.
According to Sander, a business should then focus on building the client relationship by learning staff names, talk about non-work related topics, “get to know their needs and the next client will inevitably come up in conversation. If you are trusted, they will come.”
When looking for a supplier to help build an educational product, Sandler noted the importance of investigating who each company’s customers were, to ensure that the company profile matched what he needed.
Sandler also prefers finding companies through a personal connection or recommendation, rather than through a widespread email blast. It’s all about reputation, your legacy, and your report card.
Adina Zaiontz of Napkin Marketing in Toronto has discovered that one client can be a stepping stone to another one, in an indirect as well as direct manner.
“If you can take on a client strategically, that could pay off. For example, someone who has a lot of clients that they serve, that they can potentially refer you to,” she explains. In her own experience with providing marketing services to an accountant firm, the clients who enjoyed working with her didn’t hesitate to spread the word among their own clientele.
When geography matters
Zaiontz, who helps businesses promote themselves through the web, digital marketing and social media, has found that acquiring additional clients can be as simple as merely operating in the same building as other companies.
Get to know the people in your office or office building, she adds, since you could eventually could stumble upon someone who could use your services – or need it themselves. That close, geographic connection to other businesses means you could run into them often, thus them being subtly reminded of who you are and what you do.
And, her final piece of advice might come as obvious – network, network, network – but this method should be obligatory to every company’s timetable. “It’s highly important to attend networking events,” she says, “because it’s a good investment to find new clientele.”
We’d also like to recommend a referral program loaded with incentives. Say you run a content marketing firm, and you offer your clients two-weeks of free service for every customer they refer to you. If you can get your customers doing some of that sales work, and they also win in return, new referrals could nicely overload your inbox.
Photo via Plantronics blog