Customers are the life of any business.This is doubly true for startup companies navigating the treacherous “death zone” between launch and profitability. A great business idea might convince angel investors and venture capitalists to provide financial support at first, but slow customer growth often serves as a big warning sign to funders. Even if companies are careful with their cash, those that struggle with customer growth frequently lose out on investment opportunities to firms that do manage to win converts and inspire loyalty.
If you’re worried about your company’s ability to grow its customer base and retain enthusiastic supporters, try these four effective, proven strategies.
- Personalize Your Outreach and Marketing
A customer acquisition strategy is more effective when it’s supported by a comprehensive marketing apparatus. But it’s not quite enough to check all the digital and analog marketing boxes. Truly effective customer acquisition demands personalized outreach and marketing that makes prospects and customers feel as if they’re participants in your story, not just parties to an impersonal transaction.
- Check-in with Your Customers on a Regular Basis
Customers are more likely to remain loyal when they feel like their opinions make a difference—that their feedback actually has the power to change how your company does business. The most cost-effective way to show your customers that their opinions matter is to survey them regularly, whether at the point of sale, via emailed questionnaires following a sale, or through randomized outreach over the course of a long-term relationship.
“Surveying your customers can quickly show you patterns of strengths and weaknesses in your operation,” Miami entrepreneur George Otte told Marisa Sanfilippo in a recent Huffington Post interview. Otte cites “keep[ing] a close eye on the customer experience” as one of four crucial things aspiring entrepreneurs can do to keep their businesses on track.
- Tap into Customer Relationship Management Software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps companies with lots of customers manage and optimize their relationships with each. With comprehensive solutions that make it easier to nurture leads and efficiently drive repeat business, CRM software narrows the cracks through which opportunities can fall and maximizes the effectiveness of each sales or marketing touch. When every customer counts, such a tool is a powerful ally to have in your corner.
- Leverage Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
You don’t have to do the grunt work of acquiring and retaining customers entirely on your own. By partnering with companies with which you have natural synergy, you broaden your enterprise’s visibility and appeal without putting all your resources behind costly and potentially unsuccessful marketing and outreach efforts. Such tie-ups take a variety of forms—if you’re interested in learning more, American Express OPEN Forum has a great primer on strategic partnerships.
Keep Your Customers Close
As companies grow, their customer-facing strategies naturally change. A small startup that specializes in a single product or service approaches customer acquisition and retention very differently than a sprawling enterprise with dozens of product lines and thousands of customers. If your goal is to grow significantly larger than your present size, you’ll need to pay close attention to the changing needs and preferences of your prospects and customers—and remain familiar with acquisition and retention best practices for companies of your size.
What are you doing to inspire loyalty among your growing customer base?