How to Successfully Cultivate a Strong Customer Base
A strong customer base is the key to recurring revenue and the growth of your business. These customers will spread the word about your brand, leading to new interactions and the potential to broaden your customer base even further.
If you build your customer base right, this cycle of gaining new customers, earning their loyalty, and adding them can continue indefinitely.
So, Where Do I Start?
The first step involves understanding your target market. Your target market is a group of people with shared characteristics that would make ideal customers for your product or service—but they aren't customers (yet!).
One of the best ways to identify your target market is to create a buyer persona or a fictional version of your "perfect customer," including all their essential demographic information.
Okay, How Do I Grow My Customer Base?
Now that you know your audience, you can start reaching out and taking the steps necessary to grow a strong customer base. Advertising alone won't get the job done—you'll need to embrace the following concepts to begin building an emotional connection between your customers and your brand.
A whopping 95% of customers report that honesty and trust play a huge role in their loyalty to a brand. A lack of transparency in business is an immediate red flag for most consumers. If a customer is questioning the trustworthiness of your brand, they won't be returning anytime soon.
Elevate The Customer Experience
Customer service has always been one of the pillars of good business, but the expectation of great customer service has increased tremendously recently. Don't just meet the standard—exceed it. When you treat a customer right, you have a customer for life!
Create A Loyalty Program
Customer loyalty programs are an absolute win-win. They keep your base engaged with your business in exchange for occasional rewards, such as exclusive sales, birthday gifts, and VIP experiences. You can even implement elements of gamification (points, levels, etc.) to add another layer of fun to the experience. And customer loyalty programs are surprisingly easy to put together.
Make Your Values Visible
Having a brand philosophy is a critical part of building the identity of your small business and giving your customers something to connect with. Is your business focused on sustainability? Do you try to work with locally-owned suppliers? Customers seek relationships with brands and values they respect, so make sure they know yours.
Don't Be Afraid of Change
While resting on your laurels once you've landed a customer base is tempting, avoid getting stuck in a rut. Keep your customer base engaged by trying new things. Sometimes innovation is a necessary solution to a problem—and sometimes it's just exciting!
I Did All That, And I Still Ended Up with A Customer Who Doesn't Quite Fit. Now What?
Don't fret. If you're like most small business owners, you'll have to "weed the garden" occasionally to move unprofitable or problem customers out of the mix. Try any of these methods if you're having trouble with this process.
Raise Your Prices.
Customers who genuinely value your products or services won't be phased by a 10-15% increase in prices, especially if you've been in business awhile, and give them notice ahead of time. The secret to weeding out the ones who are just using you to get the best bang for their buck? Let them find out on their own.
Modify Your Offers
As your business grows and develops, you'll likely change or remove certain products or services from the list of options you offer to better match the needs of your preferred customers. It's perfectly normal; those who refuse to change will look elsewhere.
Prioritize Your Superstars
When customers are good to you, it's only natural to return the favor. Focus on completing projects or orders for your best customers first.
Refer Them to Another Business
If a customer doesn't fit your base, you may be doing them a favor by referring them to another business. They may see your recommendation as a final act of excellent customer service and continue to advocate for your brand.
Not every customer will be a good fit for your customer base. The key is to keep the ones who are and have a plan for those who aren't.