Despite what some believe, not all customers are created equal! While it’s true that any (or most) business is good business, especially for small business owners, there are certain types of customers that stand above the rest.
Aside from the obvious – customers who treat you and your team with kindness and respect, customers who trust and rely upon your expertise, customers who speak highly of you to others – the ideal customer interacts with and spends money with your business regularly.
Not only does this create regular income that your business can rely upon annually or even monthly, there are clear benefits to having customers that keep coming back, time and again.
Obtaining new customers is an estimated 6-7 times more expensive in both time and money that retaining existing customers – and returning customers on average spend 67% more than new ones.
With all this in mind, it’s important as a small business to not just land customers, but to attract ones that will bring in regular, substantial amounts of business.
Defining the ideal customer profile.
The first step in landing the right customers is understanding what the ideal customer looks like for your business.
If you work directly with consumers, what kind of consumer will generate the most revenue for your business? Who is likely to interact with or use a variety of your services?
If you work with other businesses, it’s important to consider not only the size of the business, but how much of their work they’ll be doing with you. Focusing on working with large businesses might be tempting – but if a large business works with several different partners, they may spend less with you than another smaller business who exclusively uses your services.
Additionally, try to seek out customers who work with you regularly and on a predictable schedule. This will not only lead to more income overtime, but will allow you to anticipate what kind of staffing you’ll need throughout the year (or during busy seasons) and help you project your growth more accurately.
Get (and keep) customer attention.
Small businesses just don’t have the brand recognition of larger corporations – so increasing brand awareness and staying at the top of your customer’s minds can take a little extra effort.
Increase marketing efforts by sending email blasts, regularly posting to social media channels, and quickly and regularly following up with any new leads you may have. Keep in constant communication with potential and existing customers through both personalized and mass communications. This will remind them of your services and keep you at the top of their minds if and when a need for a service you provide arises.
For a small business with a limited staff, it can be difficult to dedicate a great deal of time and attention to this kind of customer outreach. Utilize business software to automate as many of these tasks as possible, and to set up reminders for more personalized communications.
Follow up, again and again.
Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice. When you get a new lead, follow up. And don’t be afraid to follow up again, and again, and again.
It’s easy to get discouraged when a new customer seems eager to get started on a project before going radio silent, or when emails to existing customer go ignored. You may think they’ve suddenly changed their minds about working with your team, but the real reason is often much simpler – they’ve been busy and the project, while still one they want to complete, is no longer an urgent priority.
Follow up with new clients regularly. You may feel like you’re annoying them, but they’ll likely appreciate the reminder.
For existing customers, don’t be afraid to leverage your knowledge of their business needs to offer additional services they may not know you have or may not have considered using before.
Streamline the customer process.
Customers are most likely to continue working with you if they have a positive experience – and part of having a positive experience is having an easy experience. No matter how good the final product was or how well the service was rendered, if making payments is a headache or finding answers to a simple question is a long, complicated process, a customer may not be eager to work with your business again.
Make sure to implement a streamlined process to collect payments, including automated payment reminders. Make answers to common questions readily available, and make it easy for customers to get in contact with your team when they do need assistance, whether it be through an online chat or a customer service phone line.
Business software can also aid you in many of these tasks, allowing you to make the customer experience easy and intuitive, without taking valuable time away from the work your team needs to do.
Leverage existing customers.
How many times have you asked friends or family for a recommendation before making a dinner reservation or booking a vacation? How many times have you taken their advice? If having a positive recommendation from somebody we trust is that important for something as relatively minor as a dining experience, you can only imagine how important it is when making large business decisions.
If you have a great customer with whom you work frequently, odds are there is somebody they can refer you to. Whether it be separate departments or divisions in the same company, professional acquaintances, or even friends who work in similar industries, a great customer is usually more than willing to sing your praises.
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, or even start a referral program, giving them a discount on their next service when a referral results in more business for your team. Even if they don’t have any professional relationships you can leverage, they may be willing to write a review, which can then be included on your website or shared in your next email blast.
As you work to increase your reach and bring in new customers, make sure you spend the most time and energy on the ones who will bring the most value to your business. Start by determining what your ideal customer looks like, making them aware of your business, and following up regularly.
Next, make sure these customers stick around by making their experience a positive and easy one – and allow your strong customer relationships to help you land even more of the right customers.