Proven Ways to Grow Your Startup’s Customer Base
Establishing a customer base means building relationships and should remain an ongoing goal throughout any stage.
Every great business has a loyal customer base that keeps the company profitable and drives business, including both existing and new clients. Although you may be in the startup phase, quickly identifying and tapping into your customer base is vital to growing and expanding your business.
Establishing a customer base means building relationships and should remain an ongoing goal throughout any stage. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Define your customer base
As your business grows, your customer base will come from members of your target audience. These people are those who are naturally drawn to your products or services because they fill a want or a need. You’ll have an easier time designing branding materials, messages and products once you’ve identified your target audience.
How do you go about defining your customer base? The first step is a customer analysis. Review current customer bios and information to find shared characteristics. Survey your loyal customers to discover product and service needs and interests, and document your findings. A customer resource management tool or service will be helpful for this step.
Next, analyze the competition. Use a competitor analysis tool or service to help you identify who your competitors are and how you compare. You’ll gain vital insight into what other SaaS companies have done right, who they deem their audience and where you can carve a niche for yourself within the industry.
Finally, you’re ready to create ideal customer profiles—that explain who you’re targeting, what their challenges are, and how you support them—to be used for marketing and developing new products.
Make customer success a mainstay
Ensuring your customer's success should be the cornerstone of your strategy. Closing the deal on a sale is only the beginning of your relationship. Communicate regularly to continue building rapport, meet their needs and improve adoption rates.
Utilize communications to pick your customer’s brain about what you can improve on or offer in the future. And don’t aim for quantity in customer numbers; instead, determine if you and the customer are a good fit to reduce customer churn rates.
Learn who your competitors are and how you stack up against them by learning what customers say about you. What made them choose you over a competitor? Do they compare you to another SaaS provider? Identify additional products or services they're requesting.
How do you do this? You listen. Fanatically. Interview your customers on the phone or face-to-face when appropriate. Automate surveys for guaranteed feedback and look for trends in support tickets.
Customer success management software can help you gain powerful customer insights and personalize their experiences, even when using mass communications. Match personalized services to customer needs, and become a stand-out company to work with. Personalizing is where startups can really shine. With a smaller customer base and ambition to keep growing, smaller startups often emphasize personalization and do it just as well, or better, than huge companies.
Expand through existing customers, not just new
The cost of acquiring new customers is higher than retaining current ones. Focus on cross-sells and upsells with your existing clients, providing solutions for their pain points.
Continue to connect with your new customers, learning what drove them to you and will make them renew. Use a variety of communications, such as emails, social media and newsletters. A retention management system can help you communicate and collect the necessary data to meet this objective.
Bonus tips: networking, customer service and sharing
In addition to the tips above, a few other suggestions bear mentioning.
- "Networking" (not to be thought of as selling or “hustling”) recognizes the value of relationships and aims to grow friendships first and partnerships second. Sports, pastimes, hobbies and professional organizations are great ways to meet people. Focus on building relationships and trust. Then, keep your eyes and ears peeled for ways you can assist with a problem or connect a friend to another who can help.
- Develop excellent customer service to keep customers renewing. Employees should be receptive and eager to solve problems with a pleasant attitude.
- Share success stories. Current and potential customers are motivated by the success of others. Reach out to your clients for specific ways your products or services helped them.
Secrets of building a customer base
The solution to building a customer base is in the name–the “customer.” Take a customer-centric approach to growth. Identify your target customer(s) and let them lead your business to growth and success. Providing the tools and services they need will keep them returning to you again and again as a valued business partner.
Stories, best practices and thought leadership from the customer success community.