As a business owner, one of the first questions you’ll be faced with is, “How do I get new customers?” It might come in the first month, or you might be doing so well that you haven’t had to worry about this problem until two years in. Regardless of when, it will happen.
Conventional wisdom says that the best way to get new customers is to find new people that don’t know about you and convince them that they should give you money. While this does work in many situations, it misses the forest for the trees. In reality, the truth is that the most reliable way to bring in new customers is by keeping your existing customers happy.
How It Works
The reason that keeping your existing customers is so important when trying to grow your business is that the people who are already paying you also happen to be perfectly suited to bringing in new leads. These are people that have bought into what you’re promising and have connections to people with similar needs – they’re the perfect middlemen.
For example, consider Customer A. She’s been a paying subscriber for ten months and has had only good things to say about you. Now, the world won’t end if you stop at making sure she’s satisfied with your products. However, Customer A is connected to Customers B, C, D, E, and F, who all have similar needs and budgets. If only you could get her to make an introduction!
While you might be able to find these people on your own, it’s far simpler to leverage your existing customers. It will take some trial-and-error to figure out the best way to do this, but below are some tried-and-true methods that can get you started.
Method #1: Referrals
The art of influencing one of your customers to pitch another person on your business is called referring. There are a ton of tricks and hacks that people have come up with, but for the vast majority of companies there are only two that we need to be worried about: Guided Referrals and Word of Mouth Referrals.
When you have a relationship with someone, you trust their recommendations, and when they tell you that you need to do something you’re going to at least think about doing it. These personal recommendations underpin many areas of business, and it’s likely that this is how you found your first customers as a business owner.
The problem arises, however, when you need to convince a customer to look through their rolodex, pick a name, and then convince that person that they should give you money. It only seems like a tall order because it is – but it’s not impossible.
There are tactics you can try to kickstart this process. The first is by sending personalized emails to your customers with a clear call-to-action asking them to forward the email to five of their contacts. By leveraging the personal relationship that you’ve already built with your customer and by creating emails that are straight to the point, you’ll begin to see new customers coming in.
The second tactic is to use incentives. A great example of a company that used incentivized referrals is Dropbox. As most users of Dropbox know, when you invite a friend to use Dropbox and they create an account, both users are rewarded with extra storage for free. It’s simple, but it’s incredibly effective, and one of the main reasons that Dropbox has been able to successfully grow their customer base to become a $4 billion company
Both of these methods require you to look at the fundamentals of your business and examine what can motivate customers to invite their friends and colleagues. It won’t be the same for every company, but through guided trial-and-error you’ll be able to quickly find what will drive your growth engine.
Word of Mouth Referrals
While prompting people to pitch their network can be incredibly effective, there’s nothing so convincing as a simple word-of-mouth referral. Imagine that one of your customers is at a company picnic and runs into someone from another part of the company. As they’re talking, your customer realizes that your offering would be perfect for this new person. So, they say something like, “Oh, I had the same problem – you should sign up for X!” Immediately, the response will be, “What’s X?”
Unless you’ve put in the effort to create a messaging platform that makes sense, your customers will have no idea how to succinctly describe what you do. Instead, they’ll stammer out an answer, but it’s unlikely that it will be the winning pitch that can close the sale.
To ensure that these word of mouth referrals work you need to make sure that all of your customers understand the core of your product, have a quick one-liner they can share with new people, and can quickly explain what your product really does.
Now, it’s important to note that you’re not going to be able to bring in thousands of customers and put them through a training seminar. While that would probably be a lovely time for you all, you should instead be focused on consistency. This means that every page of your website needs the same tagline, every email needs to include the same one-line summary, and every communication with a customer centers on the same messaging. Over time, this constant barrage will seep into the minds of your customers and they’ll be able to answer the difficult questions at the next company barbeque.
Method #2: Testimonials
Testimonials can be tremendously influential when people are considering whether or not to trust your company with their money. Oftentimes, people find out about your company with no existing personal connection. Either through a Google search, an advertising campaign, or some other inbound lead generator. Unfortunately, as great as this is for your business, many of these leads will disappear if you don’t create some sort of personal connection with your potential customers quickly.
This is where testimonials come in. They’re personal enough that people can find common ground with you, yet impersonal enough that they can be relevant to all of your potential customers. These testimonials need to come from your existing customers, as they’re the only credible sources for the real value your products provide.
How to Get Testimonials
Actually getting your customers to publicly pronounce their love for you can be difficult. Providentially, there’s one trick that works for most businesses: User Feedback.
When your customers send in feedback, it might seem like it’s all complaints, frustration, and requests. However, if you dig a level deeper you’ll see that they’re only writing because they’re passionate about your product. This is the perfect opportunity to ask them to share a testimonial that can be publicized – just be sure to only ask them for their testimonial after you’ve solved their problem.
Where to Put Your Testimonials
Once you have your first few testimonials, you need to figure out where to put them. It may be tempting to send a mass email to every non-paying account holder with a screenshot of the testimonial, but there’s a far simpler, subtle, and effective technique at your disposal.
On Your Website: You own your website and all of your customers will visit it at some point in the signup process. So will most of your prospects. Because of this, your testimonials should play a large role in the content of your landing pages.
While you could spend time worrying about where on your site the testimonials will show up, the location doesn’t matter as much as the content and context of the testimonial. To correctly incorporate testimonials, you first need to pick one or two choice sentences from each testimonial. Alongside each excerpt you should include the name of the customer and a picture or logo if possible. These personal details create a feeling of authenticity around the testimonial and carry a lot of weight with new visitors.
Getting new customers can seem like a constant uphill battle – but every battle can be won if approached the right way. In the battle for customers, the key is involving your existing customers in your effort to bring in new ones. Then, once new customers come in, you can use them to bring in even more customers. It’s a virtuous cycle that, once in motion, can’t be broken.
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