Everyone wants their business to succeed. You want your business to be around next year, and the following year, don’t you? The question is, how many customers do you need to be successful and, more importantly, sustainable? Here are four tips for preparing your business for growth.
Tip 1: Treat your business like a restaurant
In fact, your business may be a restaurant. Do you have enough capacity to accommodate an increase in your customer base? Before you decide to acquire more customers determine whether that strategy is realistic. Take inventory of whether your production and assembly facility, or your kitchen, can handle an increase of even 10% more customers. Everyone dreams of their business being wildly successful. The reality of growth without preparation is like giving a party where everyone shows up – at the same time. Can you feasibly, and successfully, serve everyone?
Tip 2: Build your growth strategy around a loyal and retained customer base
If you are constantly replacing customers you lose, that’s no growth strategy at all. A loyal and retained customer base is comprised of your early-adopters and continuous ambassadors. These folks become the fulcrum for leveraging improvements, new product introductions, enhanced and expanded services and referral business. They are gold. Identify who they are, early on. Make them the focus of your attention over the long haul.
Tip 3: Acknowledge customer growth angst
Your first and/or early customers can become anxious as your business grows. Some early adopters will perceive that you have become “too big and famous” to meet their ongoing needs. Create a strategy for maintaining contact with and reassuring your first customers that your success is founded on their belief in you. Realistically, your growth strategy should include how to transition smaller accounts to other companies better able to meet their needs. Some original customers won’t want to increase their job size to meet your need for a customer base seeking increased capacity and complexity – especially in the case of manufacturers.
Tip 4: Differentiate yourself and your business via continuous customer touches
Build your business on the basis of customer experience: the sum total of what each customer experiences when working with you and your company, over the lifetime of your relationship. You won’t maintain a loyal customer base if you are running around your overcrowded restaurant trying to serve new customers while your original customers wait outside in the rain. If you need to make changes, be transparent. Dialogue with your customers; prepare them for changes you are making. It’s better to offer to transition them to other suppliers, in advance, than to disappoint them with your lack of attention and have them voice their feelings to the community.
Keep these tips in mind as you move forward next quarter to grow your business reach. Focus on customer loyalty and retention by making certain you are able to honor the commitments you’ve made.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, catalyzes revenue-producing business transition, startup growth and professional development, one millimeter at a time. She works with manufacturing and engineering firms and small business entrepreneurships. This post first appeared on the Salesforce Blog and is reprinted with this author’s permission.