Growing your business’ customer base

By Jameel Lalji

In a recent blog post entitled, Barriers and concerns facing Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses, we took a closer look at the results of a recent survey of small business owners in Canada. In that post, we looked at ways to address the number-one concern, which was cash flow.

However, “attracting and generating net new business” was a very close second in the survey, and deserves some attention.

Our respondents mentioned again and again, that they wanted to hear about ideas and strategies to acquire new customers and sell more to existing customers.

Before you set out to acquire new customers, the most important thing you need to do is ensure that your current customers are happy.

You need to get a sense of whether your services are meeting your current clients’ needs. First impressions are lasting -- marketing your business to new clients before you have your approach and customer service refined is a recipe for disaster. A negative experience can have a lasting impact on future business as customers are much more likely to communicate a bad experience to their friends and family.

By reaching out to your existing base, you can get a good sense of what you’re doing well and what areas you need to improve before you try to expand your customer base.

As well, you need to remember that your existing customers can be your best brand ambassadors. If you do everything you can to make sure you have a happy client, you have a warm lead you can use to sell other products and services to. Nurture these relationships and you will have someone who can refer you to their network and lead to future business for you.

Once you have your ‘house in order,’ in addition to referrals, a very impactful way to raise awareness about your business and to generate revenue is to network.

Attending community and local chamber of commerce events can help you reach other business owners who may be interested in your products and services, or might be able to provide you with ideas and tips to reach other people who might be interested in your products and services.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the focus of your initial networking efforts needs to be cultivating relationships and not selling. No one wants to be the focus of a sales pitch at a networking event. Focus on getting yourself and your business known by engaging in discussion with other business owners. Don’t monopolize conversation and remember that it’s more impactful to have a few meaningful conversations and discussions than many fleeting ones.

Once you have put in the effort to build a relationship, it will be easy to transition into providing your products and services to other businesses and, ideally, generate referrals to people in their network.

Good luck!

Don’t forget that today is the last day to enter our contest to win 1 of 3 copies of Quickbooks Pro 2011, valued at 199.99 each!

All you have to do is let us know what your top concern is as a business owner in Canada.  Click here to enter!

Jameel is an Innovation & Business Development Consultant at Staples Canada

By Adam

February 04, 2011