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In a Small Business, Building a Customer Base is the Lifeblood of Success...and Everybody Has a Role, Including the Customer!

small-business-blog-customers-success-2Most folks know how important revenue is to the success of a small business. That's why the sales function is so critical in the early going. But few small business owners understand how important building and maintaining the customer base, responsible for that revenue, really is. And, that it should be the number one objective of every single person in the company.

But while most small businesses are focused on the sales they generate, few focus enough on the customer base that represents those sales. It is the customer base that is the lifeblood of the company's future success. The relationship you build with that base is how you grow...or not.

Keys to building a customer base

That said, what are the key elements that you, the entrepreneur, need to consider in building and growing a customer base?

A Customer Today is Success Tomorrow

While the customer is a source of revenue from their initial purchase, they have the potential for additional revenue from new sales in the future. It's way easier and more profitable to sell into an existing customer situation than develop a new one. So that customer relationship can almost be viewed as a distribution channel for future revenue. And it depends, exclusively, on how well that relationship is nurtured.

Building a Customer Base is a Team Effort

In a small business, getting a new customer often involves several functions within the company beyond just sales. Depending on the product or service, somebody has to deliver it. Accounting has to bill for it (and, of course, collect). Customer service or the help desk has to support it. And so on. But do each of these functional areas understand their role in the sale? That when the customer buys the company's product or service, they are "buying" the company that underpins that product or service...or they wouldn't buy? All employees should be aware that they are part of a team in supporting a sale to a customer and get them to embrace their role.

The Personal Touch

Every prospective or current customer wants and expects a live, friendly person ready to help them when they call you. The first voice they hear, whether it's the first time they call or the hundredth time should represent how you want your company presented. While it's more efficient, hearing some "by rote" greeting from an automated answering system ain't exactly providing a good first impression. But that's where the building a customer base begins.

Maniacally Responsive

Once the customer is on board, how well their needs or requirements, after the sale, are addressed predicts the likelihood they will remain a customer and purchase additional products or services from the company. And they, too, are important in building the customer base of which they are a part, because if they are happy, they tell other potential customers about their experience with your company.

How responsive is your company to your customers? Ever try posing as a customer, calling either the main telephone number or customer service five minutes before you open or five minutes before you close with an urgent request? Or an order? Every call from a customer or prospect should be treated like it's potential revenue, with every employee focused on going "the extra mile."

Partner vs. Vendor

Do you collaborate with customers? Do you truly listen to them? Do they consider you a partner or a simply another vendor? Are you a trusted advisor or still bidding on jobs as they come up? Are you inside their decision-making circle, or outside waiting for a call as to your fate?

And, internally, are customers viewed as simply a bother? Does your staff have the old railroad mentality - "we could run this railroad better if it wasn't for all these customers?" Help them understand, the customer base pays their salaries.

Social Media as "the Voice of the Company"

Use social media not only to make connections to new prospects, but to create "your voice" within your customer base. Whatever you use, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., post messages that are of value to your customer and prospect base and consistently drive home how you want your company perceived. Make sure you as the owner have a hand in or author a lot of those messages. Your company should have your voice.

Generating revenue is important to the success of any small business. But building the customer base from that revenue is the key to that success, long-term...and it should be the #1 objective of everybody in the company!

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!



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