by Julie Niehoff
Everybody’s going organic these days. And when we say everybody, we mean small business owners. When we say organic, we’re referring to how they grow their business through existing customers.
Since you already know that it’s easier and cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones, the big question is how exactly do you grow your business through those satisfied customers?
Well, it goes beyond offering a great product and outstanding customer service. Whether you’re selling $10 widgets or $100,000 sports cars, growing your business comes down to your ability to add value to every customer interaction. Yes, every single one. And it’s easier than you think if you follow the following guidelines.
Planting the seeds
Define your own value and the benefits customers can expect from your business. Start by asking yourself the following three questions:
- Who are my customers and why?
- What problem(s) do they have that I can solve?
- How can my product or service solve their problem?
Next you’ll want to ask a few long-standing customers why they choose you over the competition. The answers to all of these questions will define what makes your business unique so that you can stand out among the competition.
Freely share your expertise
A common myth is that the minute you share your expertise, customers will no longer call you. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since you’ve built up years of experience in your field, customers will recognize this and continue to turn to you as an expert resource. As for those do-it-yourselfers, it doesn’t take long before they learn that they really can’t do it on their own.
Remember that when you share your knowledge, you create opportunities to demonstrate your skills, build trust, and increase word-of-mouth marketing.
Reaping what you sow
With the foundation for organic growth firmly in place, your next step is to provide free and helpful information to your customers. You want to do this in a way that inspires them to share it with their friends in conversation and via email and social media.
Here are seven ways to do that:
- Proactively answer customers’ most frequently asked questions. Post popular questions and answers on your website, in your newsletter or on social media. Since helpful tips quickly circulate online, this keeps you top of mind for customers while boosting social media followers, email subscribers and leads.
- Demonstrate the ways your products and services make a difference in your customers’ lives. Whether it’s saving them time or money, for example, focus on the customers’ benefits as opposed to solely promoting the product itself.
- Share interesting and fun facts about your industry that people typically don’t know. Some of the knowledge you take for granted is often considered enlightening by those who don’t live and breathe your business.
- Have a three-dimensional online presence that highlights your business, your customers’ satisfaction, and your human side. Think of it this way: When customers are comparing businesses, they are more likely to choose the company that has a website showing who they are, along with free and helpful information, as well as positive reviews on places like Yelp.
- Offer free workshops, seminars, and webinars. For example, a cooking class or workshop on gardening tips is another way to demonstrate your expertise while providing attendees with valuable information. It will also trigger memories of your business the next time they cook or are working in the yard. And when they need to buy supplies, they’re more likely to come to you.
- Connect with your connectors. You’ve heard the adage that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. You’ve also probably heard of the best-selling business book “The Tipping Point.” In it, author Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “connectors.” They’re the people who have a knack for making friends and acquaintances and really do know everybody in town. Building strong alliances with the connectors who are within that 20 percent of your most active customer base can do wonders for driving new business. To uncover the connectors, present a special offer to that vibrant 20 percent that rewards them for each referral.
- Send personal thank you notes to see how that new barbecue grill is working out, if the flowers were well received, or to simply thank a customer for a referral.
You may have noticed that none of these recommendations include overt promotions. That’s because when products and services can be easily obtained, the ability to provide value is the key differentiator in growing your business. And when you consistently add value, customers buy more, buy more often, and are more apt to refer their friends.