by Dan Purvis
Growing a business is not an easy task. You have to find the right balance of investment in tools to help you grow and investment in time to ensure success. It is very easy to waste hour after hour on in-person networking or social media without any sign of business growth. It is equally possible to invest heavily in paid advertising such as PPC without any return on investment.
Despite growth being difficult, UK businesses have sustained some level of growth since 2000, although we should take note of the first fall in the business population since 2000. Whether you’re frustrated with your business growth efforts or not, you may be missing out on some of the more obvious ways of sparking significant and accelerated growth.
Is your business proactive in following up with existing or former customers? Existing customers could be your gateway to significant business growth. Rather than focusing on simply selling to them, smart business owners are working to position existing customers as advocates, champions of your brand willing to share and recommend their thoughts and feelings about your products or services.
A strong customer advocacy strategy embedded within your content marketing strategy can combine with your digital marketing efforts, as well as leveraging the power of MarTech. This creates a comprehensive and effective system that allows you to speed up the customer journey and sales cycle, while still keeping your customers engaged and interested. Both time and money can be saved simply by tapping into those individuals who are already engaged with your brand.
Let’s take a look at four ways you can tap into the power of your customer base and grow your business.
Many businesses conduct almost all their marketing online but there is a huge opportunity being missed that should be part of all successful customer marketing programs. Presenting at trade shows, exhibitions and conferences alongside a loyal customer is a growing trend and one which can really create a story and buzz around your brand.
Presenting with a satisfied customer is a great way to showcase how you’ve helped them overcome a challenge or succeed in a campaign. It’s also an implicit way to demonstrate how your brand fosters and nurtures customer relations. After all, if the service you provide (or the relationship itself) is poor, then the customer wouldn’t be stood there with you!
Public speaking opportunities are also a way to enhance your brand awareness directly with the customer you’re speaking alongside but also with others. What’s more, delegates are much more likely to attend a workshop or presentation if there’s something to be learned about the customer journey FROM the customer, and not just the brand. It’s a potent opportunity to generate leads and prospects.
In a previous role as Director, Global PR, Social Media and Comms, I co-presented with a spokesperson from a customer that everyone has heard of: Paddington Bear. I dare say that it would not have been a packed and overflowing audience had it just been me talking about social media trends.
Indeed, the Q&A afterward focused mostly on how the Paddington Bear brand had accelerated its engagement, digital community size, and click-throughs from social media. The Q&A alone provided the most valuable part of the presentation for my company – the customer explained how we’d played a key role in their social media evolution, and we received leads off the back of this!
Bringing your customers to the live platform shows the wider audience just how committed and strong your customer relationships are. This, in turn, helps to reinforce reputation and credibility, as a third party (your customer) can back up your claims about your business.
What do you do when looking into a new company, product or service? You look for impartial reviews. Key factors in the buying process are finding out what other people think about a product or service and discovering what experiences with a brand are like – whether those reviews are good or bad.
Most businesses find themselves lucky in that they will receive some spontaneous customer reviews but they rarely come through in a constant stream. While you certainly can’t force customers to leave reviews, you can ask and hope it delivers results.
Dependent on your customer relationship you may choose to ask them in person, you may ask via email, or you may pop a review request through on Skype, a similar channel or even as an additional line in your invoice. There are many original and creative ways you can request reviews and as old age goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
There’s a really useful and comprehensive breakdown of seven golden rules to gain more customer reviews that I encourage you to check out. They’re for the niche industry of dentistry, but the rules can be applied to pretty much any business in any line of work. Reviews can also give your business a boost with the search engines.
Google reviews appear in the Google Knowledge Graph which sits to the right of the search results, publicly displaying exactly how popular (or unpopular) your business is with customers. The higher the volume of high ratings you have, the more credibility your business gains.
There aren’t many more tried and tested methods than the classic testimonial – the trusted case study. Even before online marketing existed, businesses would display and share testimonials from their customers on-site in their businesses. Testimonials are quick, to the point, and highly effective. Testimonials can be single lines or they can be extremely in-depth.
You may choose to have a simple-but-effective dedicated Testimonials page on your website or you may share them liberally across your online channels incorporating them into product or service descriptions and more. Case studies and spotlights on companies you partner with are an extended form of the standard testimonial too.
Testimonials can also be great content for blog posts and articles, giving you more of a chance to explore the depths of the comments and explore the positives of your relationships with your individual customers. Testimonials can even be in video format as CodeAcademy show with their “Stories”, while Bluebeam offers a mixture of video, written and individual customer stories in their “In action” section, which again stands out as something a little different. Getting creative with your testimonials can help to draw in new customers as well as making your existing customers even more proud and likely to advocate their commitment to your brand.
Webinars, having fallen out of favor a few years or so back, are rightly seen as a key marketing and sales tool for many businesses looking to keep their existing customers engaged and generate more leads as well. Their value continues to grow and with the right planning and promotion, they can be a hugely valuable source ROI vehicle. Full analysis and effective follow-ups with a targeted focus is also essential to get the desired ROI from webinars.
Webinars are also another effective channel for co-speaking with your customers. Bringing one or two onboard for a webinar or two can strengthen customer relations while also providing a lot of content to re-use and re-purpose. It gives you a further chance to show exactly how you help your customers and the benefits your product or service has offered to them. The period after a webinar is almost as important as the “event” itself as you have to be ready with follow-ups and give both yourself and your co-speaking customer the chance to respond quickly and insightfully.
Don’t forget when promoting your webinar to ask your co-speaking customer to share via social media, email and pigeon post too, to further amplify your reach. Webinars also give you the chance to link back to your best testimonials as they can simply be slotted (with relevance) into the deck. You need a true end-to-end plan for a successful webinar.
Your existing customers can be your biggest advocates and most important fans. Even a small number of truly dedicated customers will soon lead to business growth, especially if you make the most of them.