In today’s ultra-competitive technology startup market, new customers are hard to come by and can often cost a premium. This makes cost-effective customer acquisition and retention strategies crucial to a new company’s success. But what most startups often overlook is the value of their best, most vocal customers and their ability to help companies acquire new customers.
For a startup, immediately identifying and building relationships with your happiest and most outspoken customers can pay huge dividends. If done correctly, new customers can be acquired through the use of existing client testimonials, referrals and press opportunities.
As the co-founder and CEO of a small media-technology startup that began its journey with a new product and very few customers, I’ve learned a few ways to leverage our existing customers to support our overall customer acquisition effort.
1. Seek out testimonials.
A happy customer is any business’s best spokesperson, but how do you find them? Sometimes people will willingly take the first step of reaching out and thanking you for helping them, but more likely, you have to be proactive to get feedback. It’s important to make yourself available, follow up with clients and create channels for customers to easily reach you with praise and concerns. It also never hurts to just ask.
Adding testimonials to your website and marketing decks is one of the easiest and most effective ways to validate your business -- and drive sales. Once you’ve found a satisfied customer, nurture a workable relationship. Hold one-on-one conversations, offer your own feedback and always make sure you’re providing value to them.
Potential clients don’t want to hear your opinion about your own business. They want to know that someone else in their industry has had success either with the product or with the support you provided. A good testimonial will substantiate your sales pitch, so go out and round up true, fact-filled success stories and share them whenever possible.
2. Use the 'for example' PR strategy.
Similar to how a customer testimonial strengthens a sale’s pitch and marketing deck, using a personal anecdote in your PR pitch can lead to a lot more media coverage. It’s more relatable to readers when they can connect with a human or an example, as opposed to just data or statistics about a product or business. When pitching to media, offer one of your satisfied customers to tell the story for you. It’ll make for a more compelling piece and will appear less self-serving.
Writers are constantly fighting tight deadlines, and they love when an interesting story angle is already coupled with someone who can provide an interesting, third party perspective. “For example” PR can improve pitches, increase coverage and visibility and help to further improve relationships with corporate customers. Very few corporate clients will object to free PR.
3. Ask for referrals.
In today’s digital world, we are constantly being bombarded by advertisements and sales pitches. The flood of irrelevant information and recommendations has caused people to skim over most of what they see and read. The sales pitches they do absorb have a hint of skepticism to them. One way around this disconnect is through referrals.
It’s no secret that people feel more comfortable doing business with someone they know -- or at least have a personal connection with. Work hard to ensure your customers are satisfied. Once you’ve provided value to your customers, simply ask them if they know of anyone else that could benefit from your services. If you can get preexisting customers to vouch for your business, recommend you to colleagues or provide you with potential targets, your startup will jump to the next level.
The secret sauce to successful small business has been the same for hundreds of years. Entrepreneurs and startup leaders have to build out a network and form personal relationships that they can lean on. A huge customer base doesn’t appear over night. You have to start small, add a human element to your business and leverage the people who will vouch for your product.