A startup business needs a constant supply of new customers to survive. That's why sourcing new customers has to be a daily priority. If you’re not selling, you’re not in business; all you’ve got is a hobby.
But once you do get that customer base going, your next step is to establish a balance between maintaining current customers and scouting out new ones. And, in that regard, customer retention is usually kinder to your bottom line. This is especially true if you convince your current customers to purchase more often and/or make larger purchases.
Next step? When your repeat customers become your friends, you’ve reached startup nirvana. That may sound like a myth, but it’s not. There are ways to nourish your customer base to the point where it brings in constant and steady income that you can take to the bank.
Your core group of customers, in fact, will always be the bedrock of your business, whether you started it just a month ago, or have been at it for 20 years. Never ignore them. Never exploit them. Never take them for granted. And always treat them like the treasure they really are; for, without them, your business may be cast adrift in an extremely cruel and competitive ocean that sinks your dreams without a moment’s hesitation.
Nothing says “I care about your time” to customers more than making their payment options easy and convenient. This is especially true when it comes to paying by credit card. Credit card payments have been standard business procedure for over 30 years now, yet some startups still make it difficult for consumers to make payments via Visa or MasterCard, tacking on extra charges or making customers jump through unnecessary hoops.
The technology is out there right now to let your customers make a credit card payment as easy and fast as greased lightning; if you want to retain them, make it easy for them to pay, and reward them for prompt and timely payments.
Make 'em comfortable.
Edelman has conducted research showing that a customer’s comfort level corresponds with his or her spending level; that is, the more comfortable customers feel with a company, the more money they're likely to spend on its services and products.
As a startup, you probably have a way to go to gain that kind of trust and comfort level from new customers, but if you work at this effort, it can be achieved in a relatively short time.
For starters? Never send them form letters; don’t put them on email lists unless you’re sure they want that to happen (a recent study shows that 33 percent of email newsletters are sent to people who automatically delete them -- a surefire irritant).
And don’t forget customer service. That obvious point needs to be said because there are simply too many companies in existence today that just can’t figure out that treating customers well is good for business. Story after horror story about customer service plasters the news on a daily basis. Don't be one of those stories!
No matter how much time, effort and money you spend on acquiring a new customer, if you don’t have an aggressive follow-up procedure in place, you stand a good chance of losing that customer to a competitor. Remember, there are always competitors waiting just around the corner to take advantage of any impatience or dissatisfaction your customer may have after each interaction with you.
So, make sure you and your staff keep in touch with customers as you grow your business. This is especially important for smaller customers, who so often feel that their account is not being given the attention it deserves. As the British like to say: “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.”
Bottom line: Your passion, ideas and hard work will give you the ability to gain market share and find ways to generate revenue. However, once the money starts coming in, it becomes exponentially easier to keep it coming in, versus finding new ways to replace it once it goes out again.
Speaking strictly economically, then, your customers are your biggest asset. So, take care of them by using the tips above.