As your business grows, you may find that it becomes harder and harder to be as proactive about your business’ growth as you’d like. Keeping up with the day-to-day and managing the curveballs you encounter on a regular basis often distract and take time away from the long-term strategy of running your business. This is a common theme among small business owners and a pretty normal feeling for a business that’s growing, but now is the time to take a step back and figure out how to manage your growth in a way that will let you control and steer the direction of where your company is going.

For most service-based businesses, the customer relationship is one of the most important components of your success. Knowing that, it’s time to take a look at your customer base from a strategic standpoint, and use that information to inform how you will grow your customer base in the future.

3 Steps to Smarter Customer Acquisition and Retention

Know Your Best Customers

When you think of your best customer some of the people you work with regularly might come to mind automatically. That’s great and a fine place to start. But let’s consider why those people came to your mind first. Are they just nice people? Are they easy to work with? Do they use purchase your services and products frequently? Do they pay on time?

Did you find common themes among these customers? If you did, start to pull those themes together to build a profile for what your “ideal” customer looks like. This will help you focus marketing campaigns and retention efforts around the people that are the best fit for your business.

How to:

Use your database – If you use a customer database, this might be the most powerful tool you have at your disposal. Use the data to sort customers based on time with your organization, monthly transaction volumes, and other factors that might identify your best customers.

Group and organize – As you start thinking about your customer base and who your best customers are, start grouping those customers together based on shared traits (industry, location, type of products/services purchased). This will help you better understand how your total customer base breaks down.

Listen to Your Customers

You might occasionally receive unsolicited feedback from your customers, or maybe you’ll receive a review online that gives you some indication of what customers think you’re doing well or could be doing better. This is important feedback that you should take note of, especially if you hear the same feedback repeated. But this is a pretty reactive way to get feedback from your customers.

By taking a proactive approach to getting feedback will not only be appreciated by your customers but will also help you better serve your customers and grow your business.

How to:

Send out surveys/comment cards – Give your customers an easy way to share feedback with you. For example: use your database to pull a list of customers all hitting their one-month, three-month or one-year anniversary with your business and send them a nice email asking them for feedback and thanking them for their business.

Schedule time – One way to get more proactive about getting feedback is to block time on your calendar that is reserved for customer outreach. Connect with new customers through email or give them a call and check in on their experience.


Make a Plan to get new Customers

Now that you have a better understanding of who your best customer is, it’s time to make a plan to acquire more like them. Think about where you engage best with that current customer (online, in your community, etc) and what major challenge your business solves for them. These two factors are great starting place for thinking about your marketing and acquisition strategy.

Next, you’ll want to determine your goals (how many new customers do you want to acquire in the next year?) And build a plan around those goals and who you understand your target audience to be. The most important thing you can put into place at this point is a consistent outreach for new customers. Mark it in your calendar and even if it’s only one activity make sure you do it every single month.

How to:

Referral Program – If you have some great customers already, then ask them for referrals to other people like them that might also benefit from what your business has to offer. If you can, incentivize your customers to refer others with a discount or gift card that they receive when their referral buys from you for the first time.

Helpful Content – Many service-based business owners are experts in a particular area. Sharing this expertise in the form of practical tips or helpful resources that your potential customers will find useful (on a blog, in video, etc) is a great way to reach a broader audience and start building a relationship with future customers.

New Customer Coupon/ Promotions – By being more proactive about your acquisition plan, you’ll also be able to be more proactive about budgeting for special coupons or promotions to offer first-time customers. Offering a deal can oftentimes be the difference maker in taking someone from on the fence to signing up as a new customer.

The sooner you start thinking about proactively retaining and acquiring new customers the sooner you’ll be able to strategically grow your business in the vision you imagined when you started your business.

Want more tips on growing your business? Get advice from other business owners in our Growing up a Business guide.