How to use your existing customers to grow your business

Hannah Brice Written by
Hannah Brice

Far too often, businesses see customers as two things. Someone who has bought from them and someone who may buy from them again. The fact is that customers  can provide you with far more than the contents of their wallets. They can help you attract new customers, and lots of them. Here’s how to use your existing customers to grow your business.

Referrals

If a customer has bought from you and become a happy user of your product/service, then get them to refer you to others.

Add share buttons to your purchase pages and emails, and reward them with discounts on future purchases if they recommend your business to friends, family or colleagues. They may recommend you without the incentive but by giving them the tools to refer you easily, you’re more likely to see a new customer from it.

There are even ways to get your customers to refer you without it costing you anything. Hotmail, for example, famously added a link to the bottom of ALL of their users emails that said “PS: I Love You. Get Your Free Email at Hotmail. It got attention and new sign ups skyrocketed.

Other brands actually MAKE money from it.

Email signature example with referral ad

Wisestamp, above, offers a free email signature for users, but the downside is that it includes an ad for their service. If users upgrade to the paid-for service, the ad is removed.

Want to know how to enable your website and emails to do campaigns like this? Contact us for help.

Brand ambassadors

Why not extend your reach on social media by getting your customers to endorse your products on their own feeds?

Similar to a referral programme, you can reward them for promoting what you do. But often, customers will settle for a status symbol like a title or badge they can add to their profile pic. It becomes their “job” to defend you against any criticism and promote you in forums that brands can’t access.

There’s an art to picking the right individuals to do this though.

You should look at your most loyal customers – the ones that love you – and from that group, choose those that have influence online, and represent the same values as your brand. You should also review their online activity for offensive or inappropriate remarks.

For a great guide on where to find ambassador candidates, try this from ConstantContact.

Let them answer queries

If your customer support team is thin on the ground, you can always call on your most trusted customers to help out. Get them to answer any queries other users might have. You could even help them pull together video tutorials or blog posts that they can share. And this is all part of building a community.

Get their feedback on how to make things better

You may think your product or service is perfect but your opinion is less important than those of your customers. Gather their feedback on their experience and you’ll not only gain some incredible tips on how to improve your business but you’ll also make the customers you survey feel important.

There are a number of ways you can capture feedback from customers:

  1. Set up a live chat option on your site which is triggered when someone makes a purchase or is about to leave your website. A good option is Zendesk.
  2. Build a Feedback page on your site and then place a link to it in a prominent place on every page.
  3. Build an online survey using a company such as SurveyMonkey and ask a proportion of your customers to complete it, either via an email shot, or a pop up on your homepage.
  4. If you have fewer than 30 regular customers, it should be easy enough to call them to find out how they feel about your product/service. Why not even meet them face-to-face over lunch to make them feel even more important? If you have a lot more than 30, take a sample to call.
  5. Capture all positive and negative mentions of your brand on social media. If you’re able to have a private conversation with each one, even better, as you’ll get more insight on what you did well/badly and how you can do it better.
  6. Run a focus group with a small selection of customers and prospects. Invite them to a specific location, reward them for their time and if you can, get an independent researcher to run the session. They’ll know how to get the most from the session (and the biggest return for your investment).

Multi-level marketing

This has to be the ultimate step in how to use your existing customers to grow your business. Take referrals a step further and build a sales force of your customers. Provide them with the materials and sales tools to promote your products and then reward them with commission for every sale made. Avon and Arbonne are global billion dollar businesses because of this model.

Get them to test new products

Bringing a new product to market can require a huge investment in time and money so wouldn’t it be good to trial it out with some customers before it’s officially launched to the world?

Pick a group of customers to test the product and provide detailed feedback. That could identify some big issues and save you a lot of embarrassment.  You could also test the product alongside some of your competitors’ and learn how to take advantage of their weaknesses.

Marketing and PR help

The press love a case study, and having proof on your website that your business works will help convert sales too. When using the methods above, if you identify any extremely happy customers, ask for their permission to post their comments online. You can also get their consent to be put forward to the media as a case study as part of a PR campaign. As this will most likely require quite a bit of their time for interviews and photos, it’s wise to reward them with some vouchers.

So there you have it. A full guide on how to use your existing customers to grow your business.

Go forth and try it.

Hannah is the Managing Director of Upmarketry.