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2 Valuable Tips To Help Grow Your Customer Base

Bukie Iwajomo

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customerYou’ve thought up a great business idea, finally crossed the hurdle of raising the start-up capital, and now you’re in business. Wow, that’s good news.

Five months later, you’ve got a handful of customers knocking on your door. You make small profit, enough to settle a few bills. Then, nothing! No new customers, no orders, no inquiries, nothing. You can’t afford to pay for any marketing services.  Gradually, your optimism begins to fade, and you consider giving up on the business.

Hold up! Don’t give up on the business just yet, try these two tips and watch your business grow. The best part? They will cost you next to nothing.

Define Your Niche

This is what sets you apart from other professionals in your field. I cannot overemphasize this- you cannot be everything to everyone.  Carve a niche for yourself.  I listened to a radio interview recently. The guest was a baker specializing in cupcakes. That’s all she bakes – cupcakes. She told the radio host that when she started , people kept persuading her to bake regular size cakes as well, but she refused. She wanted to carve a niche for herself and that’s what she did. She bakes cupcakes, only cupcakes and she is booked round the clock. She says 24 hours are not even enough to work on all the orders she gets on a daily basis. I can almost hear you say “wow.” You would have thought her business would not survive baking only cupcakes, right? How many people want cupcakes anyway? You don’t celebrate your birthdays/anniversaries/weddings with cupcakes. She won’t get regular orders for cupcakes.

Guess what? You’re wrong.

You know why? Because she decided to focus on one segment of her field, and she did it excellently. She made her name synonymous with cupcakes. So when you think cupcakes, you think her business. The market is saturated with all-kinds-of-cakes bakers. So when someone says I’m a cake baker,  you probably don’t give it a second’s thought. But when she says “I bake cupcakes,” it sounds new, different. It makes you ask ‘just cupcakes?’ ‘why cupcakes?’ And next time you think cupcakes, you remember her. You’d rather use the services of one who bakes cupcakes on the regular, than one who does 12 inches cakes today, pies tomorrow, and cupcakes sometimes.

Think about it, if you had a life-threatening medical condition and wanted to see a doctor, would you rather talk to a specialist or to a general practitioner? Would you prefer to talk to a general practitioner who spends his daily work hours attending to patients with different kinds of ailments-  cough, flu, arthritis, diabetes,  cancer, rheumatism, and all?. Or would you rather talk to the specialist who has a wealth of experience in that field, as his work hours are spent focused on only patients with that particular medical condition?  If you had fertility issues would you rather go to a general hospital, or to a  fertility clinic?

When you have successfully made a name for yourself in that particular niche, you can decide to move into another segment of your industry and do a great job with that as well. When you have loyal customers who trust you and are confident in your excellence in what you do, it is easier for them to trust that you can be equally excellent at something else within your field. But it’s harder to convince anyone when you first present yourself as a jack of all trades.  When  you do, you know how they will perceive you– As a master of none!

Ask For Referrals

You’ve built a community of satisfied customers. Now, It’s time to leverage this for more customers. Word-of-mouth (referrals), they say, is the best form of marketing, and the cheapest. One thing many business owners fail to do is to actually ask their customers for referrals.  They believe that if they do a great job for their customers, and they are satisfied, the customer will refer their business to others without their (business owner’s) prompting. Yes this is true. But you must take this into your own hands, it’s your responsibility to get more customers for your business. By requesting for referrals, you could triple, or even quadruple the number of customers you get from referrals alone.

How To

Call up customers you have served in the past. When you do, don’t jump right into asking for referrals from them. Start by asking how they/their businesses are doing. Appreciate them for purchasing from you. Ask about the last service you provided for them, did they have any issues with it. If it’s a product they bought, ask about the quality. Did it serve them well, did it fulfill their expectations? Is there anything else you can do to help them enjoy the benefits of the products even more?

If the customer is happy with your product/service, you can go ahead and ask  if he knows anyone to whom your product/service will be beneficial. Get their names and contacts. Ask the best way to get in touch with them.  By the time you’ve called on all the customers you can reach, you will have a long list of new leads, prospects for your business.

When you call on these referrals, start by telling them Mr Xyz  asked you to call them. Hearing that you are from someone they know, like, and trust gives you some ground. Knowing that person trusts you enough to give you their contacts also gives you some credibility.

Remember to always follow up leads on time. As soon as you are given the contact, follow up. Don’t let the lead go cold, or else, you’ll realize weeks or months later that you actually never got round to making that call, and hence, lost a customer you could have had.

Show appreciation to your customers, go the extra mile to send a thank you gift for referrals. It does not have to cost a fortune. You have made some money from their referrals, while not spend a tiny fraction of that on getting a gift that will show your appreciation. Make the customer even more willing to send your more referrals.

You can build a continuous cycle of customers just by asking for referrals from existing customers. First, serve your customers so well that they are happy and confident with your services, then, ask for the opportunity to be of service to their friends and loved ones.

No business can survive without a steady roll of customers. To keep your business breathing, you must be able to attract, keep, and multiply customers. Create a niche for yourself and people will find you. Give them excellent customer service and they will keep coming back, and will tell their friends. Ask for referrals and they will open the doors for even more customers to your business.

Photo Credit: blackenterprise.com

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Like you, sales and marketing coach and consultant Bukola Olayemi has seen many businesses fail in their ultimate aim of selling their products/services. She works with small-businesses and entrepreneurs that are stuck in this low-sales maze, helping them get more customers and make bigger sales, faster than they thought possible.

Bukie Iwajomo is the chief strategist at SalesForward Consulting. She works with start-ups, personal and consumers brands helping them leverage tech to grow their businesses and build badass brands. Follow her daily marketing tips on Instagram. You can also connect with her on Facebook

25 Comments

  1. iamfascinating

    May 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    great advice, thanks!

  2. Damilola

    May 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    thanks for this

  3. OmogeNaija

    May 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Quite in time! Sometimes, we know these things but need to be reminded.
    I’m just starting out actually, so, right now, I’m trying my hands on all kinds of BAGS, from HANDBAGS, to MAKE-UP PURSES (souvenir) , to LAPTOP POUCHES with both fabrics and leather.
    With time, I intend to carve a niche.
    Once again, this article is timely, big ups!

    • ME

      May 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      U wud av put link to your products….

  4. Bukky

    May 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Get the necessary skills in any of these event decoration, small chops and cocktail drinks, make-up and gele at a discount click BN Bargains for details..
    http://www.bellanaija.com/2013/05/08/bn-bargains-get-discounts-off-booths-at-wed-expo-abuja-2013-cakes-from-nuts-about-cakes/

  5. Tae

    May 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Very good tips, thanks

  6. Paige

    May 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Wow… Thanks

  7. Precious

    May 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Carv a niche ….ask for referals

  8. Patie

    May 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you so much, I got what I was looking for.

  9. Hilda

    May 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Great..BN.. Any chance Bukola Olayemi has a facebook page?

  10. Annie

    May 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks alot, thank you, i am definitely going to try it out.. 🙂

  11. Gracie

    May 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for this tips, you just helped place a sister on reminder.

  12. Jo!

    May 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    And treat customers right!
    Getting a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing customer, don’t focus on getting customers alone, work on satisfying your customers and retaining them. Let your old customers always want to come back, they will refer you without you asking!

  13. Angie

    May 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed this. Thanks Jo! for tip number 3
    1. Carve a niche
    2. Referrals
    3. Customer satisfaction

  14. Olulu

    May 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Hmm, very insightful.

  15. Joan

    May 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Hold on….So it’s appropriate to call on a potential customer (referred to you by a past customer) without them seeking for you first? Someone mentioned this to me but I thought of it a bit too forward. But seeing it here corroborates the suggestion….Hmm or is it just a Nigerian thing? lol!

  16. Chinenye

    May 10, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Thank you so much for this. I started a business (making jewelries, accessories, bags, footwear etc using ankara) last year and I definitely need to apply this tips. I’ve bookmarked this page so I can always remind myself. God bless you Bukola Olayemi & Bella Naija.

    Do check out my Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Revamp-Definition/556497851043075. Also participate in our May giveaway *wink*

  17. Omazee Events and bridals

    May 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    thank you so much, i just got into the decoration business and bridals, started late last year, and i can boldly say this has helped a lot especially “the carve a niche” part, lovely reminder and i must also give it to BN cos my inspiration came from here some years back 🙂

  18. fuzy

    May 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    thank you so much, i just got into the decoration business and bridals, started late last year, and i can boldly say this has helped a lot especially “the carve a niche” part, lovely reminder and i must also give it to BN cos my inspiration came from here some years back 🙂

  19. Larry Blex

    May 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Nice 1!

  20. Couture By Makioba

    May 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Very useful tips… Thanks

  21. Kome Olori Agulonu

    May 14, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Very Insightful Bukola especially the bit about seeing a specialist doctor not a generalist. 2 weeks ago, I had a similar debate about why so many professionals prefer to have 10 years experience in 10 different departments instead of specializing in one area. I have observed this happens a lot in Nigeria. Just check out the woman who sells tomatoes also sells kerosene and if you want, firewood. The reason my co-debaters gave was that generalists get a better chance of finding a job in today’s market. I concede that this may have been the way years ago, but things are changing and we all should be aware. So thank you for sharing this.

  22. Efemuaye Enajite

    May 17, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This is very timely for me (just seeing it today). I’ll be going into business for myself very soon and one area of concern has always been how to get and keep customers. Thank you for these great tips.

  23. Loolah Novia Designs

    June 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Am Seeing this post late, bt trust me it is nevee too late to apply this into my business. Thanks bukola.

  24. Tony Smith

    July 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you so much for great post.I think every small business owner must read this for increasing their online presence & growing their business.

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