We’ve worked hard to grow our small businesses from the ground up, but sowing the right seeds for strategic customer growth never really stops, no matter how mature your company is. Moreover, cultivating the right type of customer – one that brings in good word of mouth, positive online reviews, and repeat sale conversions – is also a daily practice of smart customer interaction and thoughtful development outreach. Sound too overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be! Plant the seeds with these quick and simple steps and watch your business grow with customers that were worth waiting for.

1. Determine your target market.
Truly knowing your customers is the only way you’ll be able to properly reach out to them. See “6 Tips to Determine Your Target Market” for help. Remember, don’t be afraid to zoom in on the niche group that creates your base. Too many businesses try to be all things to all people, and it just sets them up for failure.

2. Offer top-notch customer service.
Customer service once was its own division within an organization. Nowadays, it needs to be integrated into the fabric of your business. Everyone on staff, in fact, has to provide customer service in one form or another. Many experts suggest investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to keep track of your interactions. Regardless, you have to anticipate problems, respond to feedback, and seek consultation from your customers.

3. Engage with customers.
Customers now want you to be part of their lives. Many startup gurus suggest replying to every comment on social media, blogs, and review sites. You should take advantage of the ability technology has given to frequently survey customers about what they need. “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service sells itself,” management guru Peter Drucker once said. So, make creating positive customer-company relations your mission.

4. Do some hand-holding at the start of your relationship.
When courting potential customers and those who have only recently signed up for whatever you’re selling, you have to guide them through the process. It’s important to stay close to them and respond swiftly if they have any concerns. While you shouldn’t forget about them after their initial interactions, you need to make a good first impression and win their trust to keep them as customers for the long haul.

A smart idea that many startups have implemented is sending automated emails as soon as someone visits your site to thank the customer for his interest and find out what he’s looking for. Then, respond and try to meet his needs.

5. Try to win back lost customers.
Maybe you’ve done some online shopping and put something in your shopping cart only to take it out later. Then, the vendor gets in touch to find out why. You should be taking similar action when you see a customer drop off. Ask why and create a dialogue. Figure out what you can do to make not only a sale but a satisfied customer of this person.

Ultimately, the success of your business depends on your relationships with individual customers. After all, as entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.”

How do you grow your customer base? Share your tips in the comments below.

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