Your people. Your product. How you promote it.

These are all key parts of any growth framework, but there’s another element to growth that’s often sold short: the customer.

Even today, many companies are so laser-focused on customer acquisition that they neglect to take care of their existing customers.

They’re losing out. Big time.

Happy customers that feel valued bring you new customers. They’re also a priceless source of information that can help you further optimize your growth framework.

Here’s how to create a growth framework that’s driven by your business’s greatest asset – your customers.

The 5 C’s of the C Factor

There are many ways to put the customer at the forefront of a growth framework. I do it using the 5 C’s of the C factor:

  • Customer experience
  • Communication
  • Content
  • Community
  • Customer advocacy

Let’s run through what they mean, and how you can put them into practice as part of your own growth framework.

1. Optimize the Customer Experience

Optimizing your customer experience isn’t something that’s “nice to do,” if you happen to have the time and resources to do it. Optimizing your customer experience is essential. In fact, a study by Walker indicated that by 2020, customer experience will have “overtaken both price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

This is why consumers will pay more for better customer service, and why improving your customer experience should be an ongoing objective that plays a central role in growing your brand.

So how can you do this?

Start by implementing an onboarding process that serves to optimize the first 60 seconds of each customer’s experience with your product. Ensure customers get a “win” within that time frame.

To do this, look at what customers see after they convert. Is it clear what they need to do next? Is it easy for them to do it? Make absolutely sure that new customers know what they should be doing next and that they realize the value of your product as quickly as possible.

From there you can look at expanding your onboarding process. Ensure customers who make it past the 60-second mark have the information and support they need to maximize the value they get from your product. Make sure they know they can contact you for help. Better yet, offer concierge onboarding (where you work one-on-one with customers to get them started).

2. Communicate

In other words – talk to your customers. This should go beyond onboarding and extend to relationship building. Make it your mission to not just communicate with your customers, but to actually connect with as many of them as you can.

Check in with new customers the moment they sign up. Ask them what problems they face day-to-day, and what they want to get out of using your product. Provide them with the tools and info they need to overcome their pain points and get the best from your product, and – once again – make damn sure they know that you’re available should they need anything else.

But don’t stop there.

Implement a schedule for checking in periodically with existing customers.

This shows that you genuinely care about helping your customers succeed. Better yet, it prompts inactive customers to return, and customers who might be struggling to pipe up and ask questions (a heck of a lot of people won’t speak up unless directly asked – they will simply stop using your product).

There are no set rules about how often you should check in, but it makes sense to contact new customers relatively frequently, and reduce the regularity of communications once they’ve settled in (I tend to find that every 90 days is about right).

3. Create Content

Say the word “content” (in a digital context) and many people visualize things like web copy or content created with the goal of attaining links.

These are both valid forms of content that tend to form part of any effective digital marketing campaign. But there’s another type of content that brands often overlook in favor of the former – customer-centric content. That’s content that’s designed primarily for the purpose of helping your customers.

Creating content of this nature entails revisiting your customers’ pain points and using your findings to inform the subjects you cover.

The content itself might come in the shape of blog posts, illustrated guides, or video (or, in many cases, a mix of all three). Regardless of the type of content, the key point is that it serves to help make your customers’ lives easier – whether that’s directly via your product, or in another element of their professional lives.

To maximize the value this content delivers, you can (and should) leverage keyword research to optimize it for better performance in the SERPs, link to it in drip campaigns, and distribute it to customers as part of your onboarding process.

4. Create a Community

Communities help you engage your customers and offer a platform for them to engage with each other. An active community can even take some of the weight off your shoulders when it comes to troubleshooting problems, since your best customers may well take on some of the hard work.

Saying that, it pays to incentivize engagement. Decide how you’ll measure a customer’s value in the community (usually a mix of frequency of activity and a voting or scoring system), and what you’ll offer as a reward (disco5unts or free upgrades are logical choices).

Make sure you’re taking steps to encourage new customers to join and engage with the community. Incorporate this into your onboarding process and push the benefits of using it to interact with other customers.

Another point to consider is the platform you use. Obvious choices include Facebook, Influitive, Salesforce, and Slack – but don’t just choose the one you’re most familiar with. Talk to your customers to help you identify the best platform for them.

5. Create Customer Advocates

Customer advocates are reportedly 83% more likely to share information and 50% more likely to influence a purchasing decision than regular customers.

They also spend twice as much as other customers, and can be worth 10x the value of their initial purchase.

This means that creating and nurturing customer advocates should form part of any growth framework.

So how do you turn a regular customer into an advocate?

You make a point of offering unbeatable customer service at all times. You think and act as brands like Zappos and Amazon do. You go above and beyond what customers expect, to offer an experience that ensures they not only never want to go anywhere else, but they want to tell everyone else about it.

That said, only a small minority of customers are likely to ever become true advocates (regardless of how you treat them), and to leverage them as part of your growth framework, you’ll have to find them.

NPS surveys can help you do this. They’re super-simple, one-question surveys that ask customers to state how likely they would be to recommend you, on a scale of 1 to 10. Anyone who chooses 9 or 10 is either a current advocate, or a potential one

Once you know who these people are, reach out to them, work to strengthen your relationship, and when the time feels right, ask them to write reviews or testimonials.

For better or faster results, you should be thanking them for being such awesome customers. Show your gratitude with special privileges like account upgrades or reduced pricing, or by gifting them branded swag.

Key Takeaways

Ready to pull this all together? Here’s a quick recap of the 5 C’s of the C factor.

Customer experience – optimize your customers’ initial experience with your product. Help them experience a “win” that serves to emphasize the value of your product, within the first 60 seconds of signing up.

Communication – talk to your customers. Ask about their pain points and for feedback on your product. Aim to build real relationships with them.

Content – create content that addresses those pain points, and helps customers get the most out of your product.

Community – create a community that allows you to engage with your customers and them with each other, and that serves as a first port of call for user queries.

Customer advocacy – use NPS surveys to identify your very best customers, then engage them, reward them, and encourage them to promote your brand.

Can you think of any other ways to incorporate the customer into a growth framework? It’d be great to hear your ideas – comments are below.