Springtime is The Right Time to Grow Your Customer Base Jessica Lunk Aaahh, spring. Buds on the trees, birds singing and ground ready for planting. Springtime (or anytime, for that matter) is the perfect time to plant the seeds for customer growth. With the right nurturing—feeding, fertilizing and yes, even weeding–those seeds will sprout and grow and in the process, they will also help your small business grow. You don’t want to plant any old seeds, you want to cultivate the types of plants and flowers you really want to grow. It’s the same with growing your customers base. You want to nurture relationships with the right type of customer, one that not only comes back again and again but spreads their love through word-of-mouth recommendations, social media mentions and positive online reviews. Here’s how to plant the seeds that will lead to great customers: Get the ground ready. Strategically growing your customer base means you don’t aim for everyone who could potentially be a customer, instead, you think about the customers you really want to target. In the same way you wouldn’t buy every variety of tomato seed at the store, it doesn’t make sense to try and reach everyone who could, potentially, be a customer. Be more strategic about it, considering which folks are likely to need or want what you offer and are also likely to want it more than once. Are they active on social media? Will they interact with others who might need or want what you’re offering? These are all attributes that make for a quality customer. If you can hone in on a niche group that you feel will be especially receptive to your offerings, so much the better. Rather than using a plant-every-variety approach, narrow your target market and zoom in on one group of potential customers that you believe will be an especially good fit. Now plant. Reach out and engage with those potential customers, that’s how you plant the seeds of a relationship with them. There are many ways to do this—you can use social media, traditional advertising, discounts, special offers and gifts. As soon as someone visits your site, store or makes a purchase, you can send an automated email either asking if they could use some help, if they would like call from a sales associate, or just thank them for being a customer. Lead magnets are a great way to start a conversation with potential customers who are visiting your site. Planting the seeds of a relationship today ensures you’re set to harvest new customers tomorrow. Water, feed, fertilize. The best way to grow your current customer base is through referrals and word-of-mouth, and you can grow revenue by getting current customers to come back and buy more, upgrade their service or extend contracts. First and foremost, you’ve got to be communicating regularly with your base. It’s the water—and nothing grows without it. A solid email marketing program keeps new and old customers in the loop: Lets them know about special deals and discounts Keeps them apprised of product updates Shares with them valuable articles and how-tos that make their life easier This is where your engagement marketing platform becomes essential, the backbone of your cultivation efforts. That ongoing engagement helps build a solid and lasting relationship with your customers. Don’t waste their time though, only communicate when you have something of value to offer, whether that’s advice, news and information or discounts. Be attentive. Any garden needs continuous monitoring and weeding, and your new customers want to know you care about them. If they comment on your Facebook page, reference your company in a Tweet or hashtag you in an Instagram—respond. Show your customers you know where they live and you live in that same world. And you can use technology by asking customers what they need. Run surveys on Facebook or send a two-question survey out in one of your engagement emails to see how your customers feel about products and services. If you’re an ice cream shop, for example, and you’re thinking of introducing some new flavors for summer, ask customers what they’d prefer. You’d be following the advice of marketing guru Peter Drucker, who said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Reap the harvest. You’ll reap many benefits from carefully planned and strategic marketing efforts. As those seeds you’ve planted sprout and grow, their seeds will become your brand’s evangelists, carried by the wind to places beyond your garden. And that will help your customer base grow both intentionally and organically.