Published September 28, 2022
Increasing your client base is one of the most fundamental aspects of running any business. Without clients, there is no business, and you can’t expect them to come to you. Building a base involves hard work and careful planning.
When talking about growing a client base, it’s normal to start with prospecting, where you identify and approach potential clients. From there, you move on to attracting their business and then keeping them engaged as ongoing customers. But the best practice starts before that, in the fundamentals of how you design and present your business.
While there are thousands of different tricks you can use to win clients, there are also some fundamental approaches to keep in mind. Here are eight ways to expand your client base:
One of the best ways to win and grow clients is to establish a strong reputation in your industry.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of public image. 95% of customers check online reviews before they decide whether to buy from a company and nearly 75% of customers trust a company more if it has good reviews. Negative reviews, on the other hand, will make 50% of customers doubt the competence of a company.
All of this can lead to an obsession with massaging public statistics, trying to encourage reviews for their own sake. This is the wrong approach. To last, a business’s good reputation has to be built on something more solid. Business reviews and complaints are rooted in the services you provide, and if you can get the fundamentals right then, with a little nudging to coax out reviews, your company’s high reputation will take care of itself.
The way to achieve this isn’t through one neat trick or some magical shortcut. It’s the boring, obvious answer that we keep hearing, and with good reason: you’ll get a positive reputation by providing quality products or services.
For many people, that’s not what they want to hear. It means that you have to put the hard work in. If your reputation is currently bad, then you’re probably doing something wrong, and wishful thinking won’t change that; only creating a better client journey will.
Once you have established a strong reputation, word-of-mouth marketing becomes a powerful tool for winning new clients. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust personal opinions and word-of-mouth recommendations more than any other sort of advertising. In the digital age, this extends to online reviews that come from genuine customers - 85% of consumers trust these as much as reviews from people they know.
A strong reputation grounded in good work is the best basis for growing a client base, so focus on that before worrying about any other tricks.
If you fill the same gap in the market as a dozen other companies, then it will be harder to win and keep customers, as you’re shouting for attention amid a crowd of voices that sound a lot like yours. You might get someone’s custom once, but they’ll have little reason to stay engaged with you if they can get the same services from competitors.
The way to counter this is to develop a niche of your own, focusing your business on a specific area or type of clientele. Instead of going wide in your offering, go deep, specialising in the things that you do best. You can see the success of this in almost any industry. Krispy Kreme made its mark by specialising in donuts, not a range of cakes and pastries. Marvel hit it big by making superhero films. Twitter became a global phenomenon by being the platform that focused on brevity.
Focusing on your specific niche won’t just help you to stand out because you’re distinctive, it will help you to stand out because you excel at that one thing. Focusing on a narrow range of products and services helps you to become an expert in your field, as you’re spending so much time in that small area. When clients need something specific, you’ll be the best person they can possibly turn to, making it easier to win new clients. That will fuel the critical positive reviews and word-of-mouth you’re looking for.
If you want to stand out in your market, then it’s not enough just to think about yourself: you need to think about the clients.
Take the time to really understand who your clients are and to develop an ideal client profile. Who are the people you can serve best? How do they use your products? What do they hope to get from you?
Some of this information can be gained from customer surveys and feedback forms, but look at the data you already have first. Quantitative measures like age and purchases will tell you about the demographics of your customers and their spending habits. Qualitative data like call recordings, transcripts, and emails will reflect what the clients appreciate in your services and what they’re looking for.
Once you’ve developed that client profile, think about how you can identify and reach out to those clients, and how your business can deliver solutions which meet their needs. Are there things they’re looking for that you don’t do yet or don’t often advertise? Could you refine your products to better fit how clients use them?
When you have the chance, get to know your contacts on a personal level. Find out their likes and dislikes, and what they are looking for in a business relationship. In a B2B environment, where you’re working on big-budget contracts, you might be able to do this in every case. In a customer-oriented environment, or if you’re working on smaller sales, it’s more likely that you’ll have to take a sample and then use what you learn to understand the others.
The personal touch isn’t only good for bringing in new customers, it helps with client retention. It helps clients to feel like you know and understand them, like this is a meaningful relationship and not just a transaction.
People buy from people, so prioritise understanding and connecting with customers whenever you can.
Winning new clients is easier if you offer competitive pricing.
Price is one of the easiest ways for clients to compare you with your competitors. Potential clients are considering the relative value of different services and so are often price-sensitive. Offering lower prices than your competitors can sometimes help you to win their business, but the lowest price isn’t always the best way to win. If it was, then the market would be one big race to the bottom.
Aim to establish competitive pricing. To do this you need to:
If you have access to it, then revenue intelligence software can help, giving you a deeper understanding of your clients’ financial behaviour and what they’ll pay for what you’re offering.
The results might turn out to be obvious, with lower prices leading to more business. Even if that’s the case, it’s valuable data, as you can balance the level of extra business against the lost profit per sale at lower prices. But you might also find surprises. Sometimes, a higher price signals value to customers, while a lower one raises questions about the quality of the product. Competitive pricing doesn’t always mean going low, but it’s always worth considering when working out how to expand your client base.
You can also win and grow clients by providing added value.
Clients want to get the most value for their money, and there are two ways of doing this: spending less money or getting more value. Adding to that value is the flip side of competitive pricing.
Assuming that you already have a high-quality product that meets your clients’ needs, how can you add value? Options include:
You can make gains by offering a range of options and seeing what works for your clients, but it’s also possible to take a more focused approach. Look at the client profiles you worked up earlier and ask what’s most useful for those clients. Do shipping costs really matter to them? Are the bonus features you offer useful for their jobs? Which sorts of discounts might they notice?
If you’re not sure, then try delving deeper into your records, using whatever tools you have available. Use big data tools to explore how clients have responded to past offers. Use conversational intelligence to look for advantages they’ve talked about. Read through correspondence to see what other services they use and what they like about them.
What value means will vary hugely depending upon your clients, but whatever it is, it’s important to provide more.
Part of growing your client base is keeping the clients you have, and this means building strong relationships. For B2B businesses in particular, you need clients to view you as a trusted partner, not just a vendor they’re buying services from. You need to develop a rapport with your clients.
A strong relationship starts with getting to know the client. Ask about the things that matter to them as a business: their goals and values, the tools they use, the competitors they face, where they’re hoping to take the business. Do some research on their industry and the challenges it faces. Watch out for issues in the news that might matter to them.
Do the same for the people you’re talking with, the faces of that company. Take time to ask about them as individuals. Listen for information about their hobbies, tastes, and interests.
Once you know a client better, as a company and as a group of people, make use of that knowledge. Ask about how projects are going. Show your awareness of the challenges they face. Take time for small talk about sports or shows or whatever their representatives are interested in. People like people who seem interested in them, and this will go a long way to forging connections.
Getting to know your clients feeds into the next step: treating every client as important. If they feel that they matter to you, then they’ll reciprocate, and you’ll become important to them. Respond promptly to their queries and look for ways to go the extra mile in your work. This doesn’t mean giving away free services but taking care over the ones that you do provide.
When going the extra mile, make sure that you’re running in the right direction. There’s no point in providing something extra if it doesn’t help the client, so make sure that the steps you take are chosen to fit their profile, that you’re showing not just extra effort but extra understanding.
Good communication is critical to all of this. Don’t be a passive receptor but proactively pursue a connection, checking in regularly with the client. While email feels easy, calls are better. They’re more personal, give you a chance for small talk, and reduce the risk of misunderstandings. Any important decision from a call should then be put in writing, but that doesn’t make the call itself any less important.
The style in which you communicate is as important as the medium or the message:
A lot of relationship building is about interpersonal skills, and client management coaching can be very valuable for your team. But some of this is also about processes. A good onboarding process will help you understand the client while making your processes clear to them. Laying out the next steps at every stage, setting and meeting appropriate expectations, will provide a framework of clarity and competence within which your relationship can grow.
By building strong relationships, you can create long-term clients who are more likely to use your products or services again in the future.
At the risk of stating the obvious, to grow a user base it’s important to promote your business, and that means investing in a targeted marketing strategy.
A good strategy starts by focusing on the right kind of clients. You want to target people who fit your ideal client profile, as they will appreciate the services you provide. Less suitable clients are less likely to appreciate your products, spend big money, or comment positively on your work. It’s better to be narrowly focused on the right people than to scatter broad marketing over a wide area.
The question of exactly how to target clients for business development is always going to depend upon your business and your target market, but one universal is that you should use a range of channels and marketing techniques. Becoming too reliant on one channel can make you vulnerable to changes there, as shown by the many small businesses that have hit trouble when Facebook changed its advertising algorithms. A wide range of channels and techniques means that you’ll reach a wider range of potential clients and get a better idea of what works. You can then refine your strategy to make more use of the most productive channels.
In modern business, it’s important to grow a customer base online. Ensure your business has a strong digital presence so that people searching for services like yours will find you. Use social media to amplify your marketing efforts. This can improve your digital footprint and, through positive interactions with online followers, encourage word-of-mouth endorsements. The social validation of an online following isn’t a measure of success in itself but can help convince potential clients that you’re the real deal.
Finally, in order to grow your client base, your business must provide exceptional client service.
It doesn’t matter how strong your marketing is or how well you develop relationships, you will be judged on your client service. If it isn’t good then clients will leave. Recruit a top-quality client service team and ensure that they constantly provide value to your clients, anticipating and answering their needs.
Good client service includes identifying problems that might cause churn, following up on your communications, effectively resolving conflicts, and far more. Good procedures and playbooks can make the process easier and improve consistency, but none of that will matter if you don’t recruit and train people in the right way. This is complex and often difficult work, in which small details can turn into big issues.
Good client service will keep clients on board and mean they’re more likely to make referrals. It will keep your current clients in place and help you to earn more.
Whatever sort of business you’re running, you need to think about how to increase your client base. While the details vary from business to business, the fundamentals are the same. With the right approach to your business, your marketing, and your clients, you can establish a strong and self-perpetuating client base.