How to Build a Customer Base for my Small Business

Updated: Apr 14

Creating a customer base for your small business is essential if you want it to succeed, and the great news is there’s lots of ways businesses can reach huge qualified audiences without spending big bucks.


The simple answer to ‘how to build a customer base’ is through effective marketing campaigns, but the reality is a little more involved... so let's take a look.


The principal is to get your business, your products, and your brand in front of as many of the RIGHT people as possible. Qualifying your audience is essential - there’s absolutely no value in building a following of thousands of people who will never buy your stuff because you haven’t qualified them properly.


So, how do you qualify?


You first need to make sure you’re crystal clear on exactly who you ideal audience is.


Who are they? What pain are they suffering from? What challenges are they experiencing? What’s your product/service and how does it reduce their pain or solve their problems?


Essentially, building a customer base starts with market research - yup, sounds boring but I guarantee it will make a huge difference in how well your marketing campaigns perform.


It’s so much easier to talk to your audience in a way that resonates with them when you really know them, and know what they need from you - good marketing is giving people all the information they need to make a decision about whether or not they should come into your world, and making them feel like your world is their world. Connect with them at the emotional level, and make them feel at home with your content.


There are tonnes of ways to reach your desired audience:

  1. Social Media - TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, SnapChat, Parlour, Pinterest, Instagram… to name but a few

  2. Content Marketing - sharing value added content that educates and tells stories

  3. Paid Advertising - you can literally target ANYONE with ads these days, from how much they earn to their hobbies and interests (so if you know exactly who your ideal client is, you can set up your ads so they are only shown to people who meet those parameters which massively reduces advertising costs and should increase your conversion rates)

  4. Posters, Lumpy Mail & Leaflet Drops - don’t underestimate the old-skool, these techniques still work REALLY well for local businesses with fixed geographical catchment areas… not so good for the trees though

  5. E-mail Marketing - definitely not dead, and YOU own your contact data which is a huge plus. If you’re reliant on Facebook ads for all of your leads and Facebook goes down or you get your account blocked for something silly then you’ve lost all of your lead generation streams, however, with an e-mail list you own the data and (assuming you’ve followed GDPR) can market to them anytime you like

  6. Word of Mouth - referrals, recommendations, testimonials, reviews… powerful marketing tools!

  7. Your Phone Book - this is a really good strategy, particularly if you’re just starting out. Just go through everyone on your phone and let them know what you’re up to - no hard selling, just “hey, I’ve just started doing this and I’m so excited about it! If you know anyone who wants one please send them to me!”

So, good marketing get’s eyeballs on your business, and if you’re doing it right you should start to see more and more people following you, but eyeballs is not money in the bank and we are talking about building a customer base, not a fan base!


Beyond your marketing campaigns you need have a good sales process to convert those leads into paying customers - maybe you have a team of sales reps hitting the phones, or maybe you have an on-line store selling widgets, but either way your sales/checkout process needs to be easy to navigate, simple for your customers to engage with, and where appropriate should upsell or cross-sell to enhance their shopping experience.


Remember, the fortune is in the follow up! Particularly when it comes to e-commerce…


You should also be asking existing clients for referrals, recommendations and testimonials/reviews - this is probably the cheapest and most effective marketing strategy a business can employ. There is nothing like having a happy customer tell their friends how amazing you are, it’s social proof on steroids!


But we’re talking about building a customer BASE not a transient list of people who spend money with you once before disappearing into the ether… so you need to nail your customer service. Look after your customers, really care about their problems, and take their complaints seriously!

Someone making a complaint about your business is actually a diamond in the rough.


It provides you an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity to your wider audience, to show that you care about your customers issues, and that you are highly communicative and will always work with your customers to find solutions.


When you resolve a complaint, you often turn a critic into one of your biggest fans - not because you messed up, but because you messed up and then cared enough to work with that person to sort it out. That alone is worth a million cold marketing campaigns.


Complaints are also really helpful at showing you your blind spots, and although not every complaint will be a well thought out and constructive piece of critique, you should at least approach those conversations from the point of view that the person you’re talking to might know something you don’t. So, complaints can really help you grow and improve your business exponentially… if you approach them with humility.


To summarise, follow these steps to build a strong and loyal customer base for your small business:

  1. Develop your Ideal Client Avatar - really get to know your customers

  2. Identify where they hang out, and where they go to look for solutions to their problems

  3. Create and curate relevant content that connects with your audience, and ENGAGE with their content more to help your content get seen!

  4. Run and test paid advertising campaigns

  5. Create a lead magnet and gather your ideal customers details

  6. Create simple, automated e-mail marketing campaigns (consider print campaigns if you’re a local business with a small catchment area)

  7. Create a quick and simple sales process

  8. Follow UP!

  9. Deliver on the promises you made during the sales process - look after your customers and turn them into raving fans

  10. Turn critics into evangelists

  11. Always ask for referrals, recommendations and testimonials

Follow these 11 steps and you’ll be on your way to building a loyal customer base filled with your ideal clients who love buying from you.


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