How to grow your customer base "on purpose"

September 3, 2018




In this, the second-last instalment in our series of tips aimed at helping you make your business more purpose-driven, we’d like to focus on your customers and prospective customers.


Again, research tells us a story:


Given the choice, people prefer to deal with businesses that can not only articulate their purpose but also demonstrate commitment to it through their actions. 


With that in mind, here’s a couple of questions.


  • First, wouldn’t it be great if you had a reliable flow of the right customers buying the right products and services for the right price?


  • And second, wouldn’t it also be great if those customers readily recommended your business to others who were just like them?


We’re going to bet that the answer to both of those questions is of course, yes.


In businesses where this Utopia exists, two things are evident: 


  • Their business purpose is clear and demonstrable; and, 


  • Their customers tend to look and feel a bit similar to each other - they at least approximate an “ideal profile”.


In most businesses...


For the most part, it’s the exception rather than the rule to find a large proportion of customers that could be described as “ideal”.  Which is most often a result of one or both of two things:


  • First, not thinking through the ideal customer profile when starting out; and/or,


  • Second, not sticking to the ideal profile if you did think it through. That happens in the understandable pursuit of early stage profitability in a business. Which comes at a longer term cost.


What to do?


So let’s assume you’ve come to a stage in the development of your business where you’re clear about purpose. Your vision is clear, strategy is in place and your team is engaged and committed. 


Customers though? They’re a pretty disparate bunch, they don’t tend to be repeat purchasers and recommend your business rarely.


So what do you do?


First up you need to establish your ideal client profile. A good place to start is to think about your best customers today. Apart from any demographic or socio-economic similarities there’s two key things you need to know about this group:


  • Why do they buy from you in the first instance (over and above price or perceived value for money); and,


  • What is it that keeps them coming back…what makes them loyal to your business and ready referrers to others (again, beyond price and value for money)?


The answers to those two questions are gold.


They’re the key pieces of information that will enable you to further refine your purpose message.


How do you get the answers?


Simple….you ask.


You can do that in any number of ways - an online survey, email, face to face or whatever works in your business and for your customers, depending on the circumstances. 


It’s important to be very specific with your questions - you’re trying to establish the deepest, least obvious reasons why your best customers deal with you. In other words, what is it about you and your business that “captures their hearts and minds” - how does your business purpose resonate with your best customers? 


This is a process often best outsourced - it takes time, focus and follow up (plus a little bit of courage) and since you and your team are busy getting on with business engaging a third party can really pay off.


What to do with the data?


As we said, the data you gather here is gold. That’s because you’ll use it as the backbone for everything you do in future that’s related to your customers and prospective customers, from engagement, through to acquisition and retention.


It enables you to refine and build on your “purpose message”.


Here’s some key tips:


  • Marketing and promotional materials and activities can be reviewed to ensure your messaging is truly “purposeful” - in other words, to make sure you’re promoting not what you do, but why you do it (with thanks to Simon Sinek);


  • You can do the same with your Customer Value Proposition which ultimately can actually be your statement of purpose (or a version of it);


  • The data will allow you to review your service/product suite and refine as necessary  


In short, the process of talking to your best customers and asking some well-worded questions is all about deepening their engagement with your business through purpose.


Which in turn means you can more readily target like minded prospective customers. 


That’s the good news 


One inevitable outcome of this exercise will be some “collateral damage” in that you may lose some “B-Grade” customers. You might also dissuade some potential customers from dealing with you because they don’t “get” your purpose. 


But that’s ok.


Because your customer base will increasingly shift toward the “ideal”. And if you continue to deliver your “on purpose” customer promise they’ll be easier to deal with, more “sticky” and more profitable. 


Oh, and they’ll be the best advocates and source of new business you’ll ever have.


Next steps?


Your customers are critical to your business. Of course they are. 


That said, if you're completely honest with yourself, there's a whole lot of folks you deal with that don't buy why you're in business. They make life difficult, buy something, then move on. You know them and you know you'd most likely be better off without them...


On the other hand, you know who your best customers are and would dearly love to be able to clone them...


While cloning's not in our bag of tricks, we do have other ideas about building your ideal customer base that you can implement quickly and easily in your business.


Please do give us a call or drop us a line to start a conversation. There's really no good reason not to.


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