You may already have read our checklist for making sure your business is ready for customers and clients and our post about key insights you can learn from your very first customer. Now we’re sharing four strategies for making the most of meeting your very first client (not to mention all the ones that follow). That big moment is exciting, for sure. But savvy entrepreneurs know it’s also a critical opportunity to learn and engage with a customer in ways that will help your business grow and thrive. Here are four ways to help kick-start your business by securing lots of happy, repeat customers.
1. Stop, talk and listen. If customers are always right, let them be your most trusted advisors. Find out what drew them to your product or service, and inquire about what made them choose your brand over the competition. What do they like about your offering – and what could you do to make it even better? Your first customer “survey” may only garner a data point of one, but it’s an important building block for future growth.
“There’s nothing more useful than talking with [customers] about why they chose you, how you helped them and what they have done since you worked with them. Small business owners … shouldn’t ever assume they’re doing a good job. It’s often the case that they’ll learn more from customers who have left than from the ones who stay. Find out where you fell short of expectations and then fix it.” – Todd Eby, cofounder, SuccessHacker
“What really matters at the end of the day is that I help others. As Seth Godin says, do something special so that if you don't show up, people will miss you.” – Steve Chase, QuickBooks Online Pro-Advisor
2. Aim to surprise and delight. Your first customer deserves to be celebrated! Make them feel extra special by offering an on-the-spot discount or handing out coupons for future purchases. Heck, why not give Customer #1 a handful of coupons to share with friends! Here are some more ways QB Community members woo each and every customer:
“I love putting hand-written thank you notes in packages. It’s an easy but great personal touch, and I love expressing my appreciation for customers’ support of my small business.” – Mariebeth Arca, owner of Bright Futures Eyewear
“I love giving clients my full attention and then doing something extra and unexpected, like finding a solution to a pain point in their business.” – Lynda, bookkeeper
“I love putting little extras or giveaways into customers’ packages. It's always nice to get a little something extra on top of what you paid for. I like to include stickers or small gifts.” – Kylie, entrepreneur and owner of Goodnight Fox
3. Get it in writing. Once you’ve caught your first customer’s attention and made every effort to please, why not request a quote about the great service/product/customer experience you’ve provided? Glowing testimonials speak volumes about you and your business, and including rave reviews (with permission, of course) on your website and other marketing materials will help build your reputation – and your customer base.
“Clients always thank us for doing a great job at the end of a project, so we ask them if we can publish their feedback for the world to see. We know we’re great at what we do, but we’re only as good as our last referral. We feature positive testimonials from clients down the side of our website and publish them on social media whenever we can.” – Cadi Stephenson, co-owner of Canary Marketing
4. Ask for help. Help spreading the word, that is. We’re in an age when a Yelp review can make or break a business and social media posts are a trusted source for consumer reports. Your first customer has the potential to be your best brand ambassador, so take a deep breath and ask him or her to help spread the good word about your business. Want to go a step further? Make “word of mouth” a key part of your marketing strategy and business decisions.
“My initial client base was all spread through un-prompted word of mouth because I try to make every client feel like I understand them, their needs and the next step toward fulfilling their own goals.” – Entrepreneur and QB Community member since 2016
“We do a lot of community service, and we love giving back. But we’ve got an ulterior motive, too. Donating food and time to an organization or event really helps get our name out there. For example, we provide cookies and juice to our local art council. When they’re planning their next event, like the opening of the historic theater in town, we are the go-to vendors.” – Charlene Rivera, co-owner of Sassy Sisters On Wheels food truck
We know it’s daunting to get your first customer when you’re starting a business from scratch. Don’t despair! Our Magic Eight Ball assures us there are pages of five-star reviews on Yelp and countless glowing client testimonials in your future. But for now, like every other business in existence anywhere, ever, it’s time to build your business one small step, and one happy customer, at a time.
Before you go
QB Community members, what’s your most effective strategy for growing your customer base? We love hearing everyone’s favorite “magic” tricks!
Ready to take your marketing to the next level? Read this post and get tips for making your customer base soar.
I live in a small town so all of my customers have been referrals. Having said that, although I may not have to worry about marketing, but I must constantly maintain a good name for myself and not burn any bridges!
I've found that people often underestimate the power of a simple request. As a customer, if a small business I work with *asks* me to write a review, I feel compelled (in a good way) to do it, and more times than not I have happily written a review for them before the day is out. If they don't ask, more often than not it simply doesn't occur to me to write the reco. People love to write reviews and help out, but it's the suggestion that often seals the deal.
I like your very well laid out strategy for referrals, as well as some great references to the experts. Business is hard, and the market is flooded with experts. Little things like you recommended can help to stand out, to the next potential client.
Thank you for putting this together.