4 Ways to Use Customers to Fuel Growth


Sujan Patel, Contributor

March 25, 2015

As business owners, we tend to talk about growth in terms of what we can do to facilitate expansion. We talk about things like content marketing campaigns, churn rate prevention programs, conversion rate optimization and more – thinking that it is our thoughts and actions alone that will move the company forward.

But really, we’re only one piece of the puzzle! Our customers can play a vital role in fueling the growth of our businesses – as long as we’re willing to give them the resources and encouragement needed to do so.

If you want to take advantage of the underutilized resource that is your customers, consider the following four strategies for using clients to fuel growth:

Turn Customers into Ambassadors

Recruiting your customers to serve as brand ambassadors serves two important purposes. First, customer evangelists decrease your marketing spend, since every public mention they make of your company is one you didn’t have to pay for.

But they also improve your conversion rates. According to Nielsen, “Ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”

Getting customers to recommend your business to others requires two elements: an incentive to do and the structure to reward them.

At When I Work, we offer users $50 for every new paying customer they bring in, though you could use a coupon code, a free product or any other type of incentive that resonates well with your customers.

To facilitate the referral process, we use a program called Ambassador that allows us to easily turn influencers (based on their engagement rates and social followers) into brand ambassadors. There are plenty of different programs out there that can handle this particular need, but we like the flexibility and extensibility that come with Ambassador. Not only can you customize your referral process with it, you can also take advantage of the company’s widgets, API integrations and third-party integrations with companies like Salesforce, MailChimp, ExactTarget and others.

Interact with Customers in Real-Time

Of course, if you want customers to refer others to you, you have to be sure that they’re so in love with your product that a) they’ll be willing to go out of their way to encourage others to use it, and b) their reviews will be positive.

That’s where engaging with customers in real-time comes into play. When you’re directly in touch with your customers, they’ll tell you what they think and what issues they’re experiencing. You can then take this information and use it to make improvements in your product or processes so that you’re delighting your users, instead of merely accommodating them.

One area in particular where we focus on customer engagement is during the onboarding process. When customers are new to your product, a little hand-holding at the right moment can make the difference between someone who enthusiastically refers your solution to others and someone who never even converts off a free trial.

To do this, our favorite tool is Intercom – a program that lets us communicate with users in our app based on the different actions they take. For example, we can reach customers at certain steps in the onboarding process as determine by live user mapping, real-time segmentation and event tracking. Best of all, it works on both mobile and desktop devices, enabling us to engage with customers wherever they’re using our system.

Poll Your Customers with Net Promoter Scores

You probably already know that customer surveys can play an important role in determining what issues your customers are experiencing and how you can make things better.

But the problem with the way most customer surveys are carried out is that they lack any level of sophistication. You set up a simple survey asking a few questions, and then all you get is the overall results. You can’t tell which of your participants are on the fence about becoming customers, and what it’ll take to get them to that next level. You can’t determine what it is that your brand ambassadors love about your company, or how you can use that information to recruit new users.

The solution is Zendesk’s new Net Promoter Score survey feature. These specially-designed surveys help you to determine how willing a customer is to recommend your product, as well as what hurdles are preventing other users from making referrals. For example, you can set up your survey to measure:

  • Why detractors (customers who gave your company a 0-6 rating) are having a bad experience.
  • What issues or elements are preventing passive customers (those who gave you a rating 7-8) from becoming active promoters.
  • Why your active promoters (as measured by a score of 9-10) love your company and recommend it to others.

You can also take things further by encouraging those who leave you a rating of 9-10 to share your product through the referral program you built using Ambassador. But even if you just stick to information gathering, the insights you can generate using this tool will give you more than enough ideas for the kinds of improvements that will lead to higher conversion rates.

Turn Customers into Walking Billboards

Finally, it might sound overly simplistic, but offer your customers – or anybody who requests one – a free t-shirt. While at Single Grain, I used this strategy to generate over $500,000 in revenue. Today, we use the technique at When I Work to get our name out and expand our brand recognition. People love free things, making it possible to drive a ton of growth by giving away something as simple as a new shirt.

The easiest way to create a t-shirt giveaway program is to use a company like STARTUP Threads. Not only are their fees reasonable (t-shirts start at $7.75 and hoodies start at $23.00 a piece), they can also take care of warehousing your shirts and shipping them out when you request them (for an additional $3.75 fee). Taking advantage of this opportunity significantly cuts down on the amount of time you’d otherwise waste packaging and sending out each shirt individually.

If I could offer you one other piece of advice on running a t-shirt giveaway program, it would be to make it fun! Don’t buy the cheapest shirts you can get your hands on – invest in quality shirts that people will look forward to wearing. You can even get your customers involved in the design process. When you’re ready to create your shirts, ask for design suggestions and offer a reward to the winning submission. The more people feel invested in your giveaway program, the more likely it is that these feelings of loyalty will transfer over to your company as well.

None of these strategies are particularly time-consuming to implement, and the tools I’ve shared based on my experience at When I Work can make the ramping up process even easier. Give them a try today and watch your company’s growth take off!

This article was written by Sujan Patel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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