Small businesses acknowledge that clients are critical to their success: In a March 2015 study by The Alternative Board (TAB), 48% of small-business owners (SBOs) worldwide said their customers drove their success—the No. 1 response when asked how to describe their company culture. As such, they’re putting a strong emphasis on driving new and repeat customers this year—and it’s stressing many out.
In a December 2014 study by Zogby Analytics for Xero, growing the customer base was the top 2015 business priority among US SBOs, cited by 62.2%.
However, SBOs are feeling the heat. In March 2015 research by Constant Contact, finding new customers was the leading business concern among US SBOs, cited by two-thirds. Retaining existing customers was also important, at 40%—the No. 3 response behind having enough time.
Spring 2015 research by Ebiquity for American Express looked at a different list of priorities and here, keeping current business and revenue sources was the No. 1 company priority cited by US SBOs, at 38%, followed by growing the business (34%).
When it comes to bringing in new business, word-of-mouth is still the most effective marketing channel for small and medium-sized businesses, cited by 28% polled in November 2014 by BrightLocal. For those looking to go beyond chatter though, search engine optimization and online local directories were the second and third most effective marketing channels for bringing in new leads and customers, followed by email marketing.
Once they’ve attracted those customers, relationships are key to keeping them. In a March 2015 study by Braun Research for Bank of America, nearly six in 10 US SBOs said establishing relationships with customers was the primary driver of repeat customers. Nothing came close to this, with low prices and prime location tying for second, with just 11% each.
Generating leads and closing deals are just the beginning for small businesses. If they want to maintain the customer base they’ve worked hard for, they’ll need to form strong relationships with their clients. If not, they risk losing out to other driven parties in the industry that do.