Building a strong client portfolio is the major (if not the only) goal for startups. Keep your focus on filling the bucket. But it’s also vital to keep the bucket intact.
No company sits on a pile of steady clients from the beginning. But to let one client go at this stage means an avalanche, which may affect your entire operations. A ruptured brand image now may take forever to heal.
5 Zero-budget strategies to make customers stick with your startup
With a startup budget, it’s hard to put stop to an already bleeding reputation of client mistrust. Procrastinating is not an option.
The practical approach would be to start your customer retention early when you are on a short leash. Make it an integral part of your customer relationship management right from the beginning.
Clients coming to you for the first time, and clients deciding to stay with you have two completely different outlooks to your organization. For the latter group, building a strong value proposition around your brand’s X-factor is vital for your survival.
1. Add a Mission Statement
Give a cause to your business, or give your business to a cause… whichever is manageable for your brand. Add it in your website, your ‘about us’ page, and align your content to it. A strong morale or a long-term vision establishes your commitment towards your trade.
Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Ask yourself: would you trust a brand or a business, if it doesn’t have a plan to continue? Your clients will stay with you only if they feel you will do the same for them.
Adopting a mission statement excels your brand image beyond business.
2. Straighten Your KPIs
Quality customer service directly impacts your customer retention. Measure employee performances based on what level of service they provide.
Align your other KPIs to:
- Overall Customer Satisfaction Points
- Satisfaction Improvement Rates
- Net Promoter Scores
- Re-conversion Rates
- Average Resolution Time
- Active Issue Counts
Make high-quality service your organization motto. Simple rule: Less chances to complain = more chances to retain.
Standard Customer Service KPI Template; Source: Global Strategy Group | Case Study
3. Set Realistic Expectations
- Are you learning from your mistakes?
- Have you improved as an organization?
Clients decide to stay with start-ups based on their past experiences.
Realize that just ‘getting the job done’ won’t cut the deal. Clients come to startups not because of the cheap labor, but also because they are looking for something more. Something that most mainstream organizations with rigid frameworks will not be able to provide: uninhibited imagination.
They will look at your growth as an organization, and how much your innovative thinking is playing a part in it. Nurture your unique ideas regularly, and build your service portfolio around your strengths.
Customers want to trust you with the things that you are good at… really good at! Spray and pray doesn’t work well for marketing start-up brands with close-to-nil goodwill.
4. Spread the Goodwill
‘I have no experience, so I have no job. I have no job, so I have no experience.’ You can either stick to the excuses, or break the deadlock. The choice is simple: you have to invest if you want to see results.
And by investing, I don’t mean that you can buy your way out of this. Start with small value-adds like:
- Blog Subscriptions
- Loyalty Programs
- Simple Marketing Tools
- Welcome Book
A caring gesture can change the dynamics of customers’ trust. Even a simple feedback survey or a timely wish can speak a lot about your care towards the customer’s well-being.
But it’s not magic! It takes time to gain the required goodwill that is the core of any long-lasting brand image. Until you get there, your job is to keep your customers close, your competitors closer, and the critics closest.
Add value to your campaigns, promote thought leadership, have a humble but confident tone in your communications. Follow a proper nurturing and engagement calendar.
The good work you do now will reap benefits for a very long time, and will represent your brand’s first impression in the market. Great brands create set themselves apart right from the start.
5. Become the Best at What You Think
A business that is self-sustained is the business that works. But that doesn’t mean a business is a solo show. It has to deal with partners, affiliates, vendors, executives, associates, media and many more on a daily basis.
To trust you with any of these responsibilities, your organization has to be at par or higher in terms of expertise. Your clients are looking for a strong shoulder to rely on. And to meet that expectation, you have to be the most knowledgeable mind in the room.
There is no substitute to a research-oriented mind. But promoting it is also important. Here’s what you can do to promote your startup as a viable thought leader:
- Put out a weekly team blog or newsletter that talks about your latest findings and ideas
- Give courtesy calls to notify customers about recent updates, and opportunities that come with it
- Get your personal articles featured on the best thought-leadership sites (like: Entrepreneur, Inc etc.)
Build your personal image parallel to your organization image. There is every chance that clients will trust your expertise over your startup. You will often hear them say, “I’m staying because of you.”
Above all, a startup environment offers the flexibility that each client wants. They will stick to you if they feel your dedication towards the trade. Your compassion for what you do is the key in gaining client trust. Just stay true to yourself. Everything else will take care of itself.