If you’re a small business trying to compete in a market already dominated by big players, you know that those big players’ huge marketing budgets make it almost impossible to compete through traditional lead generation. Instead, you should focus on keeping the customers you already have.
If you’re great at customer retention, you won’t need to be as good at getting new customers because you won’t need the extra revenue. And one of the main ways smaller companies can grow without being pushed out by bigger players is through word of mouth, which coordinates very strongly with retention. Really, it’s all about keeping your customers happy—so if you’re achieving that, you’re in a good spot.
My business is a smaller player in the customer relationship management software market. The market is highly competitive, with at least 20 major players in addition to the many smaller, more specialized providers. In other words, this isn’t an easy environment to carve out your niche.
Nevertheless, there’s widespread demand for CRM platforms across multiple industries, and a hunger for more accurate customer data is expected to push the market to $35 billion by 2023. Why shouldn’t a smaller company like mine be able to get a share of that, even with more dominant players in the mix?
For companies operating in a highly competitive market with already dominant players, it’s essential that you dedicate ample resources to customer retention.
Thankfully, the crushing defeat we once feared as a less dominant player hasn’t come to fruition. Why? We market ourselves as a product that people should buy after they’ve been let down by the competition—hence the name of the company: Less Annoying CRM. When customers feel annoyed with overly complicated CRM software, we hope they come to us. When they do, our primary goal becomes keeping them happy.
How to Win the Retention Game
My experience as a smaller fish in a big pond has given me insight into how to succeed in tough environments. If your company exists in a space with one or more dominant players, these strategies might help you find your in:
1. Set the right tone during the buying process.
Too many professionals think that as long as they make the sale, they’ve accomplished the mission. But a customer-hostile sales process will leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths, and they’ll remember that when renewal rolls around or they’re deciding whether to repurchase from you. To give your customers the best buying experience, target your audiences more closely. This will put you ahead of large companies that are trying to serve too broad of a customer base.
Dominant players need to communicate with consumers in specific, highly corporate language to ensure they’re appealing to a very broad audience. But smaller companies can insert more voice and personality into their websites and other external messaging to appeal to smaller, more particular audiences. This is a big opportunity for small businesses to highlight their unique value.
2. Make your customers feel like they’re part of your team.
When people shop at a smaller business, they aren’t just buying the product—they’re supporting the people who work there. The more you can make them feel like they’re part of the team, the more likely they may be to stay committed to you.
Be transparent, personal and open to sharing your story. You probably can’t afford a big public relations campaign, but you can tell your customers exactly what you’re working on. At the end of the year, send an email to your customer base detailing what you accomplished over the past year and what you intend on doing in the coming year to offer even more value. As a result, customers will view you as an authentic, trustworthy partner.
3. Invest in your employees’ sense of purpose.
If you’re a solopreneur, it’s probably easy to form personal connections with customers. But as you hire more employees, that advantage can wear off—unless you build a team that’s just as passionate about helping the customer as you are.
Give employees a sense of purpose. Talk about the company’s progress, share positive feedback from customers and reinforce how employees are contributing to major milestones. Make sure each employee understands who your customers are and why it’s so important to help them. This means investing in training and onboarding that goes beyond basic on-the-job skills. Make sure every single employee can tell your company’s story.
4. Gather customer feedback regularly.
Your customers are your best source of information when it comes to what’s going well and, more importantly, what’s not. Send out regular feedback forms—at least once a year—and respond to every single one so customers know you’re listening.
Make sure that there’s a way for those who talk to customers to share information with those who don’t. For example, we have a weekly meeting where the support team can bring customer suggestions and feedback to the entire team for discussion. And when customers leave, don’t just focus on trying to win them back. Instead, try to figure out why they left in the first place. Armed with that information, you can right the ship before more customers swim for shore.
For companies operating in a highly competitive market with already dominant players, it’s essential that you dedicate ample resources to customer retention. Those customers are the key to your success—no matter what competition you may face.
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