Are you using your existing customers to drive sales?

Nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to encouraging new people to try your brand: 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing when making a purchase decision, and according to Nielsen’s latest study this is up nearly 20 percent since 2007. So a big part of your marketing focus should be on encouraging your existing customers to want to tell their friends about you, and enabling them to do this easily.

But before you get your whip out and flog your prize-winning horse to death, here are The Nurture Network’s top tips for getting the most out of your existing clients without ruining a good thing:

1. Make it easy to share the love
Not only are your most loyal customers your biggest source of profits, they’re also the most likely to say great things about you…so give them a megaphone and let them scream it from the rooftops! Whether it’s engaging with your customers on social media and encouraging them to share your content or a simple solution like including a ‘send to a friend’ button on your newsletter- give those customers who want to talk about you the tools to spread the word.

2. Encourage and reward referrals
You want to encourage your existing happy customers to talk about you – but you can go one step further by not just enabling it but positively encouraging it – as can be seen with Graze’s famous free box for a friend coupon. Step the idea up again and you can reward referral too, like bespoke tailoring company A Suit That Fits. With their ‘Share £50 with a friend’ scheme, the new customer gets £25 off their first bespoke suit while their existing customer gets £25 cash back, making everyone a winner!

Within growth businesses your staff are a crucial source of contacts and networks too, so don’t forget to create great incentives for in-house referrals.

3. Bring your existing customers back time and time again
In true Dan Kennedy fashion – don’t forget the lifetime value of a client – especially in B2B. Most products or services have a life cycle or perhaps require maintenance or upgrades; understanding the potential for repeat and communicating accordingly can really drive sales. As a business priority, make sure you are building a detailed customer database so that you can do this. We all know that advertising changes from chocolate and presents at Christmas to gyms and diets in January. The trick is to identify what your perfect time to pitch is, so that you can communicate with customers at the right time with the right information.

Your database is also vital to create short term interest or sales spikes when you need them. A simple promotion sent out to your email database when things are running a little slower than hoped can immediately get the forecast back on track.

4. Inspire loyalty
True loyalty is hugely intangible – driven by a building of love for your brand and great customer experience – but you can encourage loyalty by rewarding it.

The ultimate goal here is making customers come back regularly until it becomes habitual. For your business or customer it might be about customer rewards like Orange Wednesdays, or loyalty cards, like Cafe Nero. Alternatively, it might be about identifying your high-value customers and rewarding them like O2 with their Priority Moments, or with random acts of kindness.

Defining what will be effective for you will be intrinsically personal to your brand, but the power of happy loyal customers should not be overlooked.

Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and Founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs. With a proven track record in leading high profile marketing campaigns for entrepreneurial brands, The Nurture Network are a partner of GrowthAccelerator, working with business leaders who are passionate about growing their business. GrowthAccelerator matches businesses with experts to define a tailored growth plan to accelerate and realise their growth potential – opening the doors to external funding, new business opportunities and boosting innovation and leadership. Christina’s extensive experience working with entrepreneurs and dynamic businesses mean she is a much in demand thought leader, a business mentor at University College London and regular speaker at industry events including The British Library.