For most businesses, growth is not merely an option but a necessity. Any business with aspirations outside of its immediate orbit needs to grow in order to sustain itself, particularly in such a competitive marketplace.
But simply making sales and gaining a customer base is not necessarily the same thing as sustainable customer and client growth, particularly for SaaS businesses. These are companies built on systems that rely on both the ability to grow revenue from an existing customer base and to gain a steady stream of new customers.
But what exactly does customer and client growth look like? And how could your business be broadening its approach to customer service and bolstering its bottom line by growing the right way at the right time and with the right customers?
The difference between sales and growth
“Sales" means just that – making a sale. It can also involve upselling and cross-selling, of course, but at its root, it’s just taking a product or service, selling it to a willing consumer and then moving on.
Growth, however, is about finding the right customers and then evolving their relationship with your business and with your brand. This rarely happens by accident as it generally requires a team dedicated to expansion. This team works to nourish existing connections to form sustainable relationships that bear new fruit in the form of those now loyal customers bringing new customers of their own into the fold.
Customer growth explained
The customer growth definition will vary from sector to sector. For a local retail business, for example, it might mean simply expanding the number of regulars who frequent your store, or the types of customer you attract.
A typical SaaS company, however, wants to take that initial customer, expand their engagements with the company and then send them out into the world as brand advocates to bring new customers or clients into the fold. It’s an hourglass system that thrives on customer loyalty and it’s a difficult balance to strike. It’s less about expanding the number of customers, and more about the quality and potential of those customers.
First of all, forget about setting a growth goal. Sales is about hitting a quota, but for growth to work, the sky really has to be the limit. If you’re working to fill a quota of new users, then you’ll most likely end up resorting to cheap tactics to gather as many new users as possible. But they are unlikely to be the kind of users that will stick with you and grow with you. They will probably be the kind of users to sign up one week and forget they’ve signed up the next.
What you really want is to build the kind of foundations that attract the right kind of customers. This is especially important for subscription-based companies that want to keep customers happy while also enticing them with additional products and expanded services.
If you want your customers to become advocates for your brand, then you have to take them through a four-stage customer journey. This journey begins with a sale before moving onto the foundational, post-sales growth stage of adoption. But that’s only the beginning.
Understanding the customer journey
Business growth doesn’t end at the point of purchase. That’s just the first step on the ladder. Post-sales, the initial focus is always on adoption and retention and, for many, this is where the story ends. The way to create sustainable client growth, however, is to move your customers from the retention stage, through the growth stage and into the advocacy stage.
In the growth stage, you need to invest to nurture your customers, giving them more of what they want and more specific attention. The truth is, it’s never been easier to catalyze this stage of the journey because it’s so much easier to get to know our customers today thanks not only to the advent of automation, AI and machine learning, but social media too. We can learn what their goals are and align our own goals to reflect that.
The cycle begins again
Once you’ve been able to build your foundations, retain and grow your clients, the eventual goal is for these customers to become willing advocates for your business, sending more leads right back into the top of the funnel, where they too will move through this perfectly curated customer journey.
It’s a difficult system to perfect, and the specifics will vary from sector to sector and business to business. But it’s one worth persevering with as if you can build the right kind of relationships with your customers, there’s no limit to how far you could grow with them.
We can help
If you’re interested in client growth for your business and would like to find out more then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how GOCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.