When your customers turn into your best marketers, you know you’ve created a sustainable business model that won’t see you continuously burning cash on expensive paid advertising. But how do you get to this point?

The key is to do what you do well, then create reasons for people to talk about you and your business. Service is often what separates small businesses from large ones, so getting this right can absolutely be the deciding factor between keeping a customer or losing them to a faceless, corporate competitor.

Hard data shows great service is more than just a feel good factor. Sales figures from small business EFTPOS provider Tyro showed SMEs increased sales by 3 percent over the 2016 Xmas period compared to the same time last year. In the hospitality sector, this uptick was even more pronounced, increasing by 10 percent. Service with a smile can certainly pay dividends.

Customer success stories power ATLETA’s organic growth engine

No one knows this better than trainer to the stars Neil Russell, who leveraged his deep background in exercise science, physiology and team sports performance to develop a successful personal training business, ATLETA, Health & Fitness. Using real customer success stories as his growth engine he was able to eschew traditional and expensive marketing.

Neil Russel

“My business completely is service based and quite personal, between my clients and myself, amongst my team and between my team and their clients. When I started I had no business experience or education…science only, so I just learned as I went along, mostly from mistakes!

I launched my business without any financial backing and before you could really rely on social media to raise awareness. If I were to break down my success into 5 areas, here’s what they would be.

Generate results talk

Results made people happy and proud; if they got results, they’d tell anyone who’d listen. My clients who got the best results were often my best source of referrals and therefore growth.

Get your clients talking with their friends

I always tried to share tips, information and stories with my clients, things they were likely tell others about. This often took the form of professional advice, interesting client success stories or even something I was experimenting with on myself in terms of training, behaviour or lifestyle.

This was 100% of my marketing in the early days. It meant people spoke about my service from a very personal perspective and gave me 3rd party validation.

Give up time to get exposure and develop relationships

Originally I had no budget for advertising, so I utilised my PR/fashion clientele who I knew were well connected with others who were health and appearance conscious.

It was all about networking in my free time. I’d take meetings, give free advice, go to events, BBQ’s, lunches – you name it I was there. At any event I’d try to be as polite, helpful and friendly as possible with everyone and anyone there. I’d try to ensure people only had nice things to say about me.

Invest in quality over quantity

Whenever I got important new equipment I’d try to get the best version available – within reason. Clients would be impressed with the reinvestment in their health and performance and they’d talk about it.

80/20 your clients

Before I understood the 80/20 rule (80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your clients), I was already subconsciously identifying my best clients and prioritising my extra time and efforts with them.

I think most successful business people do this automatically. I’d basically invest 80% of my extra effort and resources into the best clients (the 20%) and then do the minimum ‘above and beyond’ for the rest of my clients.

I’d still deliver a professional high quality service to everyone, but for those people who shared the same values, respected the extra little things or loved talking about it, I’d make myself available outside of my usual hours and give them preferential treatment. These were the people that I believed were going to help grow my business long term. Turns out I was right!”

Make customer success a priority

It doesn’t matter if you run a personal training business, café, medical practice or giftware shop. Getting to know your customers beyond just the transaction creates a powerful incentive for them to return. Once you’ve built a network of advocates then you can start thinking about ways you can amplify their referrals, through time bound campaigns and loyalty programs.

Looking for funding?

Think you’re ready for the next step but need an injection of capital to invest into your business? Tyro now offers eligible EFTPOS customers loans between $500 and $120K, repaid as a small percentage of their daily EFTPOS settlements. To learn more, click here.