I’ve been working with small businesses for over six years now, from the ‘ we haven’t even opened yet’ stage to running for multiple generations. And I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern.
Once we reach about the 300 fan mark on some social media platform (usually Facebook), they seem to do much better. Payments are more likely to come in on time, they are more open to us experimenting with their marketing, they are just generally more confident, likely because they are seeing traction, financially and otherwise.
There is a part of all of us that probably wants to be famous. We want to be sitting on the Today Show stage or on the front page of the New York Times, saying our equivalent of ‘golly gee, we started in our basement/garage/spare bedroom and look at us now!’
But we don’t need millions of customers and we don’t even need thousands to survive or even thrive. We just need a few hundred. Here’s why.
You’ll have customers at different levels.
In our business we have a mix of people we deal with:
Many are once or twice a year customers: they aren’t giving us lots of money but they also don’t need very much from us either.
We have some that are our power users. We are on retainer, make thousands a year from them, and are in regular contact.
Then there are people in between.
Whether you provide services like us or sell products, I bet you have customers at base, mid, and high levels of offerings.
People who move between levels, and new customers come in as well to balance those who to elsewhere, go out of business, etc. (If you don’t have multiple levels of products, you may want to rethink that!)
Your business can’t survive on one client (well, it can but then you are kind of their employee then, aren’t you?). But you also don’t also need to kill yourself trying to serve thousands of people either since you are meeting different customers’ needs differently.
You’ll have repeat customers if you know what you’re doing.
The hardest sale is the first sale. Once people are used to working with you, however, that second (or third or twentieth) sale is not only easier but more fun.
If you have a good product with good service, you’ll have repeat customers in some capacity, whether they always stay in your hotel when they come to town or buy cheese from your shop every year for their holiday party.
Your customers have friends and family.
There will be people in your business life who inexplicably love you. There are people I have met in my travels and I have no idea why they like me so much… but they do. And they tell other people.
Every time a loyal customer sends someone your way who buys, that’s another sale you didn’t have to bust your hump for. In the biz, people call these ‘brand mavens’ (and there is a few other words for them) but they are your vocal minority spreading the love. And if you have just a few of these in the mix, they do wonders.
Between these three principles, it seems like most people need to stop worrying about getting millions to like them and work on getting 300 people to love them.
Because 300 people, and the fact that their your people, makes a big difference. And it’s not just me who’s noticed:
(Fun Fact: Kassie watches this before running marathons. I had to ask her what the movie was about.)