'Rock Star' Customers Can Help Your Small Business Grow

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An interesting article on BizBest.com recently made the case that existing customers can be "one of the most powerful growth engines ever" for your small business. "One way to put this engine to work is to identify and harness the hidden marketing potential in your 'Rock Star' customers," writes Daniel Kehrer, an expert on small and local businesses.

Rock Star customers are not necessarily the most loyal or the biggest spenders who do business with you, the article continues. No, according to Bill Lee, author of "The Hidden Wealth of Customers" that's cited in the article. Your rock stars are customers who most likely to promote your business and influence others.

"First, they're loyal - that's the price of admission," he says. "They have a good story to tell about how your product or service helps them. Second, they're eager to tell it. Third, they have access - and want to gain more access - to influential networks that contain more buyers like them. And fourth, they want to build their reputation and influence in such networks."

Beware, however, that even if these customers say they're highly likely to refer you to a friend or colleague, they probably won't do so without a little nudge from you. Kehrer cites studies that have shown that only about 10 percent of self-described promoters actually refer profitable new customers. So, you have to make it simple for your Rock Stars to spread the word about how great your business really is!

Two ways to do that are:

1. Make it all about them, not you, says Kehrer. One tactic that he recommends is community marketing that recognizes how people buy things locally. "In that context, most people aren't likely to seek out a salesperson or collect brochures," he maintains. "Instead, they'll talk to friends, neighbors, colleagues or other peers to find out what or whom they're using."

Kehrer goes on to point out that some big companies, like Microsoft, have deployed "customer advocates" to leverage this natural approach to buying. "Microsoft will find local ‘MVP' customers who are well-connected in their local communities and want to increase their status, and help them do so by providing access to early releases and ‘insider knowledge,'" he writes, adding that small businesses can use the same approach.

2. Make yourself an influencer. Don't leave it to your Rock Stars to carry the ball completely, but have them help make you a "thought leader" in your community or industry.

"Many business owners fall into the rut of seeking influencers - such as bloggers with large followings, or prominent personalities in their markets or communities," says Kehrer. "But it's usually better to be the influencer yourself - enlisting your Rock Stars to help you do it."

Local small businesses that provide exceptional solutions to their community or market have two things no outside influencer can match, according to Lee: actual customers who are happy, and their own "subject matter experts" who work with these customers daily. Both attributes give your business far more valuable knowledge than some outsider, he says.

Kehrer closes his article by noting that perhaps the best thing about Rock Star customers is that "they already exist, quietly thriving under the radar, waiting for you to discover them and put them to work. Failing to do so is a little like being a homeowner who knows a stash of gold is hidden in the wall but never uses a metal detector to find it."

About the Author:
Beth Longware Duff is a professional editor and award-winning writer whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in print and electronic media. She currently writes on a wide range of topics dealing with electronic payment processing, including virtual terminal credit card processing, for Merchant Express.