How could it be that growing your business would upset your clients? It seems counterintuitive that the growth and development of a company would be an unwelcome change.
But there are some valid reasons why clients might not want you to grow. Here we look at the aspects of growth that might be undesirable to your current clients and how you can still grow your business without upsetting them.
Falling Levels of Customer Service
The experience we receive as a customer differs according to the size of company we are dealing with. A small company can provide you with a friendly, more attentive service, while to a large multi-national you may just represent a figure in their accounts – and a small one at that.
In the same way, as you grow, your customer service levels might dip. And this could displease your existing customers, who will not want the usually high levels of service they receive from you to suffer.
You need to consider whether it’s best to grow slowly and keep more customers happy or whether to aim for faster growth and risk upsetting some clients. Your choice might depend to some extent on the products or services you sell. For service businesses, maintaining good long-term relationships is absolutely key to client retention. This is especially crucial where the income per customer is high. In contrast, with fast-moving goods, losing 10% of your customers, who only buy your product once a month for a £1 cost, is not as much of a risk when the improvement or reason for growth might net thousands more loyal customers.
Unwelcome Changes to Your Product or Service
Often, growing goes hand in hand with needing to change your product or service in some way. This can upset current customers who resist change and perhaps don’t accept the transformation because they were perfectly happy with what they had before. This is often the case with SaaS business product tools. When a feature is changed, a menu updated, or app colours are changed, customers get upset.
If customers don’t like changes to your app, then you can offer your new functionality or designs, with the option of keeping the old version too. That way, you keep your existing clients happy and can attract new ones with your improvements.
One way to grow is to earn more income through raising your prices. Yet some customers – who may have been with you since your business was founded – will feel let down that their reliable service is increasing in price.
There are, however, ways to raise your prices without alienating your customers. You can add value to your product to make your increased pricing seem more reasonable. Or you can raise them gradually over a period of time.
For services, you might ‘grandfather’ your pricing – as is often seen with software where existing clients retain their pricing models, and only new customers pay more.
You might new pricing options with different tiers of service level or product and offer a discount if your customer upgrades to a superior service. Of you could offer a discount but only if they sign up to a longer contract period, as is common in the telecoms and the mobile phone market.
The Loss of the Small Company Feel
Many customers like to deal with small companies. It makes them feel important to the business. They may have become accustomed to speaking with senior people in the company and as you grow, you can see their reluctance to deal with more junior managers.
They may feel affronted by rapid growth that sees a supplier they have always been loyal to suddenly becoming more remote. While you won’t turn into a faceless corporate overnight, the impression that they are less important can be a real sense of loss for some customers.
One way to deal with this is by using distinct brands and trading names. You can separate your business into different areas and continue to trade under different names. You can split up a broad range across multiple businesses or brands, or if you are diversifying your offering, this is a good opportunity to provide different products to different audiences. Existing customer will not interact with this new trading name or brand, nor your separate website, so you will appear unchanged to them.
Many businesses will even trade their entire range under several different trading entities. They will supply the same products but perhaps with alternative products names and descriptions. This allows them to be seen by their market in multiple circumstances, thereby having more chances to be seen and chosen by their potential customers.
Not Being Local
If you want to grow outside your current area or location, you risk upsetting customers who like to buy from local businesses or feel an affinity with a company that somehow represents their area.
A business called South-West Company Ltd., for example, will struggle to find a foothold in the north-east. If your business has a location in its name, but you want to expand into other areas, then location-specific trading can help. You might create new businesses or trading names for new areas– like using ‘north’ and ‘south’ in your name – or even adopting smaller regional or county names.
From an admin perspective, the simplest way is to operate several businesses under a single company, rather than creating lots of different individual companies. For you accounts team, there’s less of an admin burden as you can make your annual and statutory filings as one company.
No Longer Matching their Self-Image
All products and services have a place in their markets. Some brands are positioned at the upper price ranges – like Waitrose, Range Rover and Liberty. Others will aim at those wanting to spend less – like Lidl, Dacia and Primark.
As you grow and evolve, you may want to change pricing or to reposition so that you are attractive to a different sort of customer. This can distance you from your core customers.
To avoid this, you can differentiate your offerings and sell to slightly different target markets. Based on disposable income, for example, you can provide one brand for a standard product or service and another for a more luxury version. Distinguishing your products and services like this can help you to capture more of the available market. Simply by positioning each brand as serving a separate segment of the market, you increase your total exposure.
NetSuite ERP can help you trade in different ways, consolidating, reconciling and reporting on multiple entities. For a free business consultation or tailored quote, contact us today.