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How to Expand Your Customer Base Without Angering Your Core

We’ve all seen it – the business that makes a desperate grab to expand its customer base with some crazy tactic that explodes in their face. You can see it coming, and most likely they can too, but they feel like there’s no avenue left to them. Once you get tired of selling to the same people and want to expand, it’s hard not to feel like you have limited options, especially if your product fills a very specific niche.

The main problem businesses run into when expanding their customer base is your core audience can sometimes balk at the change. They’re the one who’ve stuck by you through thick and thin, after all, so why do these new people suddenly get special treatment?

Why They’re Angry

You may think your customers are being a bit silly by getting so angry at your “betrayal,” when, to you, expanding your market is a win/win. After all, don’t they want you to stay in business? Why wouldn’t they want you to have more money to improve your service?

The problem is they aren’t thinking like that. More than some “I was there first” mentality is the idea that their favorite company is leaving them behind. They pine for the good old days when they had a cool thing they could tell their friends about, but mainly it was just for them.

When you start expanding your customer base, though, the old customers may get the idea you’re changing your company entirely. Even worse, they may feel like the product itself will drastically change to suit all the new people you’re selling to.

Think of it like a band. When you stumble across some virtually unknown group, you may feel like they’re directly making songs about you. When they grow in popularity, though, you may feel like they’re changing their sound to appeal to a wider audience. It may or may not be true, but the important thing is you feel it’s true, and you’re irritated.

How to Avoid It

Your core customer base has to feel like you’re acknowledging their fears and feelings. If not, they will most likely take off, thinking you’ve outgrown them and no longer care about who helped you get off the ground.

On top of that, it’s wise to ease into a transition rather than jump right into it. For example, if you’re thinking of switching up your product a little bit, you know in advance your core could go insane with the changes. Instead of making a full switch, try a smaller one first to see how people react. Better yet, talk to your core audience about the changes. Even ask for their help!

Going back to the band analogy: say your favorite country/polka/animal sounds hybrid group is in the studio trying to think of a way to expand their listener base. They wouldn’t immediately drop the unique blend of sounds that made them semi-famous in the first place. Instead, they would slowly change things like cutting back on the animal sounds or blending the polka more fluidly.

Eventually, if it worked out, they would adopt this sound as their new way of doing things. Some of their original fanbase will undoubtedly run away, but many will stay around as the transition was more of a smooth evolution than a jolting switch.

What’s a new customer base you could try expanding into?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in press release writing and distribution. Download the free whitepaper LinkedIn for Business here: http://www.ereleases.com/insider/linkedin.html

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