The Covid-19 pandemic has forced startups to fundamentally reimagine many aspects of their business strategy. How to win new customers is central to that. Here we look at how to grow your customer base in a new and uncertain environment.
If the current crisis has taught businesses anything, it is that to survive and thrive in the Covid economy you have to be agile and innovative.
Markets have shifted, as have customer behaviours and spending. The most obvious, of course, is the migration of more services to digital, enforced by social distancing measures.
It is a tough economic environment, but there are success stories to be found and nimble startups are best placed to navigate it.
Reassess customer needs
Benjamin Storey, Funding Solutions and Business Insight Lead at Barclays Ventures, says that businesses of all sizes are having to reassess who their customers are, their wants and needs, and what they are prepared to pay for. “Do some genuine reassessment of your target market and of your customers’ new customer base, if necessary,” he says.
“Early stage businesses, especially, need to remember that a real selling point of businesses is that they are agile, innovative and have the ability to pivot. They should use that flexibility to their advantage where they can.”
Benjamin adds that startups should not be afraid to re-approach previous customers that they have been rejected by previously: “Their circumstances and appetite may now have changed because of Covid – maybe one of their current suppliers is struggling, for example. I think businesses now prefer to have one or two options in these uncertain times.”
Do real time research
The lead times for customer insight surveys are typically weeks rather than days. In the fast moving landscape post-Covid, that feedback could be redundant by the time it’s collated. Startups have to find new and, crucially, faster, ways to get feedback on what their current and potential customers want.
There are numerous tools and services available that can provide instant insights, depending on your budget and scope. You can also do your own micro surveys, using anything from Slack, to SMS, to social chatbots.
Develop a social media and content strategy
Your pre-Covid content marketing strategy is probably no longer relevant or likely to resonate. You may be able to rework it around the edges, but the best course of action is to start fresh.
Produce fresh testimonials, insight articles and thought leadership pieces tied to a well thought-out social plan. Be sure to read the room and show a personal touch. Show empathy with your customers who could be struggling at this time.
Make your product must-have
The best way to win new customers is, of course, to offer a product or service that they absolutely need. And customer needs and wants may have changed since Covid. Unfortunately, social distancing and lockdown measures have meant that the “get out of the building” approach to customer development has been hampered.
Many founders favour the Lean Startup approach of getting in front of customers, partners and other stakeholders to test your hypotheses. That can be done remotely, of course, but perhaps not as successfully, especially with a physical product. One advantage is that more time can be spent on design.
The trend for socially responsible and trustworthy businesses growing their customer base has been on the rise for a number of years, but Covid-19 has given it a further boost.
A recent US benchmarking study found that, at a time when many American customers report a decline in income, they’re also revaluating their responsibility to society, including the businesses they buy from.
More than three-quarters said that how a company treats employees and customers during the pandemic will be an important factor when determining whether to support them following the pandemic.