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Many of our clients come to us with the goal to grow their client or student base. They feel that the way to reach this goal is to grow their online following or increase visitors to their brand website. The consistent advice we give our clients is to start where you are. If you build up before you build out your structure could crumble. Sure you can pay for more followers on your Facebook or Instagram account or buy ads to generate more visitors to your website, and in a pure numbers approach this can, for a short period of time, lead to an increase in paying clients or students, but it is not a sustainable marketing strategy for a small business. A fruitful service-based business is built through relationships. Trying to grow hundreds or even thousands of followers or website visitors can look good in numbers, but is an untenable community size if you are looking to generate a loyal and lasting client roster. 

The key to successfully marketing your small business is right in front of you, but is often hard to see through the dense forest of social media pressure and marketing quick-tips. To build a sustainable marketing strategy start where you are, with the clients and students you have. 

There is a lot of pressure online about the importance of growing your audience or increasing your website’s discoverability in Google. These tactics, though they can play a role in building your customer base, often draw from a small business’s limited resources with minimal long-term, sustainable return. It is seductive to think that the best use of your time and money is on whatever tool or app will help increase your social media following or your website traffic. Gaining a larger following is not necessarily the effective priority of a sustainable small business. More is not always better. When it comes to increasing your client base, going broader isn’t as effective as going deeper.

Why build deeper relationships with the clients and students you have?

Building from the relationships you have with your current clients and students is the most effective way to grow your small business. There is a marketing maxim that it takes 5 times more money to convert a new client than it does an existing client.This means it takes significantly more resources to gain a new audience member and move them toward becoming a paying student or client than it does to get a current client or student to purchase again.

Cultivating the relationships you already have develops a stronger foundation for your business’s future growth. Instead of pouring your time, energy, and money into increasing the number of likes your posts get on social media or how many hits your homepage receives in a day, take those valuable resources and direct them to your current client base. This in turn can reduce your workload and increase your conversion rate. The clients and students who have an engaged relationship with your business are more likely to do some of the marketing “heavy-lifting” for you by spreading the word and generating interest in their own communities. With social media, Google reviews, Trip Advisor, and Yelp, there are more ways for people to spread their recommendations and experiences with your business. When your clients feel a connection to your business and the value of your services they are more likely to sing your praises and recommend you. Their experienced opinion of your business holds significantly more sway with potential clients than any social media post.

How to build deeper relationships that convert.

Whether you have 20 clients or 200, directing your marketing strategy toward the relationships you already have will not only require less time, money, and effort to convert but will also contribute to building a stronger foundation for your business’s future growth and ultimately bring more value to your clients. 

Here are the 3 key ways to build relationships that convert:

  1. Have real conversations
  2. Ask their opinions
  3. Build toward their needs

1. Have real conversations

What makes building from your current base instead of building from untapped communities more effective in growing a sustainable business is the direct line you and your clients or students have to each other. That unobstructed path to connection is invaluable. Respect it and nurture it by showing sincere interest in your clients and their experiences. When talking to your students don’t try to pitch them on your upcoming training but instead sit with them and let them hold your attention. Have a conversation like you would with any acquaintance. Be interested in what they have to say and speak from your own perspective and ideas. Generating more of these genuine moments of connection, without intent to sell, but to simply discover each other go a long way. Instead of spreading hours writing blog posts or creating YouTube videos try taking a bit more time before or after your clients’ session to allow for opportunities to chat. Create a habit after your teaching sessions to be available for your students to ask questions and to learn about their experience. These in-person moments are superfood for a growing business.

2. Ask their opinions

Are you considering adding a new service to your offerings, or maybe you have an idea for a workshop or online course? Before launching it, reach out to your current client or student base and get their opinion. Find out what they think about your services and offerings. What would they like from you? 

A great way to keep up on your clients’ thoughts about your services is to hold regular services. You  might already be saying, “but no one fills out surveys.” According to Survey Monkey, “people are likely to take your feedback surveys if you’re giving them what they want.” So if people aren’t taking your survey’s maybe it’s time to revamp your processes. 

Here are 4 rules to follow when putting customer surveys out to your client or student base.

  1. Keep them short. 2-3 strategic questions that give you valuable information and that are easy and quick to complete will result in more usable information than a 1-2 page survey.
  2. Meet your clients where they are. If you ask your clients or students to fill out an intake form ask how they heard of you or why they chose your services. You can send short, simple surveys via email after every class or service. These can even be set up to go through text if that’s easier. Put your survey where your clients are already interacting with your services. 
  3. Offer incentives to help motivate people to complete surveys. Discounts, early-bird offers, and exclusive gifts make great incentives.

However you structure your surveys, always be sure to follow-up with respondents. Remember you are building and nourishing relationships so be sure to acknowledge their role in educating your business on what is needed.

3. Build towards their needs

The clients and students you already have can tell you a lot about your business and how to grow your services in a sustainable way.

Surveys and regular conversations with your clients can enlighten you to what challenges and needs they have. Why are they seeking out your services? What help are they looking for? Understanding the needs of your client base is central to a vibrant business. 

When it comes time to create new offerings or assess the value of your services, knowing the needs of your clients and students is essential. Building services that are responsive to these needs and not solely from what you simply want to offer, will support your business in growing in a way that is of most value to your community. 


The marketing goal common to all businesses, big or small, is to gain paying customers. Whether selling a product or a service, you are marketing your business to keep your businesses going and growing. Creating a sustainable business and attracting engaged clients is the ongoing work of a successful venture. 

Where many entrepreneurs and small business owners get sidetracked is in chasing a larger online audience. Your ticket to a healthy client base is in the clients you currently have. So before you devote much more time on your social media profile or your website’s SEO, take a moment and look who is actually coming through your door. They are your path forward.

If you would like guidance or are looking for support in planning your digital marketing, book a Discovery Call now. We can help you bring your services to those who need them most.

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