As a small business owner you’re probably facing the same dilemma as the rest of us: how to grow the business without a big budget to spend on marketing campaigns.

You’ve got limited budget available. You want to increase your customer base but you also know you should upgrade your systems to provide a better experience for your existing customers.

So what do you do if you cant afford both? Spend money on a campaign, OR the new systems?

Look after the customer experience and the leads will come

I know it sounds odd not to go chasing down leads like a hunting dog, but honestly, people hate being sold to and the majority of marketing activities by businesses are a major turn off.

The best marketing are the genuine recommendations given by your happy customers. And they are free!

So if you can make ends meet while you invest in systems that life easier for your customers, then that is the best choice for actual profit-based growth.

Focusing on customer experience is a longer term plan as the recommendations won’t come flying in overnight, but if you put the effort in to delight your customers, in time you’ll have new business knocking on your door, eager to sign up at your top price because they know they’re getting something good.

Customer experience: the new weapon in the business arsenal

The old way to market your business was identifying a pain point and offering a solution. Your customers were willing to forgive an average experience as long as they got what they needed to solve their problem.

But technology has changed everything. It’s enabled more businesses to enter your market and offer new ways of delivering services. With lower barriers to entry, markets are becoming ever more saturated and while some businesses are soaring, others are crumbling.

It’s no longer enough to have a good solution, or a well-known brand.

The businesses that are winning in today’s market are those that have invested in customer experience, and aligned it to their brand.

Think about AirBnB, Xero, Singapore Airlines. They have structured their businesses around their customer experience and go the extra mile to make their customers happy.

They prioritise convenience and  exceed expectations at every opportunity. Importantly, their experience is tied to their brand and they are consistent in their experience no matter where you encounter them.

How often do you see these companies advertise? Did they win your business through a marketing campaign?

No. Most likely you heard how great they are through a mate or a colleague.

WHY customer experience is so important: word of mouth referrals and recommendations

With our connected world, referrals and recommendations spread far wider than they used to. Someone asks for advice in a Facebook group and literally thousands of members can see their answer.

We check online reviews before we buy all sorts of products and services.

When was the last time you booked a hotel room without checking the reviews? What about a restaurant? Software? New bike? Even if looking for a new accountant you’re probably going to select one that has been recommended by someone you trust.

These reviews and recommendations are more powerful than any marketing campaign you could produce, no matter how big your budget is.

It’s because they are genuine, authentic and emotive. Nobody will recommend a business for free if they don’t believe in it.

Not a single Google ad needed.

How do you create an amazing customer experience?

Ok, first up, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and critically assess your products, processes and services from their point of view. Can you make it easier for them? What issues do they experience? How can you serve them better? Can you exceed their expectations?

Survey your customers to get their honest feedback. What are their frustrations?

Reduce steps in processes and automate everything you can! Reduce their need to call or email you. Put information and forms online for them to self-serve.

Ask yourself, what would be the most amazing experience a customer could have? That should be your ultimate goal. Then you align everything in your business towards that goal.

Read this article for tips on how to create a brand experience your customers will love.