How to Increase Your Customer Base

Understand and grow your customer base with research, planning, and well-placed offers.

To learn how CMOs are nurturing consumer trust to help build a loyal customer base, download the new CMO Club Report, The Quest for Consumer Trust.

What is a Customer Base?

Your customer base is made up primarily of people who repeatedly buy your products or use your services. 

If you want to expand your customer base, the first step is to understand who makes up your customer base and why they find value in your product or services. Then, you can identify any potential groups that you believe would become loyal customers if you reached them with targeted marketing.

Identifying Your Customer Base

To really zero in on the attributes of your customer base, you’ll need to do a little research into your existing client demographics and your target market. Then, consolidate and summarize your findings to create buyer personas.

Existing Clients

Analyze your current customer data to determine as many concrete details as you can about the people who already know and engage with your brand on a regular basis. The following details are good to gather:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Income level
  • Profession
  • Education level
  • Frequency of purchases
  • Reasons for purchasing
  • Other brands they love

You can collect quantitative information from company data sources such as your CRM, loyalty program membership profiles, customer feedback responses, or purchase records. 

If you don’t have much customer data available, consider reviewing case studies or interviewing your sales or customer support teams to surface insights. 

You also may need to gather new data. Conducting surveys, focus groups, or interviews with your existing customers can help you identify similar characteristics and start to develop a profile of your customer base. Audience intelligence tools like SparkToro, Brandwatch, or Audiense can also provide valuable insights about your customers. 

Once you’ve collected and reviewed data about who’s buying from you already, you can use your analysis to inform your next step: defining your target market.

Target Market

Your target market is made up of your ideal customer—the group of people that you believe benefit most from your product or service. 

There should be a lot of overlap between the attributes of your target market and the existing customers you just researched, but they probably won’t be identical. You may identify customers that could receive a lot of value from your product but simply aren’t aware of your brand (at least not yet). 

Narrowing in on a target market isn’t just about customer preferences. Your market should also make sense for your business goals and objectives, so partner with your sales, product development, and customer support teams as you develop a picture of your target customers. 

Keep in mind that defining your target market is all about gaining a clear, shared understanding of who you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts. And in order to reach an audience effectively, your messaging needs to be tailored to their specific needs and motivations. That’s why your ideal audience should be narrow enough that tailored campaigns will resonate with them. 

Bottom line: if your target market is too broad, you can’t develop targeted messaging.

Learn how NFL Sunday Ticket used targeted videos and podcasts to drive a 29% increase in college student subscribers.

Target Markets for B2C Brands

B2C brands describe their target markets as a segment of individuals. Target markets should be narrowed down based on demographic (who your customers are) and psychographic (what they value or care about) attributes. Your product should be a natural fit for both—that’s what makes these customers your target market. 

For example, consider how two very distinct airlines position their services to two very distinct audiences:

  • Southwest Airlines targets cost-conscious travelers looking for a low-stress experience, including younger travelers and families, as reflected in their highly promoted “bags fly free” policy.  
  • Virgin Atlantic targets higher-end or business travelers who value unique experiences and, for years, used the tagline “Flying in the Face of Ordinary” to appeal to that adventurous spirit.

Target Markets for B2B Brands

B2B brands usually develop target markets in the form of an ideal customer profile, or ICP. 

At this level, brands identify the kinds of businesses that get the most value from their product rather than focusing on individual employees within that business. An ICP might include industry, geography, company size, and annual revenue.  

For example, here are hypothetical ideal customer profiles for two different SaaS brands:

  • Mailchimp targets small-to-medium businesses that are interested in growing their customer base through digital marketing but likely don’t have experienced marketers or the budget for more powerful enterprise platforms.
  • Salesforce primarily targets enterprise businesses that need a powerful platform to manage complex digital marketing, sales, analytics, and customer experience operations. (Although, we should note that the SaaS behemoth did launch an SMB-specific product, Salesforce Essentials, in 2017 to compete with Mailchimp and other lower-priced competitors.)

With your target market in mind, you can start to build your buyer personas—an incredibly useful tool that will help you tailor messaging and campaigns to increase your client base.

Generating Buyer Personas for Your Customer Base

Buyer personas are generalized, fictionalized representations of the types of buyers within your customer base. You’ll likely have more than one persona in your toolkit. 

And buyer personas are just that—tools. You create those tools by consolidating and summarizing all of your research into your customer base, identifying common traits, and building a fictional biography of a typical customer. Buyer personas usually include:

  • A name that, for some reason, is almost always an alliteration. 
  • A photo or illustration to literally put a face on your fictional customer.
  • Demographics like age, location, and occupation (gender is also common, but that can quickly become problematic).
  • Motivations that relate to your product (like shopping habits or professional aspirations).
  • Challenges or frustrations that relate to the problem your product solves or the buying experience itself.
  • Brands or media they follow. 
  • Quotes from real customers that bring those motivations and challenges to life.

How Marketers Use Buyer Personas

Marketers use personas to reach their customers more effectively by developing more nuanced positioning and messaging. Personas make that much easier by literally putting a face on the customer segment you’re trying to reach and giving you a biography and personality profile that helps you empathize with their challenges and speak to their motivations.  

For B2B brands especially, personas help humanize the buyers behind the companies you identified as ideal customers. 

For example, an email marketer might develop different iterations of a campaign for each buyer persona, or a content writer might compose a case study intended to address a specific persona’s hesitations in subscribing.

Examples of Buyer Personas

Brands guard their buyer personas carefully—after all, as we’ve just covered, a lot of research goes into understanding who your customers are and what they care about. But here are some hypothetical examples of buyer personas to reference as you build your own.

Working Mom Wendy from Business2Community.com

The Working Mom Wendy persona, representing a healthcare consumer, is simple and easy-to-skim, with key details about motivations (keeping her family healthy) and challenges (difficult to take sick days).

Susan Holt from FrancoisBredenkamp.com

We can learn a lot about SaaS persona Susan at first glance, thanks to the slider-style personality graphics and a succinct overview of her goals and frustrations.

Karla Kruger from DonovanJames.com

Karla’s skincare brand persona is packed with information about her media consumption, favorite products, and shopping habits.

Tools to Help Build Buyer Personas

The most important factor in any persona is the research that stands behind it. 

As you can see from these examples, the precise format and structure of buyer personas can vary quite a bit. There are a number of templates available online, or you can check out interactive tools like Hubspot Make My Persona or Xtensio to help put your personas down on paper or PDF.

Growing Your Customer Base

With a solid understanding of who your ideal customers are and what they care about, you can focus your efforts on reaching those people to build your customer base.

Great Customer Service

First and foremost, retain existing customers by providing great service. Returning customers tend to spend more, convert more often, and refer more new customers than first-time shoppers. 

Customer service is about a lot more than answering questions or addressing complaints—it’s about building opportunities for moments of delight into your business. Those moments keep your current customers happy and may even prompt them to share their positive experiences with friends, family, or social media networks.

Here are a few examples of share-worthy customer experiences to get your inspiration flowing.

The Starbucks Philosophy of “Surprise and Delight”

Long before the international coffee chain launched their rewards program, Starbucks empowered baristas to “surprise and delight” customers with free beverages or treats at their discretion. Over time, it became almost expected for baristas to delight regulars with a free coffee on their birthday, even though it wasn’t an official company policy. 

Today, a free birthday drink is one of the most popular perks on the Starbucks Rewards app. 

Hotel Indigo and Nicolas Cage

Back in 2015, a guest at the San Antonio Hotel Indigo responded to a generic “Let us know if we can assist you” text with a request for a framed picture of Nicolas Cage on her bed. The concierge on the receiving end of the message had a sense of humor and a can-do spirit, and the resulting interaction went as viral as you’d expect.  

Pinball in the Time of Coronavirus

In the summer of 2020, small businesses were struggling to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But one bar owner took time to accommodate a longtime customer with underlying health conditions, moving a pinball machine onto the sidewalk so a 70-year-old enthusiast didn’t have to choose between his health or a beloved hobby. 

This act of above-and-beyond customer service made headlines and warmed hearts during an exceptionally difficult time.

Collect Regular Feedback From Your Customer Base

Customer research shouldn’t end once your personas are published. Keep your finger on the pulse of your customer base by using NPS or a similar standardized metric to measure customer loyalty.

However, don’t stop at a numeric rating alone. Ask one of the following simple, open-ended follow-up questions to gather qualitative information about what you’re doing well and where to improve. 

For low ratings:

  • How can we make your experience better in the future?
  • What did you like the least about our product/service?

For high ratings:

  • What do you like the most about our product/service?
  • How has using our product/service helped you?
  • How could we make you even happier?

For example, online jobs review site Glassdoor uses feedback in its NPS surveys to drive product improvements like expanded filter criteria and targeted email alerts.

Encourage Referrals

Once you know who your most satisfied customers are based on your feedback program, you can ask your biggest fans for referrals. Referrals are an incredible marketing tactic to expand your customer base, as they tend to be low-cost and lead to more profitable customers over time. 

For example, after H&R Block segmented their referral program with NPS responses, they saw a 13% increase in success rates. 

Promote Your Business and Engage on Social Media

Understanding how and where your customer base spends time online helps your marketing team prioritize their social media marketing efforts. You can funnel resources into connecting with your ideal customers on their favorite channels—and stop spending valuable time and resources on platforms your customers use less often. 

You can also promote content or offers tailored for your buyer personas on their preferred channels and drive engagement through online groups or surveys. 

For example, when sustainable shoe brand Rothy’s wanted to give back at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their team surveyed their famously loyal customers on Facebook and Instagram to see how they should go about making an impact. The responses led Rothy’s to source and donate 100,000 face masks. The experience helped cement the bond between brand and customer.

Learn how Rothy’s drove 60% in program growth by canvassing its loyal customer base on social media.

Create Personalized Offers

The more you get to know your customer base, the more you’ll understand what resonates with them. One avenue well worth exploring is personalized offers—tailoring exclusive discounts or promotions to specific segments of your customers based on their personal attributes.

For example, Rothy’s didn’t just stop their pandemic response with a one-time face mask donation. The brand also took its customers’ suggestion to develop a personalized offer for healthcare workers, providing a limited-time 50% discount and an evergreen 20% discount similar to an existing teacher discount. 

The idea was a runaway success—Rothy’s personalized offer program saw a 60% increase in revenue while building deep connections with the healthcare community.

How to Build a Customer Base With Identity Marketing

Personalized offers like Rothy’s are an example of identity marketing, which is rooted in giving an exclusive promotion to customer groups based on attributes such as their profession, affiliation, or life stage. 

Brands that extend personalized offers can verify membership in these groups with SheerID’s Identity Marketing Platform by collecting minimal, privacy-friendly information directly from customers. The offers delight customers and give brands zero-party data they can use to nurture even greater loyalty. 

Identity marketing is an inherently personal and emotional experience for customers because it’s based on attributes that are more meaningful than zip codes or social media likes. 

When customers feel recognized and appreciated for their identities, it makes a lasting brand impression and drives higher spending and more referrals. This makes identity marketing a powerful approach to building your customer base

Especially when supplemented with giving-back initiatives, such as Rothy’s face mask donation, identity marketing campaigns can help underline your brand’s commitment to the communities that matter most to your customer base.

You can use identity marketing to reach the following communities:

More than 90% of students, teachers, nurses, and first responders would share a personalized offer with others in their community.

When you have a solid understanding of your customer base and which communities may matter most, you can launch an identity marketing campaign in a matter of days. And in many cases, sharing the offer itself may surface new insight. 

For example, you could promote a military discount via email to your entire customer base, and surface customers that you didn’t know were in the service. (And with digital verification, you don’t need to worry about discount abuse or shared coupon codes.)

Here are a few examples of how brands have leveraged identity marketing to grow their customer base

  • Meditation app Headspace offered a teacher discount that brought in 25k new subscribers.
  • Arts and crafts retailer Michael’s integrated identity marketing campaigns into their existing loyalty program to drive ongoing engagement and deliver positive customer experiences. When they launched the new program, they verified 200,000 customers.
  • Music streaming service Deezer saw a 21% increase in growth in student subscriptions after extending a personalized offer.

Ultimately, increasing your customer base comes down to understanding who your customers are and how you can add value to their lives—then meeting them where they are with offers that resonate. 

That understanding takes research and time, but once you’re ready, SheerID can help you launch an identity marketing campaign within days. Request a demo to learn more.

Learn how identity marketing can help you grow your customer base by driving 6x conversions and ROI as high as 25:1.