Now is an incredibly tough time for many businesses, and if you have lost customers as a direct result of Covid-19, you are going to need to replace that revenue.

It goes without saying that acquiring new customers is essential to any business, at any time — but not if it means you have to replace them again a few months down the line. You might end up struggling to delight them at every turn, probably because they were a bad fit to begin with.

A customer who is going to be dissatisfied is never a good business proposition in the long-run. So how can you make sure you take on the right customers now, without desperately agreeing to work with wrong-fit organisations? Here we share our top five tips for identifying your best-fit customers (and replacing that lost revenue).

1. Revisit your customer personas

Fact: your customer personas have changed. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, your ideal buyer persona will have had to adapt to new ways of living, working and socialising — no matter who they are. 

Their spending habits (and power) will have shifted, too. Everyone will have been affected differently — financially, emotionally and physically. Even those who find themselves in similar circumstances will be reacting to this crisis in completely different ways. So it would be reckless to make assumptions. 

For example, if people aren't spending money on going out, they must have more to spend on home improvements, right? Or perhaps they have made a big life-changing decision about what they will do after lockdown because they’ve had more time on their hands to reflect? Will they be travelling, buying a first home, starting a family? If that's the case then they'll be saving, not spending, surely? 

All of these are logical guesses, but they aren’t founded in fact. You'll need to do your research to get to the heart of what your customers are thinking and feeling – that means reaching out to them and asking, not presuming. You need some quick, savvy persona-research techniques up your sleeve. For example:

  1. Create a survey for your existing customers to answer: We recently sent a questionnaire on behalf of one of our clients. The previous response to a survey of this type hadn’t been brilliant for this customer, but we thought it was worth another shot — and, boy, were we right!
    Within a week, over 80 participants had registered their detailed, insightful responses and we now had a bank of valuable content to use. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to reach out and share their experiences with you at this time — so just ask. 
  2. Ask them to be interviewed: For an in-depth ‘step up’ from a survey, target a few customers you know are usually happy to chat. Prepare questions around their lifestyle, things that have changed for them in the last few months, how their priorities have shifted, how their responsibilities are different, where they spend their time and money, and the things that keep them awake at night.
    If you’re able to dig down into the emotions of real people and find out their new pain points, you’ll be able to help and market to them much more effectively.
  3. Do your keyword research before creating content: You might think you know your business’ keywords inside out and backwards. But it’s not only during a global pandemic that you should revisit them and check they’re still relevant; this is a habit you should get into over time.
    If you don’t have tools to do this, just use Google. Type in phrases that you think your ideal customers might be searching for, and see what alternatives come up at the bottom of the page — these are your new long-tail keywords. Use the People Also Asked questions as headings in your new content, too.
    Update any planning documents with these new search terms, so everyone on your team knows to include them in content from now on. Repeat the process each time you create a new campaign so you can be sure your keywords are always up to date.

2. Define what makes a good fit

To find your ideal customer fit, think of your happiest customer and ask questions such as:

  • How did they find us to begin with?
  • What was it that attracted them to our product or service?
  • What were their alternative options?
  • Why did they choose us instead?
  • What is it about them that makes them an ideal fit for our business and the way we operate?

In order to identify an organisation that’s a great fit for your business, you need to go beyond the obvious. Yes — it’s important to identify whether their size and budget align with the scope and cost of your own solutions, but it’s down to far more intricate markers than this. 

What is their ethos and philosophy for operating in their market? Do their values align with yours? How do they communicate with you? Are they polite, courteous and appreciative of your help? Often, we focus too heavily on the obvious transactional gains of working with a customer, but without being emotionally and socially in sync, they could be a nightmare to work with somewhere down the line. 

3. Decide what your non-negotiables are — and stick to them

The global pandemic is a challenge to us all, but it isn’t the time to start compromising integrity. If your business has always proudly functioned under certain core beliefs, don’t throw them to the wind now in the frantic search for your next customer. If working with a customer doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. 

Everyone’s flex is different: some businesses can afford to shift on price if it means taking on a long-term customer who has a great attitude. For others, if a customer can’t meet that bottom-line payment, then it’s out of the question to work with them. 

Take a step back and review your feelings around pricing, payment terms, cancellation conditions, and internal processes. Make sure you know exactly where you stand on these points — and even formally re-document them — before continuing with sales, so you aren’t tempted to fall into bad habits out of desperation once negotiations begin. John Kelleher, Chief Executive at ESM Inbound, explains: 

“Expanding your service or product offering can often feel like the golden ticket to growth. You’ve suddenly got a whole new market and pain point that you can address, which feels like it should be a path to greater profit. But a new line of business needs to go hand-in-hand with the resources to support it. 

If you’re just adding new services or products without dedicated teams to back it up, then you’re distracting from your company’s core focus. More likely than not, you’ll divide your attention and do a poor job of the new work while damaging the quality of service for what you already do well. Your non-negotiables should be guardrails against Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice the long-term health of your business for a quick cash grab.”

4. Don't ignore your gut — and be prepared to walk away

Don’t be blind to obvious signs that someone isn’t a good fit: signs are usually there but whether we choose to notice them or not is another matter. The longer we go without new customers in challenging times, the more of a blind eye we are likely to turn to bad-fit signals.

By no means exhaustive, this is a list of some of the common signs someone might be a ‘tyre kicker’ who’s wasting your time:

  • The sales process is really difficult and fraught with problems — perhaps they ask you to define and explain every step of the journey, meeting you with criticism and distrust instead of positivity. 
  • They don’t get back to you for days or weeks on end, meaning you have to chase them. Genuinely fired-up customers can’t wait to get started with you and your products/service.
  • They’re spending no time on your website, engaging with your social media posts, or learning about your product/services in the time they’re not with you.
  • They ask the same questions over and over, even when you’ve answered them and don’t seem to retain any of the information you’re giving them.
  • They miss calls, miss deadlines, or miss payment dates. If you do manage to catch up with them, they’re keen to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

If any of these red flags are present during sales, then you’re probably not going to delight that customer. Working with them will be a slog, and even after delivering top-level service for them, they will still be dissatisfied. Not to mention you’ll be making a loss while they’re left frustrated.

5. Work on your existing relationship

It can cost five times more to create a new customer than retain an existing one, so as well as turning your focus to new sales, don’t forget the people who are still with you and helped your business grow. Don’t rest on your laurels — focus on delighting your existing customers as well as replenishing your finances with new ones.

Be the first to reach out, rather than waiting for them to chase you. If a deadline is approaching or warranty is due to expire, be the one to contact them. Ensure you’re managing expectations, too: it could be that customers are feeling more frantic themselves at the moment and start transferring that pressure on to you. Stay calm, touch base with them regularly and give them specific timelines.

Don’t forget that a courtesy contact goes a long way, too — call or email a customer just to ask how they’re doing, or to offer assistance. They’ll remember the businesses who were supportive and not pushy once normal life starts to resume.

We all know how tempting it can be to see a new customer as a quick injection of cash that your business needs right now. But if you take time to review the heart of your business, and re-iterate your non-negotiables, it’s far more likely you’ll end up with a long-term customer you truly delight, rather than a short-term one who is nothing but hard work. 

Find those right-fit customers to replace revenue now, and avoid headaches later — all the time nurturing your existing customers with the care they deserve.