Which is more important, building new business or keeping the business you have?

Steve and Mindy Penn's Wedding 2010

Which is more efficient? More cost effective?

If the answer isn’t obvious, it’s because you, like me, work in marketing and have worked in marketing for probably too long. The allure of inbound marketing is compelling, the allure of winning new business and being a hero to your company’s sales and marketing teams is heady.

When you dig in past new website visitors, new goal conversions in Google Analytics, new opportunities in your sales pipeline, when you go past the surface details that keep us as marketers occupied and happy, the stark truth is that not much of it matters. Not much of it moves the needle in comparison to the greatest and most powerful marketing weapon you should have at your disposal:

Existing customers who are so deliriously happy with you that they are evangelizing on your behalf harder than any Sunday morning preacher.

Think about all the truths we give lip service to, especially in social media: it’s all about being human. It’s all about relationships. It’s all about being there before the sale. Then think about how much of your time, energy, and budget you expend as a marketer or a CEO on anything but strengthening the relationships you’ve already got.

You want an easy social media strategy that requires little investment, little research, and very little cleverness or technical skill to execute? Set up relationships, friendships, and/or followerships with every one of your customers who is willing to do so and then spend your time listening to them. Every time a customer tweets or posts to their wall about something that’s having a serious impact on them, personally or professionally, touch base, even if it’s just in sympathy. Every time a customer has a problem with your product or service, be there before anyone else can get a chance to respond and ask sincerely how you can help, then fix their problem.

In relatively short order, as long as you’re sincere and dedicated in your efforts to help strengthen the relationships you’ve already got, new business will start to increase. Word of mouth will make your sales cycle shorten dramatically because your existing customers will do all the browbeating for you. Profits will go up from happy customers ready to spend their money on whatever you’ve got next, to the point where they’ll nag you for more things they can buy. Ask any successful musician about how loud that can get from rabid fans for the next album, the next single, the next t-shirt, anything.

This is one of the few times where there’s no catch, where you truly can have massive leverage with relatively few resources, where you can move the needle dramatically and quickly with just hard work and no bag of tricks or arcane technologies. Put your heart and soul into loving the customers you’ve already got, and watch how they’ll open doors for you to customers you’d never reach otherwise. Show honest gratitude to them for their support and work your ass off to keep earning it, day after day.

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