One of the main success factors in scaling your company is the ability to delight your customers*. But the company can only grow fast when it attracts new customers. What is more important for a scale-up: attracting new customers or delighting the existing ones? And can you achieve both goals at the same time? 

The risk of overselling

The challenge of delighting customers while scaling your company is a consequence of its quick growth. You want to delight your customers by providing them the same personal attention and quality as at the start-up phase, but you need to do it for many more customers and at lower costs per customer. You want to sell more, but you don’t have enough time to tailor your products to the needs of different customers. As a result, there is a risk of selling premature products while scaling. If this happens customers’ disappointment is right around the corner.

Most scale-ups establish processes to respond to negative feedback and to correct their mistakes. Some scale-up CEOs even believe that having small problems is beneficial, because it triggers intense communication with customers. “Any pain is an opportunity”, argues a scale-up CEO. “When you solve the problem, you create a long-term relationship with your client”

ScaleUpNation aims to double that rate for impact scale-ups.

What is more important for a scale-up: attracting new customers or delighting the existing ones? And can you achieve both goals at the same time?

Engage with your customers

This is a dangerous illusion. You don’t need problems to establish relationships with customers. What you really need is customer engagement management, a structured way to provide good customer experience. Instead of waiting for calls from angry clients to delight them with efficient troubleshooting, you need to be proactive in staying in touch with your customers. You can call them to ask about their experience and engage in a conversation on how to improve your product or service. You can learn a lot by asking your clients why they use your product, what value they gain from it and why they prefer it to alternatives. It will help you to sharpen your sales pitch and to attract new customers. It can also help you to improve your current product through co-creation with customers. 

The balance between the focus on new and existing customers depends on the stage of a company’s development. Some scale-ups already have too many customers to pay personal attention to each of them organically. In this case, you need to develop a structured customer communication process with what one scale-up CEO called “a magic mix of automatization and personal touch”.

Overinvest in existing customers

If you don’t yet have hundreds of clients, overinvesting in delighting a few flagship customers can be your strategy to expand your customer base. “Your first customers need to be your ambassadors, your advocates, because you have very few, so you can’t afford not to have them on your team”, explains a scale-up CEO. “Maybe, when we have a thousand customers, personal contact becomes less important. But for now, word-of-mouth is the best way to win new customers.”  You don’t need to choose between expanding your business and delighting your customers. Delighted customers can help you to attract new customers.

*Research on delighting customers in scale-ups is conducted by ScaleUpNation and supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation and Europees Fonds voor Regionale Ontwikkeling (EFRO).

Anna Fenko

Author Anna Fenko

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