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097 - Sell more to your current customers

Retaining customers & creating champions. To celebrate the launch of our brand new course ‘How to get customers’, David explains why someone becoming your customer is not the end of their customer journey. If you can sell to someone once, you can sell to them twice. And even better, if they believe in your mission then your current customers will go out and find more customers for you on your behalf!

You can find the full four and a half hour video course on how to get customers in our Vegan Business Tribe Academy which is included for all Vegan Business Tribe members.

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Video course

How to get customers

Is getting new customers the main problem holding your business back? Join David in this intimate 8-part 4-hour video course as he goes right back to the basics of understanding how people buy, how to set up a sales and marketing funnel and how to take a customer over the line.

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Episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 97 of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe. And if you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.

And today we’re going to be talking about retaining customers & creating champions for your business who are going to go out and find you even more customers. Because if you’ve already convinced someone to buy from you once, then it’s far easier to persuade that person to buy from you again rather than trying to find someone new who doesn’t know you or trust you yet.

But before we delve into that I like to start with a quick update on what’s been going on at Vegan Business tribe since we last spoke, and what a couple of weeks we’ve been having! We’ve had a record month for new members joining us, and if you are already a member then you get our separate member-only email and you’ll have seen the introductions to all the new amazing vegan business owners who’s been signing up with us. But it’s also an extremely exciting, or maybe terrifying, time for Lisa and I personally. Because, as I’m recording this we are about two and a half weeks from baby due date so we’re about to expand our tribe in more ways than one. Yes, baby is T-17 and counting but Lisa is already at 37 weeks – so Little Bean coming any time from now would be considered completely normal!

And I have covered the vegan baby and children’s market quite a lot on this podcast and on the website, and we’re amazingly grateful of the work that people have done to pave the way to make it so much easier to have a vegan baby. People like Laura Chepner at The Vegan Society who has been a one-woman army in getting the education system in the UK to better serve vegan children. People like Dana Burton from Vegan Kids, who has spent years supporting the vegan children’s scene and runs the Vegan Kids Festival in August as well as vegan kids residentials. And also I have to mention people like Harry Bidewell, better known as Vegan Squirrel, who with his dad Mark has done more to promote the vegan cause at 6 years old than most of us might hope to do in our lifetimes. And because all these people are members of Vegan Business Tribe, over the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know them as friends too and really see their passion and effort.

So although I am sure we’re going to have some challenges raising a vegan baby, it’s never been easier to do as it is now – thanks to these people and many more like them. And just mentioning being a member of Vegan Business Tribe, now – if you’re listening to this then hopefully you’re already part of the tribe, but if you’re not then listen, seriously, what’s holding you back? It’s just £18.99 a month to be part of our support community and our membership is what funds all the work we do in helping champion the vegan business scene around the world. But as a Vegan Business Tribe member, you also get access to so much information, you get access to our online courses and our networking events. You get access to our community hub where you can share your wins and ask for help and advice from other vegan business owners. You can even direct message me through our Community Hub if you need help or advice.

And this week, I was actually chatting to someone on LinkedIn about Vegan Business Tribe, and the reason they said they hadn’t signed up was because they didn’t have a full business yet and they felt a bit of a fraud joining a vegan business support group! And it’s true, we have some Vegan Business Tribe members who have companies turning over several million, but we have others who are just trying to work out what their business is going to be. And surrounding yourself with these other people who are on that same journey as you are will genuinely make working it all out so much easier.

So, got take a look at the website at Vegan Business Tribe .com , click on that big join button on the homepage and you’ll see everything you get as a member. And if you’ve got any questions at all about becoming a member, then just email me on

OK, so let’s get going on today’s topic – and actually, you’re in for a bit of a special session because I was just talking about being a member of Vegan Business Tribe and one thing that members get access to is all our online content and courses. This last week we have just launched a brand new video course on ‘How to get customers’. This course is about four and a quarter hours long if you were to do it in one sitting, but it’s broken down over 8 sections that you can work through at your own pace. And this course teaches you everything about how and why people buy, and how to apply that knowledge to your own company so that you can find more customers. It teaches you about buying timelines, sales and marketing funnels and how to make sure people take that very last step and actually buy from you.

So in today’s session, I’m going to share with you the content from one of the very last sections of that course where we talk about the last part of the sales process, which is how to sell more to your current customers and then how to get those people to go off and find you more customers in return. Now, in the course we’ve broken this into a number of parts and you get all the slides and tasks at the end of each chapter to help you apply what you have learned to your own business, so you get more than you’ll hear here – and it’s all in video too rather than just audio. And if you want all that then you’ll find the full course in our Vegan Business Academy section of the website.

Now, in the course I teach you how someone becoming your customer is a process, not a one-off event. And if you learn how that process works then getting customers becomes repeatable, rather than just being a fluke each time. But you might think that when someone does buy from you that you’ve got to the end of that process. You’ve nurtured someone through your sales and marketing funnel, they have become a customer, and you’ve brought them over the line and got their money in your bank. Surely that’s job done, mission achieved right?

Well, one of the main messages I stress through the course is how much work it can take to get someone to become your customer. Making someone aware of you, convincing them that your company or product solves their problem, and then building up enough trust and familiarity for them to spend money with you, can take a lot of time, a lot of learning and (in some cases) a lot of money to bring someone through your funnel. However, once someone is your customer, then that means they are already aware of you and they already have confidence in you. So getting that same person to buy from you again, or to buy something different from you, only takes a fraction of the effort compared to going out and trying to sell to someone new.

But our focus as businesses tends to be on finding new customers and we often forget about the people we’ve already sold to. In part, this is due to ‘sales’ culture. Salespeople usually work on some kind of commission basis where they get a bonus when a new customer signs up, but they don’t lose any money if that customer never buys again or quits a few months later. So most sales training focuses on making the initial sale, not retaining the customers you already have. But for most of you, your ideal customer is already sitting right there in the palm of your hand – it’s your current customers.

If you’re an established company then you also likely have a long list of people who are not current customers but they have bought from you in the past. Those people haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth either, they are already aware of you and trusted you enough to have already given you money. But when did you last talk to them? When did you last engage with them and get them into a conversation – because selling to someone who has already bought from you is infinitely easier than getting someone new to buy.

If you ensure that someone becoming a new customer is just the start of their relationship with you, then your business will grow quicker and it takes the pressure off always trying to find new customers. So make sure that you use a CRM (or a customer relationship management) system to track when your customer last bought something from you or when you last had a conversation with them. There are lots of free, or very affordable, CRM systems and if you are serious about retaining customers then you can’t run a business without one. In fact, if you link your CRM system with your e-commerce website, then your CRM can even prompt you when a customer has not purchased from you or interacted with you for a set period of time so that you can reach out to them. Or you can even set up an automation, so that if someone has not bought from you for a while they receive an email or a text message with a special offer – or just asking them ‘what’s new?’.

And I know that as soon as I start talking about automation that some of you will switch off, but these are all things that are now just commonplace in doing business. There’s no excuse for not learning how to do this kind of simple automation because we live in the information age. All the tutorials and YouTube videos you could ever want are just sat there waiting to teach you how to do it, and it will potentially make a huge difference to your business. And if you downright refuse to learn some simple business automation then bring in someone who can set it all up for you.

You might also not have thought about selling to your past customers because you run a business where people just make a one-off purchase. So you think that there’s no point going back to them again. But remember, you’ve already gone through all that effort to make this person your client. You convinced them that they can trust you, so it’s going to be a whole lot easier selling something new to this person than it is going to be selling to someone who’s never heard of you.

So if what you offer is something that people usually only buy once, then come up with something else that person can buy from you. For example, maybe you’re a weight-loss coach and once you have worked with a client and they have shed the weight you might think that’s your relationship with them over. But if you successfully solved one problem for them, then they are going to trust you to solve another. So maybe next launch your mental health coaching programme or launch your audiobook with everyday tips that your coaching clients can keep coming back to. Or introduce your 6-month review session where people can come back half a year later for a top-up to make sure they are still hitting their health goals. Whatever your company does, if you can sell to someone once, you can and should sell to them twice.

Or maybe you can even sell to them in a constant way, making them a permanent customer. If someone buys your product because it solves a problem for them, then will they keep paying to keep that problem out of their lives? People pay monthly subscription fees for everything from toilet rolls to cinema tickets, so will your customers take an ongoing subscription for what you do? Or would they value becoming part of a community, like what we’ve created with Vegan Business Tribe?

And if you have followed my advice, which you will have surely heard me say countless times now, about making your customers your best friends, then you might even discover that the people who buy your product actually have a bigger problem that you can solve than the one you are solving for them right now. Maybe someone buying your product or service is just their way of addressing the symptoms of their problem rather than getting to grips with the root of it. For example, a customer might hire you as a virtual assistant to help out with their inbox that they cannot keep on top of, whereas what they actually need is someone to improve their automation and systems so that they only get a fraction of those emails in the first place.

So never think that your sales journey ends just because you’ve made the sale – it’s far easier to keep selling to someone who has already bought from you, be that getting repeat orders or coming up with something new they can buy now that you’ve earned their trust.

If you are an ethics-led business that is making a change in the world, which I am sure you are if you are listening to this, then if someone is your customer, you are not just providing that person with a product or service. You are allowing that person to support you in making a change in the world that they want to see, but they don’t have the time, skill or money to make it happen themselves. And it doesn’t matter what you sell. I mentioned earlier that people will pay a subscription for toilet paper, and that’s the business model of a company that I’ve discussed before on this podcast called Who Gives A Crap who sell exactly that. But 50% of their profits go towards providing toilet facilities to people in the world who don’t have basic sanitation. And this isn’t just a gimmick, Who Gives A Crap are a B Corp meaning that they hold themselves to higher scrutiny and transparency than a regular for-profit business, and to date they have been able to donate over five million pounds to providing toilet facilities and improving sanitation around the world. So you can facilitate that good work just by being their customer, you don’t have to actually lift a finger yourself – just change which company you buy your toilet paper from and they will do it for you.

Because of their mission though, you are far more likely to remain their customer for longer – and their mission has more of an impact than great customer service and special offers. Even if their competitors’ products cost less, you will stay their customer because you believe in their mission.

And this is important, because if your business has a mission then you are going to attract people who believe in that mission too. You can take the customer relationship away from the product that you are selling. If your relationship with a customer is just about the product they buy from you, then you are always going to be fighting to keep that customer. Someone will always come along who is bigger, better or cheaper. And each time, that customer will be forced to evaluate your product or service against this new one. But if someone becomes your customer not just because you are solving a problem for them but also because they believe in your mission, because you are also bringing about the change in the world that they want to see, then even if someone else offers the same product or service at half the price, that person is likely to stay your customer.

So show your customers the good work you do. Use your social media to show your team volunteering at an animal shelter or show your customers where their money is going, the good causes your company supports and the difference your customers are allowing you to make in the world. Ask yourself, what reasons do my customers have for staying with my company? If someone offered them the same thing cheaper, would they buy that instead? Are your customers just buying on cost or have you taken that relationship away from the product and got them invested in you and your mission?

And then finally we need to talk about building brand loyalty and creating champions. Because to keep our current customers buying from us, we need to connect with them beyond the product they buy. We need to build brand loyalty. Huge companies do this through constant advertising and linking up with celebs and influencers to promote their products. But smaller companies can create fierce brand loyalty. You can do that through your mission as we just discussed, or you can do it by developing a personal relationship with your customers, bringing them behind the scenes of your business.

Another company I’ve mentioned on this podcast before, which was actually introduced to me by Sandra Nomoto, the author of Vegan Marketing Success Stories, is the Canadian vegan chocolate company, Mid-Day Squares. And Mid-Day Squares got rejected by every single grocery store so they decided to cut out the retailers and build a relationship directly with consumers themselves. Instead of hiring a salesperson, the husband and wife team hired a family member as a videographer to follow them around and document everything as they tried to build the brand and business from the ground up. The founders wanted their customers to emotionally connect with the brand and feel that they were part of their entrepreneurial journey – and they pretty much created their own reality TV show on social media in the process. Now they are worth $35 million dollars and are listed in all those stores that at first rejected them.

And if you make that kind of connection with your customers, if you can build that evangelical brand loyalty, then they will go out there and find more customers for you on your behalf. If your customer loves your company and believes in your mission, then it will only take a little bit of prompting to get that person to recommend you to their own contacts.

With Vegan Business Tribe we have a refer-a-friend scheme where members get a free month added to their account if they introduce a friend to Vegan Business Tribe, and we have some members who genuinely have ongoing free membership because of the number of new members they have introduced to Vegan Business Tribe. They are our champions, they are the people who shout about us to their own networks. And these people are not doing it for the money they are saving, they are doing it because they believe in our mission. But, and this is the most important part, as much as they loved us they didn’t start referring people to us until we set up a formal referral scheme and offered a reward. And this is the point where your business will really start to grow and gain momentum, when finding new customers isn’t tied directly to your own activity because other people are going out there and finding your customers for you.

So just when you have delivered the maximum joy for your customer, right at the point that you have just solved their problem, ask them who else they know that they can recommend you to.

Can you set up a referral scheme, either formally or informally, and let all your customers know that they will be rewarded for introducing you? You might offer a kickback payment or a discount on their next order, but it might not have to be a financial reward. You can give them a free product or an exclusive bit of merchandise like a sticker pack or a branded t-shirt if they successfully refer a friend. And if people become serial referrers, you might bring them into your business as ambassadors. Some businesses are completely built on this model, to the point where people are earning free cars and holidays because of the number of people they have referred to a company. But you also might reward your best referrers by getting them involved in your business. You might invite your champions onto your testing panel, or bring them together to have brainstorming sessions about what you can do next to grow your business and further your mission, making them feel even more part of your business.

Attempt to build a personal connection with your customers. Even if you don’t know your customer personally, you want them to feel that they know you. So take your followers behind the scenes to meet your team and let your customers get to know you personally not just as a business. If you have an office dog, create a page for them on your website and give regular updates on your social media. Make it hard for your customers to leave you because they feel like part of the family, and easy for them to recommend their friends because they want your business to grow.

OK, so let’s just have a recap of what we’ve been talking about over the last 25 minutes or so, because you might have thought that the customer journey ended when that person become a customer. But there’s no point filling a bucket if that bucket has a big hole at the bottom. So let’s have a bullet-point run down on retaining customers & creating champions:

  1. Selling to someone who has already bought from you only requires a fraction of the effort of selling to someone new. You’ve already brought that person through your funnel, so selling more to that person is far easier than starting again with someone new.
  2. Use a CRM system to track when you last engaged with a customer to prompt you to re-engage with people who you haven’t heard from in a while. You can even link your CRM with your e-commerce website and automatically send messages to people who haven’t bought from you recently.
  3. If you can sell to someone once, then you can sell to them twice. Come up with additional products that you can sell to those people who already have confidence in you and have already given you their money.
  4. Explore new business models that mean you don’t have to keep finding as many new customers. Will your customers pay a subscription or find value in being part of a paid community for example?
  5. Don’t start a business, launch a mission. If you are making a genuine positive change in the world, people will stay your customer because they want to support the change that you are making on their behalf.
  6. You need to take the customer relationship away from the product you are selling. If your relationship is just about the product a customer buys from you, then someone will always come along who is bigger, better or cheaper.
  7. Create personal connections with your customers. Build your business in public and let them feel part of your company. Let them feel like they know you even if you don’t know them.
  8. If someone loves your business, then it will only take a small prompt for those customers to go out and find more customers on your behalf. Ask for referrals, offer rewards for people introducing people to you, and remember that those rewards don’t always have to be financial. Bring your best referrers into the business and make them your champions.

And that is it!

OK, so as I said in the intro, this was content that I’ve adapted from one of the last sections of our new course on how to find customers for your vegan business. And if you don’t know my full background, then in my previous life I was a specialist sector ambassador for The Chartered Institute of Marketing, I ran my own marketing and business growth agency for over 12 years and I’ve built several businesses of my own too. And this course put all those years of experience into about four and a half hours of video and it’s sat there, for you, in the Vegan Business Academy on the website.

And we genuinely make all this great content for you. This is our activism, this is our way to move the vegan cause forwards by helping those who have a vegan business to become more successful so that you make a bigger impact. So if you ae not yet a member of Vegan Business Tribe yet, then you are missing out not just on all this great learning, but you are missing out on the community and support we give too.

So, if you have made the new year’s resolution that this is going to be the year for your business, then I want to be part of your journey too. Just go take a look at Vegan Business Tribe .com, click on the big join button on the homepage and that will then list out everything you get as a member.

So thank you so much for joining me again on this session. Also, thank you so much for all the amazing messages we’ve been getting about the baby being on the way. I’m now going to go make sure that the maternity bags are packed and that the car seat fits, and I will see you on the next one!

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