Originally published on the Vistage Research Center


Customer growth is the result of a customer engagement strategy. In simplest terms, how do you find more (marketing), close more (sales) and retain and grow more (service and sales) customers? Moving from high level customer growth decisions and strategies to precise, functional initiatives is driven by leadership and supported by technology.

Getting to growth through a combination of existing and new customers requires each discipline be able to adapt to each scenario. Marketing must be able to attract new customers and provide nurturing capabilities for existing. Sales begins to bifurcate into hunters for new and farmers for existing as the skills and tactics are different. Service and sales together must satisfy customers and identify potential for upgrades, add-ons or access to incremental business units. Customer referrals, a powerful source of new customers begins with satisfied customers.

Our research and analysis of 1352 SMB CEOs responses to the Vistage Research survey on customer engagement identified the customer growth decisions, investments and winning initiatives of high growth SMBs. Our research identified four key facts and four critical decisions for customer growth faced by Vistage CEOs.

  1. High-growth SMBs get more from new customers.

Not only do high-growth businesses employ multiple strategies, they report a higher percentage of revenue from new customers versus existing customers. Focused acquisition strategies for new customers and markets help high-growth businesses expand their customer base while also retaining current customers. 

CEO growth decision: How do we increase sales and revenue from new customers?

  1. High-growth SMBs invest more in talent to support face-to-face interactions.

As face-to-face interactions are reported as the most effective strategy for winning new customers, high-growth SMBs fuel growth by investing in people. Hiring enables SMBs to engage with more customers, training and developing improve the quality of customer interaction and technology optimizes engagement. The people, process and technology mantra remains true to drive growth.

CEO growth decision: How much are we investing in people and training?

  1. High-growth SMBs execute strategies more effectively with leadership and technology in place.

High-growth businesses are more likely to have dedicated leaders for marketing, sales and service. And while CRM/technology deployment rates are not radically different between high-growth and no-growth SMBs, high-growth SMBs with leaders in place report increased effectiveness. Dedicated leadership drives technology utilization, which is the differentiator.

CEO growth decision: How is my leadership team capitalizing on how customer management technologies are used?

  1. High-growth SMBs seek a competitive advantage through dedicated applications.

High-growth businesses use purpose-built applications to optimize their customer interactions, which allows them to leapfrog their competition. This enables them to focus on best practice processes for managing customer engagement rather than on building technology to automate less-proven processes. The businesses that wish to sustain their competitive advantage through technology will pursue digital transformation, completely rethinking their business processes.