The Key Difference Between Growing Sales and Growing a Customer Base

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When considering ways to grow your business, it’s easy to focus on things that are most important to you. For instance, suppose you want to see more sales in hopes of meeting the monthly payroll. Then the obvious strategy would be to focus on selling more goods or services.

While this is indeed important, it doesn’t tell the whole story. There are times when growing sales isn’t always going to be possible. Therefore, it pays off to consider what else may help your company grow, such as increasing your customer base.

But aren’t these two the same thing? Not exactly. While the two go hand in hand — there are many differences between them.

To grow your sales or customer base, you must understand their differences and how to manage each strategy.

What Is Sales Growth?

Sales growth is the increase in sales over a period of time. You measure it by comparing the current year’s sales to the previous year’s sales.

Additionally, sales growth measures how well your business is performing. It lets you know you’re on track for your sales goals.

What Is Customer Growth?

Customer growth is the process of getting more customers.

The goal of growing your customer base may be to sign them up for a service, buy more products or subscribe to your newsletter. Businesses typically use engagement tactics to improve the customer experience and provide offerings that suit the demands and interests of consumers.

Customer growth is all about finding the ideal customer and fostering a connection with your company and brand.

What Are the Differences Between Sales Growth and Customer Growth?

Now that you know the definitions of sales growth and customer growth, they may sound similar. However, these are the key differences.

Sales Growth and Customer Growth Are Different Processes

Growing your sales is an ongoing process. Meanwhile, growing your customer base is a one-time deal.

However, you can’t grow sales without first increasing your customer base. Though, you can grow your customer base without it leading to increased sales.

Here’s how that works. First, you must identify who you want to do business with, which would be your target audience.

Next, you have to understand your customers — such as where they hang out online and what they desire. This is considered a market — people who have a need for something. Then, you create a product or service that meets customers’ needs.

After that, you must curate sales and marketing tactics to get people to discover your offerings and hopefully convert.

Sales Growth Requires Tangible Items, While Customer Growth Does Not

To grow your sales, you need something tangible to offer your customers. It can either be a product or a service. However, growing your customer base doesn’t involve a real item.

Rather, it’s all about establishing relationships with them.

For example, suppose you own an e-commerce store. One way you can grow sales is by selling more products. Therefore, this tactic might involve advertising on social media channels like Facebook or Instagram.

Or, it could be another tactic where you use referrals through existing customers. However, growing your customer base requires nurturing before selling to them.

This strategy might involve newsletter subscriptions where you can send company updates and helpful advice. That way, you can gain their trust to the point they feel confident enough to tell others about your brand.

Growing Sales Involves More Than Selling

Sales growth is more than selling to generate revenue. It also takes into account whether or not your business will continue to sustain growth.

For instance, you must consider how much revenue you need for your business to survive. Or how much money you can use to invest without depleting your resources. Most importantly, you’ll need to know how much you must make after your expenses.

The best example is if you’re an e-commerce company that wants to increase sales by 10%. First, you need to ensure you have enough inventory to achieve this goal.

Growing Your Customer Base Is About Gaining Attention

To grow your customer base, you must grab attention and increase traffic. It’s the first step in building your business. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re selling anything yet.

The objective is to increase brand awareness and foster relationships before you can grow your sales.

Growing sales is similar, where you must drive traffic and gain attention. However, there’s one crucial difference — you have to sell something! The goal of growing sales is to gain traction and interest from your customer base — and then get your customers to purchase something at a later point.

How Do You Know Which Strategy to Focus On?

The key takeaway is that sales and customer growth have different primary objectives. Growing sales is about generating revenue, while increasing a customer base is about gaining attention.

The former is more of a sustainability strategy, whereas the latter involves creating and nurturing relationships over time. That way, you gain more customers, who will then become repeat customers and more.

So, how do you know if you should focus on sales or customer growth? Sales growth will always be the end goal. However, it’s always good to focus on strengthening your customer relationships to help increase your sales.

Seeking new sales without strong customer relationships is like pouring water into a bucket with holes. Identifying and covering the gaps in customer satisfaction can help you retain existing customers and increase sales.

How To Manage Sales and Customer Growth

Start by focusing on the customer. At the heart of every successful business are a great product and a loyal customer base. A company doesn’t last long without either, even if sales are growing.

Additionally, it’s pertinent to have a good product and marketing strategy before growing sales. Your job is to ensure that prospective customers want what you’re selling.

Your sales teams should also work with the marketing teams to increase leads in their sales pipeline. They can do this by developing effective strategies to reach beyond the customer base.

Understanding the Differences

We hope you understand the differences between growing sales and your customer base. Both are vitally important, but they have different goals and strategies you must follow to succeed.

When it comes to new customers, the ability to grow your customer base is one of the most important skills you can develop. It’s also the most challenging.

If you want to grow sales, it requires a concerted effort of marketing, branding and sales skills. It’s not enough to have a great product or service — if no one knows about it, there are no sales. Eleanor Hecks is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience and user interface. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn.