5 Top Reasons Why Your Business Isn’t Getting Customers

The average person tells 16 people about a poor customer-service experience. Don't let that happen to you. Be ahead of the game

According to a Harvard Business School study, approximately 75 percent of startups with venture funding will eventually fail. The same study found that a similar percentage of small businesses will fail within the first ten years of existence.

Of course, the primary reason for most business failures is an inability to profitably attract and retain customers. While there are many different types of business models out there, from software as a service, to marketplaces, to ecommerce businesses (and many others), there are a few common mistakes that business leaders make when trying to attract customers.

Here are ten of the most common, but often overlooked, reasons why your startup isn’t able to attract enough customers to become successful.

1. Confusion about the ideal customer profile

Each person within your company should know who your absolute dream customer or ideal customer profile (ICP) is. Members of your team should know the demographic and psychographic makeup of ideal customers. They should know where they hang out, who they follow, what blogs they read, what Facebook groups they join, and what platforms they spend the most time on.  In short, they need to know how to find them, and how to speak their language in order to engage with them as a marketer, salesperson or customer-service representative.

If there is any misalignment within the organization about the ICP, or worse, if your organization does not have an ICP, it will be challenging to craft a customer experience that appeals to prospects. 

Note: A business that tries to serve everyone ends up serving no one well.

2. Missing product-market fit

Product-market fit is the single biggest reason why businesses fail. If the product being offered is not aligned with the needs and wants of the target audience, it won’t matter how good your marketing or sales teams are — you simply will not be able to attract enough of the right customers to build a sustainable business.

One of my suggested readings for all of my clients is a book by Eric Ries.  As he described in The Lean Startup, an effective way of testing product-market fit is by building an MVP (minimum viable product) that you then share with the target audience. By listening to customer feedback, you and your team will be able to find product-market fit over time.

3. Lack of market education

Is the target market aware that your business category exists in the first place? If not, you should consider building a market education campaign to make people aware that a solution to their problem is out there.

Take a page out of the marketing playbooks of pharmaceutical or biotech companies. These organizations are constantly developing category-defining products that did not exist before. The first thing these organizations do is educate doctors about the problem and offer their solution.

They do the same with the general public through a mix of traditional and digital advertising. Once the market is educated, buyers are more receptive to the solution prescribed by the doctor.

4. Dysfunctional lead nurturing

All types of businesses can and should employ a lead-nurturing system based on email workflows (also called automated emails).

Ecommerce businesses that send out a regular newsletter can engage customers that might otherwise forget about the brand; and B2B businesses that send well-timed automated emails can engage prospects just in the nick of time.

In fact, a study by McKinsey & Co. found that marketing email is the second most effective way to acquire new customers, second only to organic search, and well ahead of social media. Ensure that your business has a healthy lead-nurturing system in place to generate customers consistently over the long run.

5. Dissatisfying customer service

The average person will tell 16 other people about a poor customer service experience according to an American Express study. If your business is providing dissatisfactory customer service or support, the problem is surely costing you customers. That means ten poor customer service experiences will result in a minimum of 160 other people viewing your business in a negative light.

Poor customer service may also be preventing your organization from attracting new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. The same American Express study found that the average person shares a positive customer service story with nine other people.


There are a number of plausible reasons why your business is unable to attract enough customers. Some of these reasons may be unique to your industry, but many plausible explanations are shared among businesses of all kinds.

Before looking for less-obvious answers, be sure to review the 5 reasons listed here to see if any of the common mistakes outlined are causing your business serious challenges.

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