The idea of focusing on your best customers first isn’t a message small businesses typically hear when it comes to marketing their business.

After all, it’s all about new customers, right?

The answer to that question is actually yes and no. Of course you always want to add new customers, you can’t grow without them. But what about today? Isn’t the vast majority of your revenue still coming from repeat business?

And when you do think about new customers and how people are finding your business—aren’t many of them coming to you through people who already know you and the type of service you offer?

While there may be exceptions, the vast majority of small businesses rely on current customers to introduce them to new customers. Whether it’s through personal recommendations, posts on social media, or even online reviews—there are a number of ways current customers can help you reach a wider audience.

The challenge is identifying which of those people are your best customers.

How to identify your best customers

It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out who your best customers are. After all, you and your staff are interacting with these people every day.

Put your heads together. Chances are you already have a list of customers in mind.

But there are also other tools readily available to you that can make it easy to identify your biggest fans. While in years past, marketing and advertising didn’t allow you to keep tabs on who was seeing your stuff and responding to it, today there are plenty of tools available that make it quick and easy to do just that.

Who is actually opening your campaigns?

For businesses using campaigns to connect with customers, tracking key metrics like opens and clicks can go a long way when it comes to identifying your best customers.

Look beyond the overall score of each email. 40% open-rate? Great! Now, who are those people? When did they join your list? How often are they opening your emails?

You can do the same with your click-through stats. Who is actually clicking your links? What type of links are these people most frequently choosing to click?

You can generate an exclusive list within Constant Contact to help keep track of the most engaged members of your audience.

How about on social media?

Comments, likes, and shares are not always easy to come by. And those fans and followers who are interacting with you on social clearly have a real interest in your business.

Today, there are more ways than ever for consumers to interact with brands online. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Pinterest—your most social customers may also be your best customers.

There are even social functions like check-ins, recommendations, and online reviews that many of your most loyal customers could be using already to include your business in their social life.

At the end of the day, determining who your best customers are is really about determining which customers share the strongest relationship with your business. So, whether it’s asking your staff, checking campaign reports, or keeping an eye on social—it shouldn’t take long to find them.

You know who your best customers are, now what?

Once you’ve identified who your best customers are, you need to come up with a way of making them feel appreciated.

For some businesses this may mean setting up some sort of loyalty program. Loyalty programs are great because they not only acknowledge your best customers but also encourage repeat business from every customer that walks through your door. The type of program you create depends entirely on type of business you run.

You can also create marketing campaigns designed specifically at rewarding your most local customers. Planning a sale or event? Rolling out a new line of products or services? Let them know first by scheduling a special email a few days before notifying your entire contact list.

You can use social media as well. Here at Constant Contact, we have our All Star Awards which recognizes customers who have used our products for at least a calendar year. When these customers are chosen, we highlight their success in blog posts, and on Facebook, Twitter, and across our social networks.

Boloco, a Boston-based burrito restaurant and Constant Contact customer, recently ran a campaign where each day they selected a different customer photo from Instagram and put it as the cover photo on their Facebook Page. It was a simple gesture but went a long way to make customers feel appreciated.

In addition to celebrating their success, you also want to make sure your best customers know that their voice is being heard. These are the people who know your business best and while giving them a way to share their feedback will make them feel special it will also help you better understand your customer base as a whole.

Consider creating a survey campaign and sending it to an exclusive list of customers. By sending it to people who know your business best, you know you’ll get results you can trust and that you should act upon if necessary.

And finally, don’t forget the power of a hand written note. It may seem strange in our digital world, but taking the time to write a “thank you” to a customer who recommended you to a friend or shared their feedback on Facebook can show what type of business you really are.

How to turn your best customers into your next customers

For a lot of businesses, the thought of asking for a referral conjures up all sorts of negative thoughts.

And while you may find it easy to talk to customers when they’re in your store or on the phone, it’s not always easy to summon the courage to ask customers to tell their friends, family members, and colleagues about your business.

But here’s a little secret: most people, especially happy customers, are truly glad to help when asked. And if you think about it, isn’t the thought of all the new business you could be losing out on by not asking much scarier than taking the time to ask?

If you’re still nervous about asking, remember: most of your best customers are already talking about your business. Focus on providing an experience at your place of business that customers will not only remember but will want to tell their friends about.

That’s how you turn your best customers into your next customers.

How do you reward your best customers? Share your tips in the comments below.