"Now my service is apart from the rest of the competition resulting in an increase of leads and policies sold."
Carlos A. Diaz, Owner, Diaz Agency, San Diego
"I learned how to expand my client base, increase my revenue and income..."
Ghada Jadallah, Personal Chef, www.dashofsaltnpepper.com
"...certainly lead to solidifying Green Lizard Lawn Care's brand and in turn increasing sales."
Nicole Davis, Founder, greenlizardlawns.com
"...will help me reach out to new customers, I would not have known how to reach."
Harland Henry, Business Consulting,
"...the tips have increased visibility resulting in more new patients."
Jason Hurley, Chiropractor, Tampa
"...the more thought I gave it, the more sense it made: book more clients, increase our profit margins."
Sherry Lee, www.caymanvillas.com
"...ideas I haven't thought of in the 12 years of running this
[business], thank you very much."
Robert Dickey, R&T Computers, www-rtc.no-ip.biz In this economy, many small business owners are looking for ways to gain more customers, cut costs and reduce expenses.
Throughout this guide you will learn 20 tricks to accomplish those goals.
And, there’s nothing complex or highly technical about these tricks. They can easily be implemented by the vast majority of small business owners. The most important thing will be to take what you learn from this guide and put it into action.
With that in mind, let’s get started so you can begin growing your business...
How can I attract more customers?
One of the most effective and easiest ways to attract new clients is to get existing, loyal clients to buy more and additional products from you. Think about it: you have already established a relationship with them so why not continue with that relationship?
Consistently offer them new and valuable products that reinforce the trust they have in your products and your business. Keep the communication (emails, newsletter, calls, videos, etc.) with your customers very informative so it doesn’t feel like you are hard selling them with each message.
For example, a personal chef sends her existing clients an email newsletter with her newest weight-loss menus, tips on how to preserve cooked meals, tips on how to organize a birthday party, a graduation, a wedding, etc.
When she then offers you her catering services for your next Holiday Party, you will think of her as an expert you came to trust and most likely schedule the event with her.
On the other side of the scale lies, of course, finding new customers. One of the major and most effective ways to entice new clients is to join forces with other complementary small businesses. What I mean is you look for small business owners who offer a complementary service/product and create a
Think of a hairdresser partnering up with a spa for example. Then you agree to offer each other’s services or products to each other’s clients. By doing this you get exposure to a whole new client base. Setting up a marketing
partnership is a very simple process and has nothing to do with a legal partnership.
You make your potential partner see how they will benefit from the partnership, agree on who does what and off you go. It’s a WIN-WIN situation for both parties involved.
For example, you could look for another business that sells tangible products and delivers them to customers. If you’re selling organic body products, put a tiny organic sanitizer and your product catalog in the box of a business that ships back massagers to buyers.
Marketing partnerships typically yield one or more of the following benefits:
expanded customer base beyond its current limits
less risk than some other marketing strategies
no cash requirement
creation of a virtual advertising budget rivaling a larger company
boosted the company image or brand
broadened product/service offerings
made it easy to enter a new market/industry
tough to duplicate for the competition
used as a surplus inventory liquidator with no discounting
got customers one would never have reached otherwise
increased cash flow
removed geographic limitations
All you need to do is to be open and look for possible partners that can help you promote your business. And, if you really think about it, there are potential marketing partners just around the corner.
Another means of gaining new customers is by referrals from current customers. The straightforward method is to simply ask for referrals every time someone buys from you. Of course, to make it worth your customer’s while, you can offer them a reward for their referral, such as a percentage discount on their next order or a free gift, redeemable when their referral has completed their first purchase with you.
Additionally, to entice both the referrer and the referree, you can provide your customers with referral certificates they can share with their friends and colleagues. The certificate can be for a new customer gift or discount. The certificate will have a place for the referrer to write their name, so when the referree redeems their certificate, you know who referred them and can reward them.
Maybe, every time someone buys from you they get a free T-shirt to help spread the word about your company.
The right referral program can be a WIN-WIN-WIN for you, your customer and your new customer.
How do I increase my profits?
Typically the three ways to increase profit are:
increase your sales volume (leaving everything else the same), increase your sales price or reduce your costs.
The first technique in boosting profits is developing a good rapport/relationship with your existing customers, as mentioned earlier. This will help increase the value of your average sales transaction and the number of times customers buy from you.
The second method was increasing the number of customers by partnering up with other businesses and sharing your client base. That way you both grow your business influence and create a more dominant market presence.
Or, you can tap into other new client base’s. For example, a dietitian can give a nutrition or weight-loss talk to clients of a personal injury lawyer and chiropractor. This works because the lawyer and chiropractor see this as an opportunity to meet each other’s clients. They invite prospects and provide the space. After the event the dietitian follows up with a CD of the talk or other valuable information.
Increasing your sales price is, of course, another way to raise your profits.
As most business owners, you might think that price is the number one purchase criteria with your customers. Research studies show however that selection, customer service, quality and confidence in the product/service are usually equally or more important.
And most of the time this means that you may be undercharging and earning lower profits than you could. To overcome this stumbling block all you have to do is persuade customers that your product/service is different. This is often referred to as differentiating your product/service. After doing that, you
can seriously think about increasing your pricing as a way to increase your profits.
But how do I differentiate a product that is a commodity you may ask? Well, you give prospects/customers something that improves their lives. The Michelin Guide comes to mind.
As most people will tell you, Michelin makes tires which are clearly a commodity product. So, to differentiate themselves what they came up with was a travel guide for car owners. The travel guide not only created brand awareness for the Michelin products but also gave car owners, old and new ones, the confidence and knowledge to take trips more easily and more often
– wearing down their tires, naturally.
Another way to raise profits is to offer related upsells to your product.
Because of the higher perceived value of the transaction the customer is buying.
For example, if you sell fountain pens, sooner or later the customer will need ink, so why not offer an extra bottle of ink with the pen purchase at a discounted rate? That way, they save money while you just increased the value of the transaction. If you sell inkjet printers, offer ink. If you sell shoes, offer shoe polish. Pretty easy, isn’t it?
Last but not least is reducing costs as way to grow your profits. We will discuss this in detail in the next question.
Most important to remember here is to pick one specific method you want to use to boost profits and then create a clear step-by-step plan on how to execute it. Once you have implemented one technique, move on to the next one.
And finally, measure which method the most effective one was for your business. That way you know what to further optimize, systemize and duplicate to gain even higher levels of profitability.
How do I reduce my costs?
Reducing your costs as a small business owner can make all the difference.
And thanks to the internet and globalization it is not a far-fetched goal for you anymore.
The internet and social media sites make it possible to share your business and services globally. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube are the most common sites where you can set-up an account for your business and start networking and get connected.
Another big way to promote yourself and your website now is through
“organic” search engine optimization. I know this is a mouth full but all it means is that there are free ways to get your website exposed and looked at.
And the more your website gets looked at, the more the search engines will look at it as an authority site on the subject and bump it up on the search results pages.
There is much training and hype about this method but I want to keep it simple and clear for you here. So one of the things you can start doing is look for forums and blogs related to your business, product or service and start leaving comments and tips on there including a link to your website.
These comments and tips need to be informative and helpful to the readers and not come over as hard selling your business. Another way to help get links into your website is to write articles (or get someone to write articles for you) about your business and post them on Ezinearticles.com.
Again here the articles are not sales/promotional but providing your target market with valuable and trustworthy information. And at the bottom of the article you add your website link and what you are offering.
If you are a bit more committed, set-up a free blog about your business where you post regular content on your subject.
The internet search engines like blogs because their content is fresh. Also, add an opt-in form on your blog (and website) so visitors can leave their email in return for a free guide, a free consultation or a discount coupon for example.
Since we are talking about coupons, drop off coded coupons to hotels in your neighborhood. Staff at hotels are constantly asked for advice on nearby shops, spas, hair salons or other retail businesses. You may even provide free products/services to hotel employees who referred the most business to you.
Or, you print coupons offering specials. Then you contact charities, sports clubs/teams, religious groups or schools and allow them to give the coupons to members. When a member comes to your store the charity, club, church or school receives a percentage of the proceeds.
Another way to reduce your costs substantially is outsourcing. You can find ways of outsourcing simple, repetitive tasks to capable and willing people.
I know outsourcing is kind of a sensitive subject, but I am thinking in terms of outsourcing your administrative tasks to a virtual assistant, for example.
Outsourcing your bookkeeping records could save you hiring a full time employee or two and reduce your overhead drastically. Start by making a list of simple repetitive tasks which you could easily write procedures on.
Then put out your job requests on well known outsourcing sites like odesk.com, elance.com, guru.com and see what offers you get back. This might be time consuming at first but in the long run you will reap the benefits.
Another option would be to put out your job listings on Craigslist or any job board of universities and colleges. There are people out there who are willing to do a great job.
These were some examples on how to reduce your costs in your small business which can be implemented quietly and easily after spending a bit of time and effort.
How can I fight increased competition?
I prefer not to use “fighting” the competition because it kind of emphasizes that there is not enough to go around for everyone. So, I like to answer this question with either recommending you team up with your competition or, if they are a bit short-sighted and that is not possible, you differentiate your offering so much from the competition that they are not a direct threat to your business anymore. This could be by offering your product or service to a very well defined clientele.
You need to find that one thing that makes you unique in what you offer.
Why are your clients choosing you over other businesses? Well, the best place to discover this unique “thing” is by asking your existing customers.
Another way to differentiate yourself is by looking at your competitors and looking at the missing links, such as what features in their product/service do they not provide, what type of client are they not serving, and what problem or pain of the customer/prospect is not being solved. If you are good at what you do and know your product, you will always find something that can be done better or improved.
Once you have determined your “unique” selling point, you can now summarize that into a powerful but short phrase. This phrase is now a characteristic that differentiates you from the competitor.
So when someone asks what you are doing, don’t just say “I’m a massage therapist” but respond with “I help women become stress-free.” This will eliminate the need to “fight” your competition and help create real value for your customers.
Another way to leave your competition behind is marketing partnerships.
Look for organizations or people that can give you access to a new customer base. For example, a real estate agent can offer to provide his services at a
50% discount to a “home buyer” parent who sends a provided mailing to the entire school's parents endorsing her services. The real estate agent can do that with all private schools in her neighborhood, childcare centers, churches, sports clubs, you name it.
As a result the real estate agent will be known as the go-to person in these communities. In addition, the realtor can add additional marketing partners such as mortgage brokers, contractors, lawn care services and many more.
Once, a parent would use her services she would get her client in touch with all her other business partners earning a commission, naturally.
Or, if you own a computer repair shop you could join an industry association.
You create marketing partnerships with the members who own/manage computer related businesses. The idea is to market your business to the members as an add-on service to their products/services. And they would promote your service to their existing customers and when new clients buy from them.
Always think one-to-many: one business/person can give access to lots of target customers.
How can I advertise my small business without having to spend massive amounts of money?
Some of the simplest ways to advertise your business are not that secret or complicated. Here are a couple that have helped small businesses to tighten up their belts and trim the fat from their advertising budgets.
The classifieds. The local classifieds section usually has a section for free ads.
Use as many free classified ads as you can but keep a record of sales from them. Once you find which one works best you can gradually cut down on the others and only use the sales generating ones. This tracking of ads takes some time but it will be well worth it at the end.
Message boards. Most malls and larger shops, even some small ones or coffee shops have a message board for customers to post messages. If you regularly use certain shops, ask the owner or sales person if you could display some flyers or business cards. In turn you could advertise his business in the same way if he is not a competitor.
Also be sure to leave your business cards at any public and social venue you attend, especially if the social gathering is related to your line of business, is an industry event, or is in a public place.
If you’re looking for a “mobile message board” wrap part of an employee’s car in your company's advertisement in exchange for free-gas-money. If you want to take it outside your company offer an incentive that makes people talk about and want to sign up for the mobile message board, for example offer them a free carwash every month for life as long as their car’s wrapped.
Donations. This one is not entirely free but it is a small price to pay for the exposure it gets your business. Offer a local charity, fire department, police station or any public service a new product or related service of yours. Then let your local paper know about it as an event and item of interest for their readers. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response and interest of the public.
Or, let’s say you’re selling B2B and have a conference room with plenty of media tools. Contact associations, charities and other organizations without good meeting spaces. The members of the boards of those organizations are often business owners and community leaders.
Word of mouth. This is one of the most effective advertising any business can have. If your service or product is great, people will talk about it. And networking at social events can work wonders.
Or, create your own “word-of-mouth” network. Contact 10 other business owners who you worked with in the past and feel comfortable referring business to. Tell them that you are creating an exclusive network of the top 50 businesses in the neighborhood and invite them to become a member.
But tell them that they need to recommend 5-10 other business owners who should belong to this exclusive group.
Then you pay someone to create a very basic web page on your website that features the group’s business directory. The entire group then promotes the directory/webpage and refers business to each other.
If you are an “online person”, Twitter can create buzz for your business. Make lots of friends on Facebook and tell them about your business, but don’t spam or give them a sales pitch. Join in discussions on forums and give other members value first before discussing your business. Blogs are great for giving and getting feedback. Also, writing or paying someone for an e-zine article about your product or service (discussing or reviewing your product) leads to sales as long as you don’t hard-sell.
There you have it. These small business advertising ideas can save you some hard earned money and boost your business at the same time. For more advertising ideas go to www.small-business-partnership.com.
How do I use networking to grow my business?
Yes, networking is still one of the most powerful ways to grow your business.
But the good thing is if you are one of those business owners that dreads networking, dread no more because the internet is here and is slowly catching up to in-person networking.
Before we go into the types of networking, I want to point out that networking means “making connections with people.” From partnerships to strategic alliances to preferred vendors, it’s “who you know” that seems to play an important role in growing your business.
In-person networking is still very important and can not be underestimated in this age of dominating social networking sites. It still pays off to get out there by attending Chamber of Commerce, BNI or Association events and meetings or going to industry related training seminars.
When attending these meetings be brave enough to get out of your comfort zone and approach people you do not know yet. And remember you are not there to hard sell because that would be the quickest way to repel people who don’t know you just yet. Be yourself and talk about how you add value to the market place.
For the internet side of networking, I know it can get overwhelming sometimes so let me try to give you a quick overview of what is out there.
As mentioned, the social networking sites used most frequently to market a business are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
When using these sites to promote your business remember to not get too sales-ey instead foc