It may be a new year, but some small-business concerns are timeless. On almost every entrepreneur’s wish list for 2014 is a way to increase sales. I’ve been hearing about how the business landscape has changed, social media is “everywhere,” and it’s tougher than ever before to find new customers and clients while retaining the existing ones.
These excuses are merely obstacles that we, as business owners, put in our own way when we don’t achieve our goals. The business landscape has changed every year since cavemen bartered food for tools. Social media is everywhere (and that’s a good thing for business owners, if you take the time to learn how to use it properly) and if you have a solid plan for your company, then it’s never too hard to generate new business while maintaining your existing client base.
To help you out, I’ve put together a list of seven different ways for you to start boosting sales right now. Find the ways that work best for your company and you'll be a lot closer to closing that next big deal.
1. Get more from existing customers. Does your product or service allow for growth among your existing customers? For example, if you run a cleaning business and most customers use your service once a week, is there an opportunity to offer them a twice-a-week service? Remember, time is money. If your business is running at less than 100 percent, then you are leaving money on the table every week.
2. Find new customers. How well do you know the demographics of your existing customer base? The better you know your current customers, including why they buy from you, the easier it is to target new customers with the right message. Do different customer segments buy your product or service for different reasons? One group may buy from you for the quality of your product, while another group buys from you because of convenience. In 2014, focus on the segments of your business which represent the best opportunities for growth. For example, if you owned an outdoor gear store and sold twice as much camping equipment online in 2013 as you did in your brick-and-mortar location, with better margins, where would you look to grow your business in 2014?
3. Learn how to use social media. Enough with the “I don’t have time to learn about social media.” Your customers and potential customers are online right now buying products, writing reviews, doing research on your product or service, and seeing how you measure up against your competitors. If you’re not part of the conversation, then you are allowing the winds of fate to decide whether or not you will be getting new business in 2014. Don’t let the winds have that kind of control—join the discussion online.
4. Launch a new product or service. Is your company in position to launch something new? If the answer is yes, select your customers that are early adopters and have them help you with the launch. They can be your brand ambassadors. If you own a restaurant and are planning to upgrade your facilities or add new items to the menu, select local influencers and regular customers to visit your establishment and weigh in on the changes. They can meet with you or your chef to share their experiences and let you know why they enjoy coming to your business on a regular basis. The objective is for them to tell everyone about the new changes via social media, texting, or at local events.
5. Enter new markets. Instead of growing your business vertically (selling more to the same audience), consider new markets as an opportunity to grow your business horizontally. A friend of mine owns a handbag company and has enjoyed huge success selling to the same markets over the past few years. We recently discussed her branching out into new markets in the event there is ever a downturn with her existing markets. There is risk, but she also recognizes the upside potential and likes the idea of not having all her eggs in one basket. She's now reviewing leads from potential clients in new markets that have expressed interest in carrying her product lines.
6. Hire new people. Good salespeople will always pay for themselves. If your current group of salespeople is operating at or near capacity, then consider adding one or more salespeople to complement your existing efforts. View the new hires not as expenses, but rather as revenue generators.
7. Partner with another company. In a perfect world, there is another business out there offering the peanut butter to your jelly. Great partnerships bring increased value and new business to both companies. For example, my plumber also does heating work, but doesn’t handle central air conditioners. When I had a problem with my unit, he suggested I call a partner company who fixed my problem. He received a referral fee for making the suggestion.
Another example involves technology and social media. My company creates content for business owners to use on their websites and in social media. A partner of mine builds websites for businesses. They brought us in last month to work on a project providing their client with a new website and content to go with it. Peanut butter meets jelly.
There is a common thread in my seven suggestions to increasing sales this year: All seven suggestions are proactive. Get, find, learn, launch, enter, hire and partner all require action. Unless you have a one-of-a-kind product or service, customers aren’t going to beat a path to your door. If you want more sales in 2014, then you need to take action in order to make it happen.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.