If you’ve ever read any of my management tips on growing your business and increasing sales, you know that every successful effort starts with the same thing:
OK, you say, easy enough. You start a new document, and at the top, type in big, bold letters…“PLAN.”
Well, there are hundreds of different planning templates out there, and I’m not going to explore those today. No, I want to talk about the meat and potatoes of your plan: your strategies for growth.
And there are a handful of categories into which most effective growth strategies will fall. Let’s take a few minutes to talk about those, and how they can form the foundation of a successful plan.
Here are my six favorites, and what do you know? They all just happen to start with the letter “R.”
Retain. Don’t start by reinventing the wheel—make the one you’ve got better. Look at your existing client base. They’re the ones who have gotten you where you are. What do you need to do to keep them? And, more to the point, keep them HAPPY?
Developing and honing your retention strategies to keep your existing accounts should be Job One. You know how much work it takes to get one NEW customer vs. keeping one current one. “Retain” should be first on your list.
Renew. Don’t stop at just MAINTAINING your current client base; it’s just as important to keep growing their business. Keep them coming back for more—but not just more of the same.
Your existing clients will be the most receptive to bigger purchases, and new services or products you may be rolling out. If you’re using a good, consultative sales process—which you should be!—you’ve been able to gain an understanding of what your individual clients truly want and need. Expand the business relationship with these folks as you keep them in the fold.
Refer. Your current clients can also be your best resource when it comes to seeking new ones. Do you regularly ask for referrals from your current clients? Make this part of your plan! Satisfied customers tell your story best.
Let them help you—use them as a sounding board for other possible clients. And build a schedule for these conversations, ideally three or four times a year. Referrals are the best and most direct way to gain new clients through the good work you’ve done for your existing ones.
Revive. Don’t let those one-time clients vanish into the night! For any of dozens of different reasons, some customers may disappear from time to time. Don’t take it personally–it’s usually them, not you.
Simply put, circumstances change. They may have moved in another direction, shifted their focus or priorities, or, heaven forbid, tried another vendor. But none of these should stop you.
Keep that list of “former” clients handy, and make a regular effort to review it. Check back in with these folks, just to see how things are going—it may just be the nudge they need to climb back into your book of business.
Recruit. Now it’s time to prospect, and there are many ways to do this. But most of them start with targeting—compiling lists of potential clients who are likely candidates for what you’re offering.
Depending on your industry, some may even be ones you’re already working with, simply on different products or services. Recruiting new customers tends to be the most obvious strategy of all, but that doesn’t make it the easiest. Far from it—it’s most likely to be the thickest chapter of your plan.
And of course, there’s the “6th R”: the “real” customer. In B2B sales and marketing, we’re often servicing the needs of someone ELSE, who, in turn, is servicing the final customer.
But don’t ever lose sight of that person; the REAL customer is the one we all depend on to keep EVERYBODY in business. In all of your growth strategies, never forget the need to visualize the experience of that real customer—because if they don’t win, nobody else does, either.
GROW BIG OR GO HOME!