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Many businesses are struggling right now either because their customers are spending less with the recession, or because of being forced to compete on prices and have their margins squeezed (or a combination of the two!).

And yet every business has a goldmine at their fingertips – a database of their current and previous customers.

Let’s look at 10 ways you can start unlocking your personal goldmine today!

1. Identify Add On Sales. Whatever your business offers to your customers, look at what are complementary products or services that you can offer to your current customers that you are scheduled to work with or who walk into your door.

A Carpet Cleaning company may offer upholstery, drapery or another type of surface cleaning (hardwood, stone, tile, counter tops).

Look for other products or services that would appeal to your customers and seem to fit what you are already offering.

2. List all of the Products or Services that you offer. This sounds too simple. You know all the different products and services that you offer, but your customers won’t remember everything that you do!

You have to tell your customers on a regular basis what you offer and what value you provide. This could be a simple brochure that lists all of your products or services, or included in a letter or ad.

What is important is that you communicate all the different ways you have to make their life easier or better.

3. Understand who your Customers are. This should probably be #1. The first step is always to identify specifically who your customers are, and what is important to them.

If you don’t know this you are spending too much for marketing, advertising and promotions AND you are not attracting and appealing to your Best Fit Customers.

In the Profit Generator Program we spend Module One identifying who specifically are your Best Fit or Target Audience Customers and then complete a Needs Analysis on them.

Your customers are your goldmine – You must understand who they are or you are leaving $ on the table!

4. Set up a Joint Venture. When you have identified who your best customers are, look at where else do they do business. Where do they shop? What services do they tend to use?

Look for a business that targets the same customers you do, but has a complementary business to yours. Approach them to see if they would be interested in setting up a cross promotion – they refer their customers to you, and you refer your customers to them.

For example, Len Hume and Annette Marchionda, owners of Professional Carpet Systems in St. Catherines Ontario created a very successful Joint Venture program with a local dry cleaners. The dry cleaners offer a free room of carpet cleaning to their customers as a thank you for being a loyal customer.

The program allows the dry cleaner to offer added value to their customers at no cost to them, and Len & Annette have a good source of new prospective customers.

5. Find out what your Customers want. This is a really simple strategy. Interview your customers and find out what their challenges are, what do they want, and if they have employed your business in the past – what was it that they valued working with you?

Conduct a simple Customer Survey, or set up a Client Appreciation Dinner or Event or just informally interview clients that you have a good relationship with.

Click Here for Guidelines to Creating Customer Surveys.

6. Develop Referral Sources. While you are looking for Joint Venture opportunities, also keep an eye out for who could you develop into a good Referral Source?

Again you are looking for other companies or services that your target customers also do business with.

A successful Financial Planner identified that one of his key Target Audiences was recent divorcees, and his most successful Referral Source were high end hair dressers (often they heard about the divorce first!).

With a Referral Source they refer potential clients to you and you in turn pay them a finders fee, or a % of the business that gets generated.

You can also set up a Referral Program for your customers. Your existing satisfied customers are often your best Referral Sources and a Referral Program where you offer some kind of incentive or reward gently encourages positive word of mouth advertising.

7. We Miss You Letter – one of your untapped advantages is your database of previous clients or customers – people who have done business with your company but not in the last six months.

A simple idea is to send them a We Miss You Letter, which is basically a letter that thanks them for being customers in the past, positions the value that you have to offer with some kind of an offer or promotion to entice them to purchase your services now.

Your best prospects for developing new business are people who have purchased from you in the past.

Post a comment at the bottom of this post if you would like to receive a sample We Miss You Letter to make it easier to create one for your business.

8. Offer a Special or Promotion – this is a good add on to the We Miss You Letter but can also stand alone.

The secret to a successful promotion is:

• Offer something that your customers want

• Emphasize what the value to them will be

• And have a deadline for taking action

We are all motivated by a deadline (when was the last time you tried to finish a project without a firm deadline? We call that procrastination!), so always had one clearly identified on every offer.

Tip: Not sure what would be a compelling offer for your customer base? Interview past customers to find out what they would like to see (their wishlist), why they liked working with your company and what their current challenges are. (see Idea #5).

9. Educate your Customers – it is easier to sell if you first educate.

Your customers often don’t even know how to think about what you do or what you offer.

An example is my hardwood floor. Five years ago I had the floors sanded and varnished, and at that time was told that was the last sanding the wood could handle – we were down to the nails. No problem I thought – hardwood flooring lasts forever.

Little did I know! I have animals, and the hardwood is in a high traffic area. Plus it turns out that I haven’t been cleaning them properly to extend the life of the varnish. Needless to say they are a mess with the varnish gone in many spots and the wood looking scuffed and graying.

I thought that the company that I had hired to resurface the floor had done a poor job (perception!) until Len Hume and Annette Marchionda took a look at them. Len and Annette are carpet and flooring experts. Len just kind of shook his head at how I had been cleaning the floors, but he told me how to deal with the damage, preserve the floors without having to sand them or replace them.

1) The first step is a discovery stage where you ask questions that finds out what your customer is looking for, if they are a fit for what you offer and establishes your company as the expert – you educate the customer on what they should be looking for with the questions that you ask.

2) The next step is to educate your customers on HOW you will solve their need (and cover all the points that your questions in the discovery stage raised).

3) Then ask for the sale which at this point may just be asking something like “when would you like us to schedule that?”

10. Position what you sell as a Solution – every industry is dealing some kind of price squeeze or competition pressure.

Travel agents used to be paid a back end commission from selling airline tickets but that commission went to zero about 8 years ago with the launch of online travel sites.

Independent Pharmacies are competing with Walmart’s $4 prescriptions.

Every business owner I have ever worked with has developed targeted knowledge and expertise. The challenge is that they tend to give away their wisdom for free in order to sell their product or service. If you don’t highlight what you are doing for your customers, they may not be making decisions consistent with the total value you offer.

A travel agent that has developed connections, travel experience and understands their customer base may offer complete trips or adventures that give their customers peace of mind (checked out the hotels etc where they are going) and at a price that would be less than what the customer could book on their own because of the travel agents connections and knowledge. The travel agent may be selling family memories, honeymoons, or adventures (the Solution) rather than selling hotels or flights.

Pharmacies may offer Diabetes Programs to understand and live well with Diabetes, or Weight Loss Programs, or offer ways to simplify properly taking and managing their patients’ prescriptions such as synchronizing the refills.

The rule of thumb is that if you are not clearly communicating the value you provide, people choose the lowest perceived price.

Positioning your business a solution to your customers’ needs requires shifting how you think about your business, being able to look at it from your customers’ perspective.

This is what we are building to in the Profit Generator Program, leading to The Profit Accelerator Formula in Module Six, a tool that you can use over and over again to identify and clearly communicate the value you provide.

Accelerating Results:

An implementation tip – read through all of the ideas; think about how they would apply in your business; choose ONE idea and implement it.

Choose an idea that appeals to you, would be easy to implement in your business and immediately start generating results.