Every self-employed professional wants to earn more from his or her business. When you ask professionals how they plan to meet that goal, they usually talk about doing a better job at marketing or doing more of it. But in fact, there are many ways to go about growing a business. Here are five of the best strategies for any professional to consider:
1. Find a bigger market. What needs does your business fill for your clients? Can you identify another group of people with those same needs? If you can, there is a brand new market just waiting to find out about your services.
Here’s an example: a massage therapist started out by running paid advertising aimed at potential clients. She was doing okay at finding clients, but her marketing costs were cutting into her profits. Then she learned that many companies wanted to provide on-site massage as a perk for their employees. By contracting directly with these companies to provide massages for their employees, she was quickly able to fill her calendar, and dramatically decreased her marketing costs.
2. Find a richer market. If you find yourself struggling to sell to people who often can’t afford you, look for another market that can pay what you need to charge. Many companies that do business with nonprofits discover that they also prefer to have a few corporate clients, in order to compensate for the lower rates nonprofits frequently require.
The same is true when you work with individuals. If the group you most love to serve is in a low income bracket, spend some of your time marketing to a higher income group as well. And if you can charge higher fees to the group who can afford it, do so.
3. Build a back end. It costs less and takes less time to sell something new to the clients you already have. If you’re not sure what this might be, try asking your clients what other needs they have. An acupuncturist, for example, could also sell herbal supplements or educational books and videos.
Consultants often find that clients have many other needs, once they begin working on a project. If a client needs something that you can’t provide on your own, consider subcontracting the business to someone else and taking a percentage, or collecting a fee for making a referral.
4. Change your pricing. Any marketing expert will tell you that pricing is magic, not science. When you lower prices, sales usually go up. When you raise them, costs usually go down. The “perfect” price is the one that makes you the most money, but how do you find it?
The place to start is by doing some modeling. Estimate the size of your average sale, then estimate how much each sale costs you. (A good reference book on writing a business plan can help.) Then, play with the numbers: see what happens to your profit as you raise or lower your prices and estimate how your sales volume might go up or down.
When you model, you’re just guessing, but many business owners are surprised to see that lowering their prices can sometimes bring more profit. Or by combining a price increase with idea #2 above, you could potentially make more money from fewer sales.
5. Find a strategic partner. Is there a company out there who you could partner with to gain access to their market? Imagine what your earnings could be like if Dell included a promo for your services as a computer tutor with every computer they sold.
Take a look at the leaders in your marketplace and see if there isn’t someone whose product or service is a natural companion to yours. Partnering works with small companies, too. A chiropractor and a nutritionist can share space and exchange clients. A professional organizer and an IT consultant can team up to help clients organize information.
Be creative in thinking about growth. If you run out of ideas, remember — ask your clients! They know better than anyone what more your business could be doing to serve them.