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Posted: April 27, 2009

Kick-start your business… without spending big bucks

Low - or no-cost ways to keep and grow your customer base

Larry Turner

Most every business is experiencing a downward trend in sales, but that does not mean you should stop selling and marketing your business. There are businesses that are increasing sales, building their pipelines and positioning for growth. These businesses will emerge from this economic mess much stronger, allowing them to dominate their competition.

So how do you effectively increase sales and your company's sales pipeline without spending huge amounts of money? You do it by leveraging what you already have and supplement with some cost-effective marketing programs to expand the exposure in your industry and served market. Some of the tactics that can support your growth initiatives include:

Internet marketing

Internet marketing initiatives are a low cost way to increase your company’s exposure and provide sales leads for your business development organization. The options are wide ranging, but they include: Search engine optimization (SEO), which is a process that positions your website more favorable to the major search engines and helps move your website up in the listings when your key words are used in a search. This can be done in-house if you have the resources and knowledge, but it is most effectively implemented by using an outside organization. 

There are a large number of things that impact your search engine rankings and they can change over time.  Typically, there is an upfront cost to perform an initial process to your website and then a small monthly fee to continue updates as well as provide content to outside sources, such as blogs, that point back to your website.  This is not an overnight process and will take many months to see big results, so be patient. The work done here also supports your position on pay per click advertising, which is another option.

Pay per click advertising allows you to manage your daily costs associated with advertising. You select the keywords that best represent your company, products and services. Once the keywords are selected, ads are created that will display for your selected keywords.  

Sales calls

The business owner and senior leaders should be going on sales calls. I have always found that making sales calls with my business development staff not only gives the sales person a step up in the sales process (they brought the owner or senior leader to visit with the prospect), but is also demonstrates to the organization how important it is to be sales focused. Too often, even in good times, individuals working in the office focus solely on their job and not the customer or supporting sales. 

Creating a sales-focused environment requires internal communication related to how everyone can contribute to the sales process, follow-up through the management staff and reinforcement by the senior leaders making joint sales calls with the sales organization.

Customer visits

The lifeblood of any organization is your current customers, But it is so common that these customers are neglected by senior management unless there is a problem. Be proactive and visit your current customers. This provides direct communication with your customers, identifies areas that you can improve in your company and gives you an opportunity to convey to your client how important they are to you and your company.

Start by focusing on the top 20 percent of your customer base and visit them with the assigned sales associate to have an account review meeting. I have found that this process not only helps protect your current customer base, but also can result in short term sales gains by uncovering unmet needs.

Internal communication

Communicate with your employees how important sales and customer retention is to the health of your company. Every employee can contribute to your goal of increasing the customer base which may include their focus on supporting the sales organization, the way all your employees support the customer, the turnaround on sales orders and the ability to implement new service agreements quickly. You will find that increasing the communication internally along with reinforcement through the actions of the senior leaders will provide a more enthusiastic employee base, with many of your employees responding to your request for help. 

All of these items are low cost or no cost and will provide a short-term gain in sales, as well as a long-term impact to your sales pipeline. These items do not eliminate the need to have the right strategic approach to your business or eliminate any of the other tactics you have implemented to stabilize your business during this goofy economy, but they will provide added sales activity and refocus your employee base on positive activities.

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Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations.  Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits.  Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of “Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms." For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com

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