1. Money

Increasing Sales in Existing Markets

A Growth Strategy Any Small Business Can Use

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Each time the Peerless II comes to port in season with a load of fresh halibut, her fishermen call all their established customers, letting us know that it’s time to go down to the dock again and buy fish. The captain of the Peerless II knows a lot about fishing – but he also knows how to penetrate a market.

Increasing sales in an existing market is one of the easiest ways to grow your business. You already have a head start with this growth strategy as once your business is established, it has regular customers, and, like all businesses, you’ve collected all kinds of information about them. The key to successfully increasing your sales in an existing market is to know your customers’ buying histories, both generally and individually.

The goal, of course, is to get your existing customers to buy more. The data about what your customers buy, when and how often will help you make savvy decisions about stocking and marketing. Cold drinks a hot seller in the summer? Offer a bulk buy discount. Or use your hot sellers to move other items that aren’t doing as well. When they buy the hot item, give them the opportunity to buy another related item at a reduced price.

Looking for a shortcut for implementing this growth strategy? Institute a frequent buyers reward program. Such a program doesn’t need to be complicated. One way to do this is simply to offer your regular customers a straight discount on whatever they buy, such as 10 percent.

Another approach is to tie the discount to purchasing a specific dollar amount, such as offering 10 percent off for every $300 a customer spends. Yet another approach to this growth strategy for increasing sales in an existing market is to offer other merchandise as rewards to frequent buyers. The key to success with any frequent buyers reward program is to make sure the rules are clear and applied equitably.

Bulk buys, purchase incentives, and frequent buyer reward programs are all examples of business growth strategies for increasing sales in existing markets based on the general buying histories of your customers. Business growth strategies based on individual customer buying histories can be even more powerful. An individual customer’s buying history gives you insight into her preferences and attitudes and allows you to customize your sales and marketing efforts.

Think again about the example of the Peerless II. Because we (the customers) have a history of buying halibut, it’s a safe bet we’re going to be interested in buying more. But it’s also a fairly safe bet that 1) we would be very interested in buying other types of fresh seafood and 2) we are the sort of people who prefer to buy seafood as fresh as possible (off the dock). The captain of the Peerless II would find it incredibly easy to sell us other seafood products off his boat – and here’s the best thing – we would be more likely to buy that seafood from him rather than any of the other boats because he has bothered to customize his sales efforts.

You see, if done right, customized sales and marketing efforts build customer loyalty – which also helps to increase sales.

Websites are ideal for this kind of customized sales effort. When you put something into the shopping cart on the Amazon site, for instance, on the resulting page you’ll see several other products listed under the title “Customers who bought _______ also bought”. Because the list is customized to that customer’s interest, the chance of a customer adding one of those products to the shopping cart too is high.

But you don’t need to have a website to successfully use this business growth strategy, as the example of the Peerless II shows. All you need to do is mine your individual customer’s buying histories and use the information to customize your sales appeals. Think “this customer has bought this and this. Therefore, she might also be interested in _______ and _______.” Then let the customer know about these other products, via an email, a phone call, or a special mailing.

Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. You already have the data, and chances are good you’re already using some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Microsoft Outlook Business Contact Manager, Maximizer, Goldmine or Act! to help you track and analyze it.

As for customizing your sales appeals, there are all kinds of products that will help you automate the process. There are companies that will be happy to provide you with an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that will make the calls for you, for example. Some of the CRM software programs listed above have built-in capabilities for managing email campaigns. There are also stand-alone email marketing software programs.

Focusing on increasing your sales in existing markets is well worth the effort, because it’s a business growth strategy that will grow with your business. And as we all know, one regular customer is worth ten one-time buyers – or more.

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