Bootstrapping Ways to Bring In More Customers

May 16, 2013

Small business owners, just like you, have incorporated these ideas in order to help their small businesses grow.

Gene Marks, columnist for The New York Times, author and small business owner, shares three ideas you can implement to grow your business.

Each year I get to speak to thousands of small business owners, most of whom are much smarter than me.  These are people with great ideas, particularly about growing their businesses during slower economic times. Like any small business owner, I love this stuff because that’s also what I'm trying to do.  So, I thought I’d share three great ideas from three small business owners I know (names changed to protect the innocent!) and how they bring in more work for virtually nothing.

Use CRM to get more work from existing customers. 

Everyone learns in Business 101 that getting work from existing customers is much less expensive than acquiring new customers.  Jane, who runs a small bookkeeping service, knows this too.  Jane has been in business for more than ten years  and for most of that time she’s used a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to keep in close touch with her customers.  There are a number of great inexpensive CRM systems for small workgroups available.  Jane uses her CRM system to keep in touch with all of her customers throughout the year, making sure that no assignment or deadline falls through the cracks and everyone has a follow-up scheduled where she can offer new and different services, like payroll tax preparation and state filings.  A good CRM system ensures that no revenue opportunity is missed, particularly from an existing customer.

Write A Newsletter. 

Kevin runs a landscaping business in Maine.  Every month, he uses one of the many inexpensive email services available (like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp) to send out a newsletter to his growing customer base. The newsletters have great tips for gardening and landscaping, and help establish him as an expert in the field.  This strategy also keeps his customers close and helps draw in new people who are interested in his advice.  And many times this advice leads to queries for services.  Kevin’s dedication to his monthly newsletters over the past few years has resulted in a great deal of new business for his company.

Find a Partner.

Roberto is another client of mine who runs a small roofing company.  Roberto may be in the roofing business, but he’s also in the partnering business too.  Whenever his crew is at a job site they are required to inspect their customer’s home for any potential exterior, non-roofing problems – like electrical, plumbing, brickwork or windows.  If they find any problem, they alert the customer…along with a recommendation to contact one of Roberto’s “preferred” partners.  The customer is thrilled with the advice and the partner…well…I'm sure you can imagine how thrilled you’d be for the lead too, right?  Roberto doesn’t ask for a commission – only to be remembered the next time a partner bumps into a potential roofing opportunity.  And this happens all the time.  Free recommendations.  Free advice. A happy customer and a willing referral source.  Not a bad way to generate a few more bucks.

My advice? 

Pick any of the above three ideas and concentrate on that for the next year or even two. If you’re working with one of the programs above, start with the basics and gradually expand the use of the program’s features as you become more proficient with the product.  Most importantly, remember that these things take time.  But a great CRM system, an informative newsletter or even a good system for referring business to select partners will ultimately result in more work for you, and for a very low cost.