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How to boost your revenue by upgrading your existing clients

Dave Archer

While business may be slow for some companies, it’s positively booming for others. If you’re looking for ways to proactively increase sales for your small business, look for creative ways to “upgrade” your existing clients and customers.

I like to use the term “upgrade” rather than “upsell” to describe the technique of increasing business with an existing customer. “Upsell” sounds like you’re looking for ways to get more money from a client whereas “upgrade” feels a little more like creation of a win-win relationship that benefits all parties and that’s the most effective way to go about taking existing client/customer relationships to the next level.

Examine the services you already provide and look for practical tie-ins.

One of the best ways to upgrade existing services is to look for ways to build on the relationship you already have. Sometimes you’ll already have a new product or service available you can simply introduce a client to; in other instances it may be practical to develop a brand-new offering specifically to meet the needs of a valued customer. Here are some examples:

Logical add-on services

Let’s say you maintain a company’s website. Logical “add-on” services might include introducing an interactive blog, setting up and maintaining social media accounts and developing e-commerce and e-marketing applications. Coming to an existing client with a proposal for these services doesn’t look like an upsell, but rather, an enhancement of existing services. Consider services you already provide and develop innovative ways to “bundle” them for customers.

Custom products and services

What better way to cement a relationship with an existing client than to come up with new custom services designed specifically to meet their needs? Let’s say you provide accounting services and specialize in handling tax issues for your clients. If a client asks for a referral to a payroll services or auditing company, consider the existing talent and knowledge in your wheelhouse. Even though you don’t currently offer those services, is it something you can logically do? You might consider taking a survey of existing clients and ask them what additional related services they are currently in the market for. This will give you a good idea of potential business expansion areas that can help you increase overall earning potential.

Complementary products and services

Consider ways to expand your overall business offerings. For example, a shoe store doesn’t just carry shoes, it also offers everything from shoe laces, shoe polish and socks to insoles and orthopedics. What complementary products or services can you provide? For example, a restaurant might consider expanding into catering or party planning; an advertising firm could look into adding public relations and business planning to their list of services; and a veterinary practice could investigate the viability of adding grooming or boarding services, as well as the sale of pet foods, products and accessories. Think about the core of what you currently offer and then brainstorm about possibly “off-shoots” that may be profitable.

Offer free trials

A smart way to pitch a new product or service to existing clients is to offer a free trial period. This approach introduces the client to the product or service and gives them first-hand knowledge about its usefulness. Follow the trial period with a discount to keep customers happy and engaged with your new services.

Combine “upgrade” with “outreach”

Along the same line as free trials, offering a reward in exchange for referrals is another good way to bring in new customers while offering something of value to existing clients. Think of freebies or perks you can use to encourage customers to pass along your name to potential new business contacts. Free or discounted services or “buy-one-get-one-free” strategies work well. Resist the urge to place too many onerous stipulations on your offers or you run the risk of alienating your customers and making your plan backfire. Keep it simple.

One caveat to the “upsell/upgrade” approach don’t make customers feel badgered with continual sales pitches for new products and services. Instead, present logical scenarios and outline the validity and potential benefits of everything you propose.

Dave Archer is president and chief executive officer of Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Contact him through ncet.org.