There are marketing strategies and then there are revenue generation tactics. (Learn about Direct and Indirect Revenue Generating Activities here.) When you need to bring cash into your business, you want to take as short and direct a route to the money as you can. Here are three fast revenue generation tactics that can work for almost every business.
Start a formal referral program
This is one of the fastest programs to put in place but you may have to wait a bit to start seeing the rewards. I have seen results within 45 days in professional businesses such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and dental practices. While you could get “lucky” and hit on a referral immediately (sometimes people just need to be reminded that you offer certain services), this also works well as a long term strategy.
Think about what you can offer that would incentivize people to refer business to you. You can use a monetary system, either a flat fee or a percentage, or you can use services as a reward. One dentist I know gives a 10% discount on future dental services (this does not apply to lab fees or hard cost items). He also allows people to stack those discounts; the savings can be substantial. A monetary reward can be given in the form of formal fees or credit card gift cards.
You don’t have to offer a referral fee on all of your programs. For example, I offer a flat fee referral bonus on two of my service packages. (Email me for details if you’re interested.) You can offer a flat fee on some services and a percentage on others. In short, you can design your referral program in the way that works best for you and still incentivizes people to refer business to you.
Some of your clients may refer people to you without being incentivized. ALWAYS send a thank you note and if possible, a little gift. It doesn’t have to be transactional—sending a gift at an “odd” time or a “just because” gift creates a delightful surprise for the recipient. With the proliferation of delivery services, it is easy to send a breakfast bagel spread to someone’s office or an elegant journal to a past client. And it’s fun.
Don’t forget—if you have employees, you might want to institute a program for them, too. The dental office I mentioned has a monthly contest for employee referrals. The winner gets a gift card and if the office as a whole meets or exceeds the referral goal, everyone gets a gift card in a lesser amount.
Not every industry allows you to give a referral fee. Some have a limit on how much you can give. Make sure you are aware of and follow the rules and laws that govern your industry or profession.
Create an upsell or complementary service for current and former clients
What have clients asked about that you don’t provide? What other product or service could you add to your roster to give your clients “one-stop shopping”?
The prevailing wisdom in business is to niche down and specialize. But sometimes we have too narrow a focus. You may want or need to expand your offerings to widen your customer base and bring in revenue.
You may already have people who trust you asking for more. You need to decide if you are going to be the person to offer that product or service or if you are better off finding a referral partner to serve them. Some of the factors that come into play when you’re deciding to add products or services:
- How much will it cost to implement?
- Do you already have the necessary skills or will you need to acquire and polish them?
- Is this something you want to offer and carry through on?
- What are the potential downsides?
- Is adding this cost effective for you, i.e., worth doing, and beneficial to your client base?
If you decide you’re better off or would simply prefer to find a referral partner to supply certain services, reach out to people and companies you trust to form strategic alliances. This is what networking groups are supposed to do and often fail at. That’s because you are encouraged to refer business to people in the group, but you may not have had a say in who is allowed to join the group. Needless to say (and yet, I am saying it), you should only refer your clients to people you trust.
You may already have a network of business connections that you respect and feel confident in referring people to. Go through your list and ask yourself if they might be a potential referral partner then reach out to them and make the suggestion. Start with talking about your referral program and then ask if they have a program in place. They may not have when you started the conversation, but might by the time you’re done talking.
Pre-Sell Bundled Hours or Sessions
I have seen this mechanism used by coaches, consultants, even service providers. One of my favorite web tech services runs a sale every few months, offering a bundle of five tech support “tickets” for the price of three. The tech credits are banked for when I need to use them. This does two things: It brings in chunks of cash in a short period of time for the tech company and it makes their clients more likely to use their services (as opposed to searching for a solution online or using a different company) because the services are already pre-paid.
You can do the same thing. Most coaches and consultants run on a monthly retainer. Recurring income is fantastic, until someone has a tough month financially and has to cut you. By selling a package of hours in advance, you are assured that people will stay with the program. One coach I know sells a bundle of 11 hours at a discounted price (approximately 15%) that is not divisible by 11. Clients can use their hours in 15 minute, 30 minute, or one hour increments. When they are down to their last hour, she lets them know and offers to re-up them at the discounted price. She sells these exclusively to past clients as a limited product (only a certain number of bundles are available), usually in January, and creates her baseline income for the year. You can do this as a Black Friday/Cyber Monday special, a business anniversary special, or anything you want to call it. You can offer the bundle as an evergreen product if you like. Just make sure it’s enough of a discount to entice people without making you feel like you’re not getting paid enough.
Then Get the Word Out
All three of these mechanisms have no upfront costs beyond time to brainstorm and develop your offer. You can announce these to your mailing list and on social media. You can take out ads if those have worked for you before. Tell people in your online and offline networking groups. Go on talk radio and podcasts and talk about it. Send out a press release. Hell, rent a skywriter. No. Don’t. That’s expensive and not targeted.
But you must make the offer to people. This is where many entrepreneurs stop cold. It’s hard to put an offer out there. No one likes to put themselves in a situation where they might be rejected. Maybe you’re afraid of imposing on someone, being seen as needing money (heaven forbid that a business is trying to make money!), or being too salesy.
If you genuinely help people, then you need to let them know about you and what you have to offer. You may be thinking you’re avoiding rejection but you’re also avoiding acceptance. And gratitude. And the opportunity to do what you are meant to be doing in this world.
Go make the offer.