A few years ago, there was a reality show that featured emergency personnel competing against each other in a variety of events designed to challenge their strength, speed, and ingenuity. One episode in particular stands out in my mind. A group of firefighters went head-to-head until only three were left to face the final test. The contestants had to navigate an obstacle course. The man who finished in the shortest amount of time would be crowned the winner.
The final obstacle on the course was a trio of doors the firemen had to get through in order to cross the finish line. The first contestant sped through the course, lowered his shoulder, and attempted to smash through the first door. It held. He then tried to kick his way through. Again it held. Finally, using an axe, the burly man was able to hack his way through that first door. Then, already exhausted, he slowly chopped his way through the second and third doors while the clock ran.
Contestant number two, having watched all of this from the sidelines, didn’t waste any time trying to muscle the doors open. He immediately picked up the axe and began swinging. His time was much better than his predecessor, but he too slowed considerably as the physical effort took its toll.
The last firefighter confidently made his way through the course, posting a similar time as the first two until he reached the first of the doors. He picked up the axe, drew back to deliver his first blow, and then paused. He let the axe slide to ground, reached out his hand, and turned the knob of the unlocked door before walking through it. The next two doors proved to be unlocked as well and he won the competition easily, having barely broken a sweat.
I don’t know about you, but I often wrack my brain looking for the best solution to a problem, only to realize the answer is right in front of my face. While my focus has been on crafting a complex, often taxing strategy, a much simpler solution has been available all along. I just didn’t know where to look.
This is the route many of us take when looking to grow our business. We instinctively focus on difficult, time consuming, expensive strategies. Too many times, these efforts offer a horribly low return.
What if I told you that there’s an easier path to growth – one that’s been sitting in front of you all along? What if there’s a group of buyers just waiting to respond to your offer if you’d only recognize them and extend your hand?
The group I’m taking about is your existing customer base. Studies show that, for a great number of industries, up to 80% of your growth opportunity lies with existing customers. Instead of fighting for outside prospects, look inside to find your reward. Your most promising audience is comprised of those you’ve already done business with.
Think about it. Your customers have already made the decision to do business with you. They don’t have to be alerted to your existence or convinced to give you a try. They already know you possess a certain amount of expertise. Your customers already know who you are and how you work. The learning curve is short and trust is high, otherwise they’d have left for a competitor by now.
What your existing customer base may not know is how you can help them beyond the initial transaction. You can’t assume that because they bought one product from you they automatically know that you have additional solutions to offer. And if your original interaction took the form of a transaction rather than the start of a relationship, you probably didn’t do much to help them see beyond that particular transaction.
The onus is on you then to reach out, identify other potential needs, and then educate those who already trust you on the additional skills, expertise, and products you bring to the table. Remember, you are the expert. You have to be the one to make the effort. But since the hard part – establishing that initial trust – has already been done, the effort to extend the relationship doesn’t have to be taxing.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share a few strategies for reaching out to this gold mine of potential. I’ll explore the concept of customer cues and clues – bits of insight that indicate opportunity is knocking. And just like the winning firefighter from my opening story, we’ll see just how easy it can be to open the door to those opportunities.
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