As entrepreneurs we are often attracted to the newest, latest and greatest ideas for everything; this often includes marketing. We easily fall in love with new trends like content marketing, Facebook advertising, podcasting or viral videos to promote sales growth.
However, sometimes the old tried and true techniques can often work just as well, or better — and cost less. Slack, an online communications company, grew at 5% per week for over 70 weeks using this exact same principle. In fact, they grew 33X in one year!
While results vary for different businesses, you can double your sales if you apply these same ideas. In our business, we have followed a simple four step plan for growth and experienced tremendous success (without having to spend any money).
Step 1: Overhaul service standards.
Did you know that customers are willing to switch brands and even spend more if they think they are getting better service. Or in other words, better service pays better.
Start by taking a close and hard look at your business. Figure out where there is room for improvement. Nothing else work if you aren’t delivering amazing service. The good news is it’s something that will pay off forever, not just on a short-term basis.
If you make customer service excellence a part of your core company culture, you will never lack for customers or business. Here are a few areas that can benefit from improvements:
Are you doing everything you can to set clear expectations and deliver on them so customers are never underwhelmed or disappointed with what they receive?
Are you at least as good and working on being better than any of your competitors in your level of customer service?
How quickly do your respond to inquiries, problems and questions?
Do you try to solve problems or simply respond to them?
Do you follow a rigid process in your responses or do you have the flexibility to make individual situations right in a way that leaves each customer uniquely satisfied?
If you aren’t sure or you are behind, step one is to work to revamp your business so that you can impress customers with how great your service is every time they interact with you.
Step 2: Over deliver on expectations.
Once your service is top notch, the next step is to go the extra mile to really blow them away. Again, this doesn’t have to cost anything, it’s more a matter of giving them even more than they expect.
You could deliver faster, add an extra incentive to their order, follow up with a personal note to check in on their experience or anything else that will put you in a class above the competition.
Figure out how you can not only provide amazing service, but really go the extra mile to make a favorable and memorable impression on your customers.
Step 3: Ask for an honest review.
After you have figured out how to offer mind blowing service and over deliver on expectations the next step is to ask for a review. There are several reasons this is important:
Reviews in general will help you gain new customers and are a fantastic marketing tool for your business.
In the event you still have room for improvement, reviews are one place you will be able to find out what and how you can do better.
Once a customer has written a positive review for you they will not only be more likely to use you again, but also more likely to refer you and to be forgiving if something goes wrong in the future. To not do so would cause a cognitive dissonance problem for them, that psychology has proven is a powerful force in influencing behavior.
Step 4: Rake in the referrals.
This is where all of your preparation has been leading you. It is the source and driver to double your sales. Consider this: If each of your current customers sent you one new customer (on average), then you have immediately doubled your business.
If you have followed steps one through three then current customers should not hesitate to recommend you every chance they get and many will without ever being encouraged to do so.
However, you probably don’t want to leave it to chance! There are lots of things you can do to encourage customers to spread the word about your business:
Offer a post-sale incentive for referrals such as a gift, discount or other perk.
Create a referral gift for them to give to people they would like to refer.
Follow-up via email and ask them by providing a simple referral link to a landing page that requires minimal effort for them to tell their friends.
If you do the first three steps correctly you should be getting a ton of referrals anyway, but if you make the effort to encourage referrals you really should have no problem doubling your business inside a year or even doing significantly better than that!
This article has been edited and condensed.
Matt Remuzzi is the founder of CapForge.com Bookkeeping & More, a small business online bookkeeping service firm serving clients across the US. Matt and his team work closely with their entrepreneur and startup clients to provide bookkeeping, payroll and general business consulting services to help them profitably grow their businesses. Matt also has written a popular QuickBooks book available on Amazon and hosts the Entrepreneur Talk podcast. Connect with @capforge on Twitter.