How much easy money are you leaving on the table?

It’s a well-known business tenet that up-selling existing customers is the most profitable way to increase your bottom line. Pitching new clients can be a time- and cost-intensive endeavor. Marketing additional services to your core clientele is a more effective way to increase profits, and yet many companies completely overlook this lucrative opportunity.

The A-ha moment
Last week, I wrote about an unfortunate dining experience that provided a valuable lesson in basic marketing. JB Mavrich of The Kaibob Writing Company made an interesting observation in his comment. He suggested that instead of delivering bad news about a per person minimum, our waitress should have focused our attention on fabulous additional offerings, acting as a “bang-up marketing rep for the restaurant.” Of course!

There are two elements at play here – the opportunity and the presentation.

The opportunity
Your existing clients represent your greatest asset. If you’ve kept them reasonably happy, they are a primed audience – ready to hear more about what you can do for them. These people are the “warm” leads that marketers covet, and they are sitting right there in your own backyard. Don’t underestimate the value of supplemental sales to this group.

The presentation
As JB alluded to, there is more than one way look at a situation. Many opportunities exist for up-selling. Even a negative can be turned into a positive with the right approach and delivery. The key is understanding what your customer might need and then providing that solution in a genuinely helpful way.

5 steps to easy money
Positioning your company to take full advantage of the potential for supplemental sales is not rocket science. It just takes legwork and follow-through.

1. Know how to talk to your customers
You’ll need an up-to-date customer database and messaging options – whether offline or online.

2. Locate critical information on buying history
Optimally, you’ll be able to segment your list by various criteria like location, industry type, products purchased, etc. Knowing what products each customer has and needs is critical if you want to create well-targeted messages.

3. Define possible touch points
Timing is everything. Depending on what additional products and services you’re promoting, it may make sense to include your messaging in an order confirmation e-mail, monthly newsletter, monthly statement, or special offer communication.\

4. Create an integrated communications plan
Decide where you think you’ll see the best ROI and create a starter plan that focuses on that effort. Is your best opportunity selling additional service plans to a new customer or hardware upgrades to long-time customers?

5. Track and measure, then optimize
Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. If you’re targeting prospects through multiple channels or touch points, which ones result in the greatest number of conversions? Talk to your sales and customer service people – what types of reactions are they hearing on the front lines?

Bonus Tip
In addition to mining your existing customer database for potential sales opportunities, think about ways to up-sell as part of an initial sale. Do you send a thank you or welcome e-mail to new clients? Those types of communications can be the perfect vehicle to create awareness about additional products and services. Each touch point should invite your customers to learn more, engage more, and – ultimately – buy more.

Do you leverage your existing customers to the maximum benefit? Do you have any success stories to share, or additional techniques for reaching this group?