When it comes to small business sales strategy, you could approach it in a lot of different ways. But one of the most basic ways is deciding if you prefer a broad, shallow customer base, or a narrow, but deep base. There are benefits and disadvantages to both approaches.
A Broad, Shallow Customer Base
This type of sales approach means you have a large number of customers or clients, each of whom spends a relatively small amount of money with your company. The idea here is that the cumulative amount spent by all of them will sustain your business each month.
The advantage of having a broad, but shallow customer base is that if one or two customers go away, your company won’t take a big hit, since those customers probably weren’t spending large amounts of money with you. Of course, as any small business owners know, every customer is valuable, and you hate to lose any of them, but in this scenario, when customers do move on, it’s not the end of the world (or the end of your business).
There are a couple of disadvantages to this approach, however. When trying to reach a broad group of people, your marketing efforts have to be more general and widespread. This can be more time consuming, and expensive, since you have to appeal to a larger market that others are also likely targeting. You also have a greater number of customers to keep track of, which again, can be time consuming. And while some business owners take security in having a large customer base, others can get overwhelmed with the prospect of having to constantly bring in so many lower-valued customers.
With a broad customer base, customer referrals are your company’s best friend! Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews on your Facebook page or on relevant review sites, or offer referral incentives that encourage your current customers to bring the people in their network to your business.
A Narrow, Deep Customer Base
The alternative to a broad, shallow customer base is a narrow, but deep base. This means your company has a relatively few number of clients, but each of them spends a large amount of money with you. For companies in certain niche industries, this is really the only way to go, because there is not a large number of customers out there in need of their products or services. But for other companies, this approach is a conscious choice, and for several good reasons.
Having a smaller customer base means you can really focus on cultivating your clients. You can get to know them personally, and even find out how you can improve your products or services through them. In this sense, they are more like strategic partners than customers.
For many small business owners, it may seem much less daunting to find several really good clients that they can then grow into better clients, than to have to keep finding new clients. It can also be easier to market to a targeted audience. You can really focus your efforts and advertise your products or services in strategic locations to appeal to the high-value customers you want.
The downside to this approach, however, is that it can be risky. In investing, you always hear about having a “diversified portfolio,” meaning you have different types of investments in different sectors of the economy. This is a method for decreasing risk, so if one or two investments do poorly, you don’t lose everything. Basically, it’s the opposite of putting all of your eggs in one basket.
When you have a narrow base of clients, you are not as “diversified” than you would be if you had a broad base. If one of your best customers suddenly goes away, you will probably feel it. And good customers can be hard to replace quickly. It’s always risky in business to rely too heavily on a few clients who could take their business elsewhere at any time.
To mitigate some of this risk, get your clients to sign a long-term contract or put them on a retainer, if it makes sense for your business. You can entice them to do so by offering them a more favorable rate or price.
With this approach, you also need to be constantly fostering client relationships. Stay in contact with them and let them know they are valued. Invite them to a company event, or send an occasional “thank you for your business” gift.
A Balanced Approach
Knockout Pest Control in Temecula, California has taken a more balanced sales approach. Most of their digital marketing efforts focus on individual homeowners in need of their pest control services, but they also work to bring in customers that can provide them with ongoing sources of revenue. Since the company provides termite inspections, Knockout is constantly looking to connect with local real estate agents who can then refer Knockout to home sellers. Knockout also works to connect with residential and commercial property managers who may need pest control services in Temecula for multiple properties. So, between individual homeowners and real estate professionals, Knockout has cultivated a customer base that is both broad and deep.
If you take this approach, make it clear on your website that your company works with both individual customers and strategic partners. A good way to do this is to have specific tabs on your home page for the types of customers you are targeting. Those tabs would take customers to a page that speaks directly to them and their needs, and how your company can provide products or services to meet those needs.
There is no “right” or “wrong” approach. Small businesses have been successful with all three of these methods. You need to decide which one makes the most sense for your particular business.