No doubt, the economic climate for small business owners is tense and tight these days. That guaranteed income from yesterday is a hit or miss crap shoot today. On top of that, every time you turn around there is a new competitor springing up in your area, vying for the customers you worked so hard to acquire.
How can you stay above water when it seems all external forces are working against you?
Now is not the time for business as usual. It’s time to get creative and think outside-of-the-box for ways to increase profit. It’s always a good idea to tweak the services you offer to keep them fresh and competitive.
Lets go over a few techniques that I am using to diversify my computer consulting business that can easily be translated to your own service business.
1. Provide Optional Add-ons for Existing Products or Services
This is akin to the drive-through attendant asking if you’d like “fries with that.” Take a look at your primary product or service and brainstorm ways you can add low-cost options.
For me, I’m doing this by offering the “Go Green” service, for a small fee, as an add-on to my primary computer support services. Customers who choose the “Go-Green” option will receive a personal eco-consultation from me. For example, if a customer prefers to leave their computer on while they are at work or asleep, I’ll show them how to set their operating system to automatically fall into sleep mode and eventually hibernate, to conserve energy.
Also, I instruct them on responsible disposal of things like printer ink and computer parts. Finally, I take a look at the surge protectors they are using and adivse them on adjustments they can make, like turning off the entire surge protector to ensure peripherals don’t draw power when they aren’t in use. It takes about 20 minutes of my time, and I charge about 20% of my normal hourly rate for the service.
Options such as this are important to business growth. You are showing your customers that you’re willing to take the time to go above and beyond what the “big boys” are offering in personal service. Pricing will vary, but make sure the add-on services are around 10-30% of what customers will be paying for your primary services, that way they’ll be more enticed to spend the extra money.
2. Partner with Other Small Businesses
Collaboration is a luxury many small businesses seem to overlook. Maybe the fear of competition causes business owners to choose a solitary existence, but if you can find a business that is not a direct competitor of yours, it may be in your best interest to team up and pool your resources and your customers.
In the online world, this is easily accomplished through affiliate deals and cross-promotion, but what about in the physical world? I’m working on teaming up with local computer hardware and software vendors as obvious partners to compliment my computer repair services. But you can take it a step further by experimenting with some non-traditional partnerships. A housecleaning and lawn care business could team up to sell “inside and out home makeovers”. The possibilities are limitless!
3. Package Deals
Going back to my fast-food analogy, package deals are like your “value meal.” Bundling your products together is a great strategy to get others to consider certain offerings that they may not have considered otherwise. In my business I’m combining my stand-alone services of virus cleaning, computer tune-up, and data backup into one “ultimate package” for a price that is less than what they would pay for all the services separately.
You should still offer all of your regular stand-alone services alongside the bundles. This way your customers can really see the value of the package versus the a la carte stuff. By combining your services together, you save time and resources, and the customer saves money. This is a win-win situation!
This may not seem like the most obvious way to gain more customers, but there’s no better way to get your name out to the community in a positive light than volunteering your services for a charity or local organization. In a small way, I’ve been doing this by volunteering to work on computers for friends and family. This helps ensure that they spread the word of my services to their friends and acquaintances, creating the word-of-mouth traction that is vital to any start-up. Soon I will volunteer my services to schools and retirement homes.
Four or 8 hours a week should be enough to make a lasting impression on your community. It’s also a great opportunity for you to hone your skills and practice new service strategies. Make sure you highlight some of your volunteer work on your website or in your advertising as well.
When times are tough, think outside of the box for options that your customers will care about. The results will be more business, higher esteem, and increased revenue. These are just a few of the ideas I’ve come up with to expand my services. What are some things that you can implement right now to give your business a competitive edge?
* * * * *
About the Author: Matt Rodela, aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy, writes about his experiences running a part-time computer consulting business on his blog, http://www.yfncg.com .