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9 Insane Strategies to Transform Your Business

Transform Your Business

My friend Jonathan Fields wrote a post once about how the road to blogging success is paved with insanity. Being a conventional blogger is not only boring, as Jonathan noted, but it also fails to lead to much attention.

The same is true in most small companies and organizations. If you’re running Proctor & Gamble, you might be able to get away with being boring. But if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, boring is unremarkably average.

In this essay I’ll explain nine insane ways to transform your business. Technically, they’re not all insane—but applied correctly, they will all transform your business. Even if you don’t have a business, you can use some of these tactics to be remarkable in your current job or in your general approach to life. Feel free to adapt them in a way that makes sense to you.

To start with, here’s the list:

  • Raise Prices, and Keep Raising Them
  • Fire a Customer
  • Create Something Crazy (that no one will buy)
  • Hold a Fire Sale
  • Set up a Continuity Service
  • Call Bangalore
  • Create a Premium Version of Anything
  • Expand Your Sales Channels
  • Create Affiliate Products with Huge Payouts
  • (And a bonus, really important one at the end of the essay)

Important Disclaimer: sometimes when information is presented this way, we become overwhelmed with all of the different ideas. It’s usually better to look for the ONE THING that will help you at this time.

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Raise Prices, and Keep Raising Them. Customers should be trained that price increases are regular and necessary to maintain the quality of your product and service. Have a big sale before the price increase for your most loyal customers.

While you’re at it, never compete on price; compete on quality and innovation. United Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) fly the same routes between Japan and the U.S. United sells their premium tickets for $2,000-3,000. They compete on price. ANA sells their premium tickets for $4,000, $5,000 and even more. The same routes, similar schedules, even the same airline alliance. But ANA is a much better airline, and has no trouble selling tickets at a higher price.

Fire a Customer. One of my business mentors, Perry Marshall, once wrote an essay called “Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Fire a Customer.” In this essay, Perry told the story of an incredibly belligerent customer who kept making all kinds of unreasonable demands. When the guy started mistreating Perry’s staff, Perry could take it no longer. He fired the customer, refunded all the money that had been paid (about $2,000, I think, so it wasn’t a small amount), and banned the guy from contacting his staff or buying anything else.

Perry said later that firing the customer was one of the best business decisions he had ever made, and the essay based on the experience has become one of the most popular in his membership group.

Create Something Crazy (that no one will buy). You know how every once in a while you hear stories about £750 cocktails or the world’s most expensive cheeseburger? We love to be shocked at that information… and then we love to tell everyone about it, which is great P.R. for the businesses who created something crazy. The cheeseburger and the cocktails are taken, so think of something else that suits your business. You don’t have to actually sell any of your crazy concoctions, you just need to announce their availability.

In a similar vein, you can create something of value that sounds crazy but actually makes sense. Crystal at Big Bright Bulb recently opened a new consulting service with the option of providing mini-critiques through Twitter, the social networking service that limits each update to 140 characters or less.

The price for Crystal’s service? Just $9.95, or 8 cents per character. I don’t think she’s going to get rich on $10 clients, but if she markets this well, I think she’ll get some good P.R. for launching the service.

Hold a Fire Sale. Have you ever noticed how furniture stores and mattress shops are always “going out of business” and that they seem to catch on fire every year? These businesses are masters of event marketing.

You don’t have to start a fire in your warehouse to take advantage of event marketing. In fact, your event sale will be even more successful if it’s both believable and insane. Yanik Silver, an internet marketing expert, frequently produces event sales celebrating the birth of his children, Halloween, and all kinds of other events that are not usually associated with the sale of marketing products. Yanik and other marketers who do this make these events fun, and if you do the same, you’ll build goodwill with your customers while making sales you did not otherwise expect.

Create a Premium Version of Anything. A surprising number of customers will pay for the perceived exclusivity of a Gold, Platinum, or other “Premium” version of the same product or service you already sell. Even if most customers continue to choose the basic version, the increased profits from the premium version will greatly increase your average sale.

Look at it this way:

$49 product

Sell 5 $49 products = $245

Sell 4 $49 products and one $79 premium version = $275, or $30 more

Revenue per sale with one-level pricing: $49
Revenue per sale with premium version: $55 ($6 more per sale!)

Not only that, but by offering a premium version, other customers will be more comfortable purchasing the standard version to “save money.” It’s a winner all around.

Expand Your Sales Channels. Take what you already sell, and sell the same thing (or similar versions) in other venues. By doing so you’ll reap more revenue with little extra labor. Here’s a few examples:

You don’t have to be an eBay Powerseller; just put one auction up at a time, or even one a month, of whatever you normally sell elsewhere.

If you make anything homemade, you can sell it on etsy.

If you offer any kind of information product, you can sell it through Clickbank.

Get an Amazon seller ID and your product can be listed with the millions of others.

You can sell on your local Craig’s List or through the newspaper classified ads (yes, people still do this).

Call Bangalore. It is now possible, and not that difficult, to outsource unwanted tasks and projects to more affordable workstations around the world. Be forewarned—there are some fairly negative sides of outsourcing that aren’t usually mentioned when proclaiming the virtues of outsourcing. But if you’re up for it, elance and Rentacoder are great resources to test the water.

The first time I put a web project on elance for bidding, I was amazed. Within three hours of posting, I had 12 bids from India, Argentina, Romania, and elsewhere. Again, outsourcing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it can definitely transform your business if you plan to do it well.

Set up a Continuity Service. This is huge. Create something that people will pay an ongoing fee for, usually on a monthly basis. Make it easy to sign up for and easy to cancel. You’ll need a powerful offer, because it can be difficult to get people to sign up for continuity services. Also, a lot of them will drop out by the third month even if you’re providing great service. But a significant percentage will continue, bringing you recurring income over and over as you go on to do other projects.

Create Affiliate Products with Huge Payouts. Most affiliate products suck because they make far more money for the merchant than for the affiliate. That’s why you should give away as much profit as you can (50%, 75%, etc.) with the affiliate products you create.

Also, note that the 80/20 rule is in full force with affiliate marketing. Most affiliates will never sell anything at all, and a few good ones will do all of the work. Focus on the high performers.

You can set up as a merchant with ShareaSale or CommissionJunction, but as noted—to get noticed, set your commissions high!

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The Bonus Insane Strategy

All of these strategies will reap large rewards in the average business. As I said in the beginning, look for the one or two ideas that “stick” with you. But while all of the strategies above will help, I believe there is one strategy that can be the most effective of all.

Are you ready? It’s very simple.

Ask your customers what they want, and then give it to them.

This overlooked method is the biggest secret of all to the transformation of most businesses, because most businesses don’t do it.

Here’s how to ask:

1. Contact your customers however you normally contact them (let’s say email, because that’s easiest)

2. Explain that you need their help, and send them to an online survey

3. Create good, thoughtful questions (no more than 5-7)

4. Ask them specifically, “What needs do you have in the (your industry here) area that are not being met?”

Tip: use Survey Monkey to make this process easy—it’s just $19.95 a month, and better than services that cost much more.

Don’t forget the next crucial steps:

5. Make the product or service your customers ask for.

6. Sell it to them.

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Over to You

Which of these strategies do you like best? Can you think of some others? And for those of you without businesses of your own, does anything on the list help you with something else?

Feel free to share your thoughts, and feel free to vote for this on Digg or StumbleUpon if you think it’s worthy of greater attention.

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Additional Resources

Beginning with this essay, some posts will include a number of resources you can follow to read more about the subjects mentioned.

Affiliate MarketingShareasale, Clickbank

Continuity ProgramsPayPal (choose “Subscriptions” from the merchant area), 1ShoppingCart, Membergate (expensive but good)

Surveys SurveyMonkey , FreeOnlineSurveys

OutsourcingElance, Rentacoder

Image by andyinnyc

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15 Comments

  • I raise my prices consistently, and have fired (or threatened to fire) two customers in three years – both of whom realized how ridiculous they were being and turned into great, easier-to-manage customers. I may not call Bangalore, but that leaves me 6 more options. Great article!

  • Nathan says:

    Great article Chris, there are some great, easily implementable ideas in here. I’m going to create a “crazy” product just for the fun of it. What happens when you sell one? 🙂

  • Psiplex says:

    Sweet! Good group of ingredients to add to a stale soup and sandwich pattern. Always good to see that there are interesting ways to shake up conformity!

  • Tara says:

    But the question remains: HOW do you write good questions? What are good questions that will get me the answers I really need?

    Oh, and I really loved this post! I’ve both raised prices and created something ridiculous (which sold pretty quickly): a $50 skein of yarn (the kind people knit with, but someone bought it as “art”)

  • Ari Koinuma says:

    Nice tip. The point about price does need some consideration. We live in a capitalist society, so we measure the value of things by price — if you price it high, but do deliver the value, then people take notice.

    Along the line of #3 and #6, if you’re a blogger, you can go to the extreme of posting LOOONG prose (which still has to be good, not just fluff) and dare people to read it. Hey, it worked for Steve Pavlina.

    ari

  • Jen says:

    Great article Chris. I’ve just started my coaching business and plan on using some of your techniques to create interest this summer. In the past, I’ve used raising prices and firing a customer. What I learned when I fired a customer is that more customers filled their place and my employees were happier.

  • Nomadic Matt says:

    I agree. Sometimes you just need to let a customer go. Over the long run they just aren’t profitable so why keep them? Plus they can be a hassle? Many businesses now let underpreforming customers go so they can cultivate long term relationships with the more profitable ones.

  • Chris says:

    Great comments, guys. I arrived in Seoul early this morning (on my way home) and logged-in to see all of these insights from you all. We’re starting to turn into a real blog over here. 🙂

  • I haven’t “fired” any customers yet but I did when I was a stockbroker on Wall Street during the early 90’s. It was a cranky rich little old lady who was never happy with anything anyone did for her. It was never good enough. Yet she would take the information that was painstakingly researched and then given to her and take it elsewhere and use it as if it was her own idea. FIRED. Gave her to another rookie broker who was thrilled to have her only to find out what she was really like a few months later. She ended up getting the shuffle again.

    Great tips here – all of them are applicable to my professional speaking and life coaching business. Thanks!

  • Nice., This strategies are truly effective, and I totally agree with you. But I think outsourcing is cheap because of overused by almost all business enthusiast. If we move beyond outsourcing, we can achieve growth and agility.

  • Hi,

    You can create curveys for your customers for FREE at Kwik Surveys.
    We have many clients gaining feedback that this is proving very effective.

    Regards,

    Jeff

  • Thanks for the giving me the push over the wall. been thinking about doing two or three of these things for some time now, your blog gave me the courage to try them… what’s the worse that could happen? learn a new lesson?

    thanks
    esteban

  • Asking questions are genuinely good thing if you are not understanding something completely, except this article provides good understanding yet.

  • Tom Feeley says:

    I see continuity service and think residential rental property. Sure, it takes a lot of capital upfront, but the rewards are immense.

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