I started Cutler PR in 2009 with $200. In less than five years, we made our first million in revenue. It was a difficult journey, but we got there by following a few simple strategies to keep our customers satisfied and expand the business.
Here's how we reached our first million in revenue, and how other businesses can too:
1. Create a great product or service.
Any customers a new business has will leave if they are unsatisfied and they won’t bring their friends. To reach the first million in revenue, businesses need every customer and every referral they can get.
Get feedback from customers and continue to improve the offering. What issues do they have with the product or service? What do they think could be done better? Encourage customers regularly to share their thoughts and opinions. As the business grows and more clients are added, continue to check in with them regularly to get feedback and see if they are happy.
This work is never done -- nothing is ever perfect. Products and services need to always be evolving to better meet the needs of customers and keep up with stiff competition.
2. Drive sales.
Always be on the hunt for new customers. Ask current customers for referrals, network with industry contacts and colleagues, and invest in marketing to spread the word about the business.
To turn these contacts to customers, show the tangible results of the product or service. Numbers and reviews are more powerful than a company’s word alone. Make it easy for potential customers to see how the product or service can benefit them.
Create case studies to showcase the work of the company and ask current customers to write and share testimonials. In each case study, present the client’s problem and how the product or service solved it. Show the numbers and include the measurable results. Did the service increase their revenue or speed up their processes? By how much? In addition, include direct quotes from the client about why they love the product and how it worked for them.
Display the company’s best work online. Share these materials with prospective customers to show what the product or service can do for them.
New businesses can diversify their products and services in two ways -- expanding vertically by adding new products or services that are complementary to their current ones, or expanding horizontally by moving to new markets.
But the best way to expand products and services is to move organically over time. Wait and listen to what customers are requesting and what additional needs they have. The best option may be to stay laser focused on current offerings and expand into new geographic markets.
At Cutler PR, for example, we noticed that our clients needed services in China and the UK. We expanded and hired people in those areas to meet client needs. Now, we package these services as an offering for any company looking to gain exposure in those geographic markets.
No business is exactly the same. Listen to what customers want and need for the best chance of successful expansion.
4. Invest in technology.
Jumping from $100,000 to $500,000 or $1 million in annual revenue is an enormous leap, and businesses can quickly become overwhelmed and disorganized. Don’t let the business outgrow the technology used to manage it.
Invest in new technology needed to track every aspect of the business during phases of rapid growth. Find great accounting software, communication tools, sales and customer-relationship-management systems, and other tools specific to the industry.
Look at the everyday functions of the business and check for bottlenecks. What’s slowing down the process? Is there software the business currently uses that isn’t working? What would make it better? Look for software that has these qualities.
Check in with team members to get their input on software needs, too. What are their major pain points and how can tech alleviate them?
Technology, like the business, will continue to evolve. So reevaluate software needs and technology often.
What tips do you have for fledgling companies? Share them in the comments section below.