21 Small Business Profit Boosters For Troubled Times (#1)

21 Ways to Get More Sales, Increase Profits and Reduce Expenses… All at the Same Time

I’ve had it with all the loser talk about the economy.

I know it’s bad.

I know people are losing money.

I have lost money, too – my retirement account is worth about two thirds what it was worth six months ago.

So I get it.

But it’s time for all of us to stop talking about it, and instead start doing something about it.

First Of All, I’m Not Suze Orman

I’m not going to pretend to advise you on what to do with your investments, or that kind of thing. There are plenty of experts who can help you with that. In fact, I recommend you listen to these audios by Tony Robbins for some guidance on your finances – and your attitude.

What I have to offer is of a different nature. Here’s my contribution…

I’m writing a series of blog posts (starting with this one) that are focused on one thing, and one thing only: helping small business owners thrive-not just survive, but thrive-in today’s economic environment.

I believe that is realistic and attainable for almost all small businesses – if they’re willing to do what it takes.

Are you?

We’ll see.

The World Series Of Small Business Profit Tactics

This will be a month-long series (give or take). Each day my goal is to post one actionable step you can take that will either get you more sales, increase the amount of profit you make on each sale, or multiply the number of sales you get from each customer… and ideally, it will do all three at the same time.

Tactic #1: Discover Your Own Acres of Diamonds

You have probably heard the classic motivational tale called Acres of Diamonds by Russell Conwell.

It’s the story of a poor farmer who sold his land in order to go off in search of treasure. He never found that treasure… but the new owner of the property discovered a rich diamond mine lay just beneath it. The poor farmer gave up all he had… including his “acres of diamonds”.

Dig In Your Own Back Yard

This is a perfect illustration of how most business owners run their small businesses (whether online or off-line).

The are constantly in search of some new idea, technology, or innovation… and they fail to harvest the fortune already at their feet.

If you have any kind of business at all – if you’ve been selling anything for any length of time –  you already own acres of diamonds.

Your diamonds are your past customers.

They spent money with you before. The hardest sale to make (and the most expensive sale to make) is the first one. And yet… many business owners never try to work for the second sale at all.

They seem to operate under a motto that reads: “Find ‘em, fool ‘em, and forget ‘em.”

What about you?

Have you given your past customers opportunity to do business with you again? Have you asked them for more business? Have you done it recently… persuasively… persistently?

If you’re like most business owners, the answer is “no”.

How to Harvest Your Diamonds

So how do you harvest your acres of diamonds? How do you go about reactivating old customers-in real, practical terms?

The simplest way is: contact them.

Do you have their phone number? Then call them.

Calling them is the best way-it’s the most personal (barring showing up at the front door, which might not be such a bad idea, depending on what business you’re in).

I can already hear someone saying, “But Ray, people will be offended if I show up out of nowhere… or call them on the phone… or e-mail them… and ask them to buy something.”

Well of course they will.

Especially if they haven’t heard from you for a long time. But what if you took a different approach?

What if you called (or sent a letter, or an e-mail) and said something like this: “Hi this is Bob the Remodeling Guy…  and I was just checking in to see how that new bathroom is working for you? I know it’s been a year since we installed your new fixtures, and we always like to follow up and make sure our work is living up to your expectations.”

Will you get some complaints? Probably.

You’ll find a few people who’ve been meaning to complain about that leaky faucet but never thought you’d even return a phone call. They’ll be glad to finally have your ear. But if you handle even these situations right, it will almost always result in new business.

Why is that? Because nobody calls to follow up these days. Nobody.

And you might be surprised to discover that most of your calls will not result in new complaints. Most of them will result in people being surprised that you called the begin with.
Most calls will be a pleasant shock for the customer and result in some kind of conversation about what other work, products, or services they might need.

If you can’t call your customers, send them an e-mail; if you don’t have your e-mail address, send them a postcard.

Get this: the technology you use to reopen the dialogue doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start the conversation.

And don’t start it by asking for more money; start by finding out how they felt about dealing with you in the past, how well you helped them solve their previous problem, and — if they have any thing less than a stellar report for you — how you can make things right.

If you do these things, you will get new business as a natural course of events. And you won’t have to bring it up–they will.

“But What If They Don’t?”

What if you have a pleasant conversation with your past customer, all is well, and they don’t mention buying something new? No problem. It doesn’t mean you can’t sell them something. Just be nice about it, for cryin’ out loud. Don’t be rude. Make sure they have been heard before you try to make them hear you.

And once you know they have been heard, and feel great about you because you contacted them, and because you (gasp!) listened to what they had to say… make them aware of whatever your current promotion happens to be. Just do it  without being pushy.

It can be as simple as saying, “By the way, we have a special discount available for previous customers who…”.

If they’re interested in your new offer, they’ll let you know.

If they’re not, they’ll let you know that too.

Either way, the worst thing that can happen is you will have built more goodwill for your company, its products, and services. And if you contact enough of your previous customers, taking the right approach, you will generate new business.

This tactic works because hardly anybody does it.

In fact, I predict hardly anybody reading it on this blog will do it. But don’t let that discourage you-in fact, it should excite you.

It should be exciting to know that so few of your competitors will take this simple step to increase their sales and profits.

That just leaves more for you. Now go do it!

Tomorrow’s tactic: Thanksgiving Equals Thanks-getting.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • Ray,

    Thanks for starting this series. We need to get in a better frame of mind because what we focus on and think about is what happens. Focusing on the negative will only make matters worse for us individually as well as a community. So keep your thoughts coming.

  • Ray, I completely agree!
    I put out a “Thanksgiving Teleseminar” to my list on Monday for $77. I have 29 subscribers so far. You are the MAGNET to your list. They are all looking for leadership now, more than ever! Thanks for the great post!

    • Way to go Robert – now that's what I'm talking about.

  • Hey Ray,

    I agree with your post. it really strikes a cord with me. I use to be in the hospitality industry and it was a surprise to us to go back to an old client, even ones we had not called in years. They were happy that you remembered them and felt important to you. It was just a conversation but it got us business we never expected. I will be listening to your tips hoping I am not leaving any diamonds behind.


  • We absolutely should use the Law of Attraction now to bring good things in and disallow the negative.

    I wrote about this on my marketing blog today and it's the first time I've had “pingbacks.” (I'm so non-techie I had to call my kid and ask him what that meant!)

    We're ready for positive thought, so keep it coming!

    • While I'm more in favor of the “Law of ACTION”… I applaud the sentiment of your post.

      Look what happened for you — you took some action and got your first “pingback”. Excellent example. Thanks Marte!


  • Ray,

    I agree 100% on following up. Prior to my online business, I had an offline business and always had success on following up with my clients. Even if no sale was involved, it helped me maintain a good reputation in my field and led to more word-of-mouth advertisement which sometimes resulted in additional sales. Now I need to continue that tradition with my online business activities.

    Your words of encouragement inspire me to do the same for my list – so I think I will post some positives of my own on my blog. Thanks for the great post Ray – and keep them coming.


  • Good for you, Ray. I couldn't agree more. In fact I just launched a new site dedicated to getting Fast Money. We can ALWAYS generate more revenue when we make the effort. So congratulations on this new series – looking forward to the installments!

    • Hey Jeanette… thanks for dropping by! You are an example of how to do things right: you always give high-quality information coupled with stellar customer service.

      And you are always paying attention to what your readers want from you: Cash From Scratch is just one example. Thanks for showing us “how it's done”!

  • Ray,

    What a great post. Following up with old customers is something that we should all be doing. I know that I am guilty of not this. I have a list of former members in my membership site that I am going to contact next week and try to get them to reactivate their memberships.

    Thanks again and I look forward to your next post

  • KarenLeslie

    Great post Ray – I look forward to reading the others.

    There are many people who have taken a hit in their finances (our superannuation – Australian pensions) are worth a lot less now but we aren't relying on that!

    We are still earning money (business, the US stock market to name a few) and we are writing a new finance course to teach people to earn more while working less.

    You are so right that people need a good attitude – and that's something any of us can choose to have.

  • Doug

    Hi Ray,

    I come from a lifetime of successful marketing —B to B and direct sales and can happily qualify your comment about clients / customers —- When one sells a business the Turnover is the pivotal feature — termed as Good Will — which is generated by the customer base!! So are customers valuable or not ? !! Roll up sleeves and “mine the diamonds”— no digging involved —- customers are alluvial !!
    From my observations of I / M ( I qualify as a Newbie) there appears to be a gaggle of “cowboys” ridin' this range applying your tastefully expressed “3 F's” principle. Some probably know no better.
    There's a timeless classic written by Paulo Coehlo titled “The Alchemist” which fittingly illustrates your “Diamonds” analogy —a delightful read.
    I'll be watching your blog as I start out on my I /M endeavor.

    • In all fairness… I have been guilty of “Cowboy Syndrome” myself. I guess you could say I'm a “recovering cowboy”. You know what they say: we teach what we most need to learn.

  • Ray,
    This is great advice, and you're right, some that is overlooked. I have to admit I am guilty of it:-(
    I am really looking forward to this series. You always have great information to give, so I'll be checking back often.


  • Hey Ray, great Idea, looking forward to getting schooled by the “Boss” of copywriting. I love to write and strive to get better everyday, any lessons I can get are deeply appreciated. The negative is always there, It's just whether you choose to let it control you or control it. Have a wonderful day, Timothy Millar “The Leprechaun”

  • Good advice, Ray. I like how you connect the Acres of Diamonds story with past customers. Following up with past customers is definitely an under-utilized strategy.

  • Great Info. Very generous. I think on the flipside…if you do have a unresponsive list it may be time to fire them or at least trade with another product/service owner and give them an opportunity.

  • How about writing a book, publishing it via an onine ebook compiler, then setting up a website to sell it?

    Kind of like this example: http://www.thedoverpro.com/texas.htm

    Then go to various blogs and websites like this one and post links to it to get traffic.

    Seem to work tpretty well for me.

    Thanks for all the great advice in your emails and your blogs.

    • While it's generally considered bad form to transparently promote yourself like this on someone else's blog, I left your link intact for one reason: I admire people who take action. And you weren't sneak about it. Peace, brother (or sister, whichever it might be).

      Keep on taking action!

  • Hi Ray;

    Thanks for the opportunity to voice our opinions here on your blog.
    The economy for online marketers is always better when the general economy is poor, as long as we are out there genuinely trying to help others better their situations.
    Like many others have done before and others are still doing now, I'm still weeding through all of the non-genuine hype-type gurus to find my own path to success in this age of info world we are in.
    I try to find the positive aspects from all the different philosophies out there and apply it to my life and attitude. Life for instance; in a teleseminar today with Alex Mandossian and Tellman Knutson when they spoke of telling yourself “I CAN DO THIS” rather than the other voice in us that keeps saying “I can't do this”. In reference to all the learning and work that I need to do to be successful online from now on I will forever hear “I CAN DO THIS” in a loud resounding confident voice and hear the other voice that says “I can't do this” in a wispy little high pitched voice.
    To sum up I'm now looking forward to the new year with great expectations and a new confidence that my success is eminent and the economy of the rest of the world will not effect me and my family anymore. I still need more training and a true mentor to help me along, but I believe I'm on the right path.
    If we all try to help others and give back to our communities I believe we can improve this economy one little piece at a time.

  • This is so true. I believe all you've said with every fiber in me. I started my internet business about three months ago. I have no customers yet because of the economy. What advice would you give?

  • BobParoski


    Great Post.

    All too frequently everyone today is talking about how bad the economy is and how worried they are about what will happen. Very rarely have I heard how they plan to deal with it.

    This is the first time I have heard Russell Conwell's acres of diamonds tale applied to past customers. How truly appropriate.

    It's amazing how many people don't keep in touch with their past customers.

    I have been in the mortgage business for 10 years and have sent simple one page newsletters to all of my past clients almost on a monthly basis ever since I started.

    I regularly get comments from many letting me know how much they enjoy my letters.

  • Reeveso

    I first heard about the “Acre of Diamonds” from the “Lead The Fields” audio program that Mr. Nightingale did.

    Always a pleasure to be reminded of that lesson 🙂

    Jeremy Reeves

    • Thanks Jeremy!

      When I was a radio DJ (and a young one, at that) I used to play Earl's 5 minute radio show each morning for our radio listeners. It was delivered to us on vinyl! And that's also where I first heard of Conwell's story.

      By the way, you can get Earl's ground-breaking “Strangest Secret” (which has nothing to do with that mystical New Age clap-trap video) for free from one of my clients' websites. Just visit Mark Victor Hansen and sign up for his email newsletter (worth reading) and you get the MP3 of Earl Nightingale's “Strangest Secret” recording as a gift.

      • Reeveso

        Awesome, thanks Ray. I'm always up for more stuff to listen to in my car while I'm driving (I burn MP3's onto CD's and listen to them in the car instead of the radio).

        Anyway, thanks again – it's on my desktop now and will be on a CD in the next 10 minutes 🙂

        Jeremy Reeves

  • Timely post Ray!

    For the first time in 9 YEARS my Toyota dealership called me tonight to remind me that my car was due for service. I nearly fell off my chair.

    They've never even sent a postcard to remind me that my car needed an oil change.

    Heck, last time they didn't even put the little window cling with the mileage reminder on my windshield.

    The sales will come to those who go the extra mile to make their customer feel cared about…

  • resource

    Hi Ray, appreciated this article, simply because I've been following some articles in a similar vein on ezinearticles.com by a fella called Nathan Howard. He's written a few items lately and writes a lot like you do..full of decent ideas and positive actions. All those real-life businesses out there need to read more of this stuff from both of you. Forget the tales of gloom and doom because according to something I read in Washington Post a week back there's going to be a big increase in new business starts early next year. As you say Ray, pay attention to keeping your existing customers sweet can be profitable and if very satisfying too. Done this myself with massive increases in sales. Good article.

  • Hi Ray,

    Thanks for your sound advice. You're so right – it's time to take ACTION. As individuals we don't have much influence over the global economy but we can take charge of our own lives.

    I was listening to a presentation by Loral Langemeier this weekend during which she said:

    “In this economy there is nothing more important than making extra money.”

    For many this will mean stepping out of their comfort zone but this is essential if you want to thrive during these challenging economic times. And those who do go beyond survival and indeed thrive will be those who are most flexible and most adaptable.

    You mentioned “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell – great story! If anyone hasn't read this as yet, you can download a copy from the link below:

    Acres of Diamonds

    I look forward to reading your other Small Business Profit Boosters.

  • bigal59

    Hi Ray,

    Well you got me there. I don't think that I have ever heard anyone on-line talk about customer service. And that's what this is, plain and simple.
    I think that most peoples preoccupation is with making the dollar. And very little thought is given to the customer after the purchase.
    People always talk a lot about follow up e-mails, but that's only to promote more sales.

    Excellent post ray. Hopefully people will take note, I certainly will be.

    Have a good day Alan

  • Hi Ray,

    Thanks for this article.

    Going by the opening I feel it's easier to just give up and blame everything and everyone else when things go bad. Except the guy in the mirror.

    I think most of us need a kick up the back side to actually DO something instead of complaining.

  • Here, here, Ray! I totally agree. I'm sick of hearing about it, too. And yet, my husband insists on watching the news during dinner, so I can't escape the “the stocks are falling! the stocks are falling!” cry every night.

    It has occurred to me that when 9% of the people are unemployed, that means 91% are! Let's look on and focus on the bright side. Times are tough, sure. But they aren't impossible.

    Thanks for being a “Ray” of sunshine. 😉

  • Ray, almost everyone we run into, including our clients, would see your blog post as a “phenomonally new and innovative idea” that they have never considered or heard of before. Or that they've heard this, but are still doing “what everybody else does.” If everyone else is doing it, it must be the right thing to do, right? It's mind boggling (and depressing).
    Fortunately, we've been practicing what you preach and have been advising our clients to do the same for a number of years now. What a difference it makes! And yet, some of our clients are still continuing to search for new treasure.
    Yours (and other's) is a veritable voice in the wilderness….but hey, that's good news for us. It gives us a “product” to market! No competition with God intended, but we can be the “light of the world” so to speak. Kind of like a Bic lighter at a concert or something, eh?

    Steve Blumenfeld

  • Cathy Stuckart

    I'm glad to see someone being positive. I work as an appeals attorney now, but long to work as an information marketer, and am married to a web developer (semi-retired. I plan to launch in late January after I write an ebook. I will be following your suggestions, as I am impressed with your background, and really like your first post!
    Cathy Stuckart

  • Anne

    Excellent post and isn't that what service is all about. So few in business today take the time to thank the customer for their business and continue that service with follow-up.

  • Excellent Ray,
    I am right with you when it comes to being fed up to the back teeth with all the pessimism about the economy. Those Business owners who do not wake up and smell the coffee rather sharpish will be history pdq! Harsh I know but this is the rael world.

    Well done for the info and advice. Its excellent reading

  • zzdiana

    Sadness, grief and anguish are one of the seven universal primary emotions of our species. Those of us affected by trauma or loss need to process the physiological and mental impact that such game changing events bring.

    Our emotional brain has no ‘thinking’ capabilities. When it is engaged at a deep, deep level, it can take years to get back into alignment. This is where compassion, empathy and reflective listening can be the difference between someone getting ‘stuck’ or, ‘working thru’ to the other side.

    When emotion is ‘pushed down’ for the sake of ‘getting on with it’ you can bet that it’s NOT the last you’ve seen of it. However, when time, education and support enable the deepest fears to be address, the experience can transform.

    We’re blessed that, with mankind knocking on the door of a new era in business and day by day living, Emotional Health is the new golf.