Recently, I’ve been running into some business owners who are starting to ask some really good questions.

There is opportunity now. But where? With whom?

I need to hang onto my customers What’s the best tack to take?

I’m determined to get aggressive. Where’s my best bang for my buck?

Last year’s questions might have been about branding, advertising, or how to go “viral”. Many wanted to talk about that. And agencies are only too happy to oblige as these are the highest margin products and services they sell.

Today it’s different. It will stay different.

The right questions to ask today are who, what, and what’s the return on that? For the most part, that means starting with the few and working outward.

Back on April 2nd, Seth Godin wrote a little about this approach. Begin with 10 utterly loyal clients, friends, associates, etc. and work from there. Start slowly and let it build.

Depending on your situation, the place to start is with your team, moving onto your key customers, and then finally to dedicated FOOs (friends of the organization).

Let your team in on the secret…you need them. They need you. You both have roles to play. Yours is to lead - provide vision, direction, tools, and resources. Theirs is to perform their jobs with gusto. Relate to customers better than ever. Spread the word with more sincerity and urgency. Share ideas.

Strength in numbers

Same with your customers. Not only do you want to keep your important customers happy, you also need them to know that you need their help to succeed with other customers as well. Testimonials, invitations to present within their circle of influence, and asking for their ideas is not only helpful, it can also be flattering.

FOOs can also be a fountain of good ideas. They have exposure to other industries, competitors, and can help you get a handle on things that might be working for others. Also, because they typically have no axe to grind, any referrals from them, even those that may not lead directly to business, may lead to something more concrete.

Bottom line? Yes, there is opportunity now. Yes, there are customers out there up for grabs. Most of the best ones seem to be laying low.

Now’s not the time for a big splash. Now’s the time to throw a bunch of pebbles into the water and make many little ripples. In time they’ll all connect to make a big wave.

Posted by: Steve Banis