This article was adapted from its original version at Entrepreneur
In this article, I am going to teach you how to increase sales. Almost every business will at some point experience stagnant sales. When this happens, it can sometimes feel like the only way to increase revenue is to take drastic measures, which invariably require more time and energy.
Small businesses may not initially be interested in making millions when they first start out. They typically just want to be successful. By comparison, a publicly traded company's sales need to steadily increase over time. In a small business, sales may stay flat for years. This is because there is no need or pressure to constantly increase revenue and profits. Small businesses aren’t beholden to shareholders. But if you’re trying to test the limits of what can be achieved, ideally, you should have a strategy in place for how to increase sales.
I launched my business while serving in the United States Air Force. When I started, there were no financial goals per se. I didn’t care about getting rich. At the time, I was a teenager who had recently won a national bodybuilding competition. When I won, there were people all over the world reaching out to me asking for advice. I’ve always had a passion for helping others, but it got to the point where I was unable to help people individually. So, I built a website that allowed me to publicly answer fitness-related questions.
My primary source of revenue was an ebook I had written on abdominal training and nutrition. Over time, my business grew. Before separating from the Air Force, I was averaging approximately $300 per day in sales. Later, I began selling exercise equipment and sporting goods. As time went on, I wanted to average $500 per day. I successfully reached that, then tried to grow the business to $1,000 per day. I achieved that, then felt it was possible to make $2,000 per day. Surprisingly, I did that. Ultimately, the business made it to an average of $3,000 per day, which was approximately one million annually. My approach was simple: gradually try and make a little more money over time. But this was not always easy because, as I mentioned earlier, many entrepreneurs feel like they’ve reached their revenue potential, and sometimes, finding creative ways to make even more money can be difficult. So, how did I do it? I found new leads. In addition to my own website, there were four sources of revenue that had a significant impact on my business.
The first hidden source of cash was Craigslist. It started out where I would list used or returned items that were still in good shape. I had so many leads from the site that I eventually listed just about anything that was popular: both new and used products. The cool thing about Craigslist is any classified listing also serves as an advertisement for your business. So, in the footer of all listings, I included company name, physical address, and phone number. My business saw the entire spectrum of customers, from high school coaches to law enforcement personnel. New customers also meant new referrals. Craigslist was an invaluable source of revenue.
The second overlooked source of income was OfferUp; another classified ad marketplace for both new and used goods. It was also another way to increase sales. Ironically, it was one of my Craigslist customers who suggested I try OfferUp. At the time, it was a newer mobile app and I was a bit surprised I had not heard about it. So, as a test, I listed a few items and received several inquiries on the same day. OfferUp had a few features that gave it an edge over its competition by facilitating payments and nationwide shipping. I would describe this as an added bonus because it made my products nationally accessible instead of just locally accessible. But the OfferUp mobile app was a high-quality lead generator and recurring source of revenue for my business.
The third hidden source of income was Facebook Marketplace. Existing Facebook users can post just about anything for sale and have it shown to a wide audience. I estimate that there were no less than 10 inquiries per day for a given item. Here is what makes this, and similar applications, very interesting: As a dealer with an endless supply, I can sell the same item over and over. This is how to increase sales. So, Facebook Marketplace was a decent source for supplemental income.
The fourth and final hidden source of income was Etsy. This website features handmade, vintage, and craft supplies sold by individual sellers. You will not find classified ads on Etsy because they only allow new products. Although, new products are sometimes made from used or recycled components. But I discovered that certain fitness-related items, which I already had in inventory, could be repurposed and sold on the platform as craft supplies. Etsy’s business model is similar to other shopping sites that take a commission once an item sells. Because of the sheer volume of shoppers, I would say that Etsy was always a source for consistent, predictable revenue.
Before increasing my presence on these four platforms, I sold products exclusively online via my main website. I also had a warehouse location for distribution, but it was not always open to the public. At some point, I made an adjustment and opened a small showroom where customers could retrieve will-call items. When business was slow, I would use that down time to figure out how to increase sales. So, I tested local classified ads. I noticed that when ad respondents arrived to pay for items, they almost always purchased more than they originally came in for, once they saw other items within the showroom. This is where I saw opportunity.
Eventually, I was able to open a 4,000-square-foot retail store that was highly successful. But it all started with a simple challenge: solve the problem of stagnant sales. My business experienced dramatic levels of growth when I took proactive steps to find new leads. In the end, the key to success was getting more eyes on my products. I did this by taking advantage of classified ad websites, mobile apps, and other resources that ultimately served as free advertisements for my business. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it exposed my products to new customers, which translated into more sales.
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