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How to mine your company’s acres of diamonds for additional profitable business

April 3, 2015

By Tom Borg
Originally published in Focus Magazine

Russell Conwell used to tell the story of “The Acres of Diamonds.” The story was about a farmer who lived on the banks of the Indus River. He had heard about the fortunes being made by people mining for diamonds in Persia, Palestine and Europe. He decided to sell the farm, take the proceeds and go prospecting for diamonds. As the story goes, three years later he ended up broke and destitute, and fell into a river and drowned.

In the meantime, the person who bought his farm discovered, you guessed it, diamonds. Unfortunately, the original owner did not recognize what diamonds looked like in the rough and did not realize he had a fortune under his feet while he had owned his farm. Small business owners are a lot like that farmer. They don’t realize the potential value they have with their present client base. They do not realize that their present customers have other needs that their business could fill for them. They assume that the best place to look for more business is elsewhere, for “new” customers. Some ways they try to attract new customers and spend precious advertising money include:

  • monthly coupon mailers
  • space advertising in the local newspaper, chamber directories or business journals
  • banner ads on websites

I am not saying avoid advertising to the masses, but you do want to limit it. Why? Because it can be very expensive and ineffective. As Jay Conrad Levinson has taught us, your ratio for advertising should be divided up so that you spend:

  • 10 percent on the universe (that is anybody and everybody i.e., ads in newspaper, mailings, internet banners, etc.).
  • 30 percent on a qualified prospect list.
  • 60 percent on your present client base.

One of the best ways to sell more to your present client base is to discover what their additional needs and wants are. You can do this by talking with your customers on a regular basis. As someone once said, “it is amazing what you can learn by just listening.” As I tell my small business consulting clients and workshop participants:
you don’t have to be as smart as you think you must be. You just have to ask the right questions and listen to your customers. They know what they want and need; all you have to do is ask the right questions and take good notes. Too often small business owners make the mistake of thinking they do not have enough time to talk to their customers. Truth be told, they don’t have enough time or money not to talk with them. Your customers should be the source for much, much more business then you are presently doing. You simply have to be proactive.

Case in Point
One of my clients, Jason Collins, President of Maverick Propert Maintenance, started asking the right questions and making a list of the services their customers were asking to be delivered. Once they compiled an extensive list, they decided which services they could provide and started offering them. Some of these services were things they had never considered offering, yet, they could easily provide.

It was mind boggling the amount of money some of their typical clients started spending per year with them. Some had a five-fold increase. Maverick Property Maintenance did what your business can do more of, and that is, to ask the right questions, listen and respond to customer needs and wants.

Rather than offering just the bare minimum to your clients, the concept I am recommending to you is to make it a point to go vertical with each one of your clients. What kind of services or products can you supply to them?

Look for “Green Flags”
Look for the “green flags” your customers wave at you. What I mean by “green flags” is the unmet needs and wants they have. They will ask you and your frontliners questions like, “Can your company do X?” or “We keep having a problem with Y.” “Can you do something to fix Z?”

Don’t make the mistake that many small business owners make – treating a customer’s request for something they don’t do as an annoyance or a bother. This type of reaction will turn your customers off in a hurry. What they will usually end up doing is looking at
your competitors to get their needs and wants met. Research shows that it is 10 times less expensive and four times easier to sell to your present client base than to try finding and selling to a new customer.

So, what about your small business and its “Acres of Diamonds?” What are some of the questions you need to start to ask your customers? Better yet, what are some of the questions they have for you that you can answer with a new or improved product or service? Once you start being proactive with your customers, you will be well on your way to successfully growing your small business.

Tom Borg is a business expert who works with small and mid-size companies to effectively and profitably improve customer acquisition and retainment. He helps these businesses achieve these objectives through his use of consulting, speaking, video and professional writing. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, please contact him at: (734) 404-5909 or email him at:

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