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5 ways to beef up your indie dev business

Steven A. Lowe | Jan. 8, 2016
Independent development shops can bank on bigger prospects with our guide to bolstering the bottom line.

First, you can limit your availability by taking on only a few select clients, ones where you can provide the most value. Exclusivity and reputation can increase income without having to increase your business overhead. This is most appropriate for a truly independent developer -- aka the Brand of One -- but it can work for any business that is services-oriented, rather than product-oriented.

The second way is to elevate your reputation. This method often results in higher revenue because clients will pay more for a higher perception of quality, knowledge, and service. For example, you can write books, garner publicity, publish articles at reputable IT outlets, take on higher-profile clients, present at conferences, create conferences, and so on, all of which raise awareness of your services and expertise.

Another way to sell more of what you already have to your existing client base is to change your pricing structure. For example, you can change pricing tiers to encourage greater and/or more predictable consumption, a practice that might include discounts for longer-term commitments, increased minimum commitment/order sizes, and longer termination-notice periods.

You can also institute short-term or "rush" pricing to make smaller projects more profitable and to compensate for schedule disruptions.

You can shift to value-based pricing, where the price for your services is proportional to the value provided to the customer, instead of by time-and-materials-plus-margin. This is especially appropriate for specialized services that provide high payoffs to the client, not for commodity development services.

Another key is to always keep in mind ways to increase repeat business. This could mean shortening cycle/iteration times (and scoping projects appropriately), making more frequent enhancements to your projects or products, and actively looking for and asking about additional ways to help existing customers.

Note: You should always be pursuing this last tactic regardless of your overall growth strategy.

Strategy Two: New markets

Strategy Two is a little harder, a little riskier, and a lot more work, but could ultimately be more rewarding: Sell what you already have, but to new customers.

Finding new customers is challenging, but there are several tactics for growing your client roster by tapping new markets. The first is to analyze new markets or regions with an eye toward finding customers that have needs similar to those of your existing clients. You can cross-sell to new markets by asking current customers for referrals outside their industry. Similar analysis can help you uncover ways to repurpose your existing services/products to fulfill the needs of another market.

You can also study industry surveys, trends, and news to see if a new market is leaning in the direction of your existing services/products, then partner with companies already established in those markets, to help introduce your products/services to their customers. This can best be achieved by finding a company whose services or products complement yours. Thus, you can work together to embed your services/products into each other’s deals or find ways to combined your services to add value that neither you nor the partner company can provide.


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