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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.

And of course, you can always give away your services/products on a limited basis in a new market to see how people use what you have to offer. Innovative uses of your services/products may arise and you can then capitalize on them.

Strategy Three: New products/services

Strategy Three is likewise more difficult: Create something new and sell it to existing customers.

Strategy Three requires you to understand what needs your existing customers may have that you can fill. This means asking specific questions, listening carefully, collecting war stories and wish lists, and examining them for patterns and trends. While you should be doing this all the time anyway (as part of customer support and nurturing), there are times when a concerted effort in this area is required to jump-start a fresh line of business.

Every successful business product or service fulfills a need. Sometimes customers will jump up and tell you about their needs ("Hey can you write me a program to transfer this FTP data file into Salesforce?"); other times they will not. Resist the temptation to short-cut this process, and keep in mind that customers who help you in this endeavor are graciously donating their time and knowledge to your immediate benefit, not theirs -- so keep your surveys short, interactions simple, and thank-yous tangible and profuse.

While this strategy is similar to starting a new business, it has one distinct advantage that new businesses do not have: existing customers to talk to.

Strategy Four: New products/services for new markets

Strategy Four is the most difficult approach to business growth: Create something new and sell it to new customers. This is the "blank slate" strategy, and it is exactly the situation you have when you start a new business: what to sell, and to whom?

While Strategy Four may appear to be a combination of strategies Two (new markets) and Three (new products/services), it's more complicated. It’s an equation with two unknowns. Strategy Two is easier because you already have products/services to sell; you only need to find new people to sell them to. Strategy Three is easier because you already have existing customers; you simply need to find new products/services that they need.

Strategy Four is hard. While most of the tactics from Strategies Two and Three may be applied here, they tend to be “shots in the dark” unless you already have a clear picture of who you are, what you are good at, and whom you want to serve. Practical techniques for systematic exploration such as Business Canvas and Lean Startup can help immensely, but you have to be willing to discard great ideas to get to the ones that actually work.

 

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