What’s the secret to growing your profits year after year as a freelancer, consultant, or agency/service-based business?
Is it a) more clients?
Is it b) selling high-profit services?
Is it c) more advertising?
What if I told you that it was d) none of the above.
More clients, selling high-profit services, and advertising can play a crucial role in helping you run a profitable service-based business, but none of them is THE key to profitable growth over time for your company.
So what is?
I learned the hard way the real secret to profitable growth over time for those who sell services for a living. I call it the Snowball Strategy, and it’s a strategy borne from real-world experience selling services for over a decade.
What is the Snowball Strategy?
Let’s start with a visual. Think about what happens when you grab a little snow and roll it down a hill.
You end up with a GIANT snowball at the end, right?
The snowball starts small and eventually as it rolls down the hill it gets bigger and bigger. The longer the slope, the bigger the snowball at the end.
Do you want to have a profitable, lucrative, and enjoyable agency/service-based business? Then you need to cultivate the snowball equivalent for your business.
What is the snow in this situation?
The key to long-term profitable growth depends heavily on the length and strength of your client relationships. That means your current clients will be the future drivers of profit growth in your business. New clients may contribute in the future, but it will take time for their snowball to gain momentum.
The Snowball Strategy is about patiently building relationships over time and not rushing in to sell everything you can to a potential new client. It’s about starting small and then growing the client relationship with bigger projects that add more and more value to their business. It’s a win-win situation.
Sometimes you need to start with a small “snowball” project, and over time as you deepen the client relationship. That small “snowball” project will roll into a big “snowball” project. When the snowball gets rolling, that means more recurring revenue for you and more valuable work for your clients.
The Snowball Strategy is something I learned while my agency grew by 540% over the course of 6 years, and it’s the underlying “secret” to our success.
Just look at the graph below.
Proof The Snowball Strategy Works
The image above is the revenue growth of my agency, where I served as VP of Marketing from 2008-2013, and where I am still a shareholder.
It took a team effort to achieve this revenue growth, but the core driver of growth came from building long-lasting client relationships over time, mixed with patience. We established, maintained, and deepened our client relationships to create the revenue growth you see above.
Many times, a $10,000 revenue opportunity with an ideal customer in year one would turn into a $100,000 revenue opportunity the next year.
From my experience, it’s worthwhile strategy to pursue: take on smaller, foot-in-the-door projects.
But you don’t want to do this for just any client. You only want to start snowballs with you “A” and “B” revenue opportunities. You want to focus on the deals that have potential to grow into stronger, more valuable client relationships over time.
Implementing The Snowball Strategy In Your Business
If you want to work with a potential client that has room for growth, it’s okay to start the relationship with a small project at a reasonable price.
Over time, as you begin to provide valuable work for your clients, the relationship will “snowball” into larger projects. Why? Because you have established the amount of value you can contribute!
When new projects come along, you will be the first provider they think of and will have right of first refusal. I’ve used the Snowball Strategy hundreds of times in my business, and to great success. The most significant snowball opportunities will lead to profitable recurring revenue, year after year.
Recurring revenue is like gold to service providers. The Snowball Strategy is how you get there.
A $10,000 revenue opportunity with an ideal customer in year one can turn into a $100,000 revenue opportunity the next year.
The return on investment of client relationships is priceless.
But I will give fair warning: being patient with your client relationships is just the first step. If you genuinely want to take advantage of the Snowball strategy, you need to learn to cultivate these relationships into something that bears fruit.
Has the snowball strategy worked out for you? Leave a comment below and let me know.
WARNING – Only implement the Snowball Strategy if you have the cash-flow to support charging a lower price for your services. You should never give away your work if it puts you in a compromising financial position. Only make this choice if it supports your long-term strategic business objectives.
I am looking forward to the course. Please feel free to contact me at any time.
Great post Jeff! Grant and I have implemented the “high touch” philosophy early in our agency journey.
But thanks for the tip of “you don’t want to do this for just any client. You only want to start snowballs with you “A” and “B” revenue opportunities. You want to focus on the deals that have potential to grow into stronger, more valuable client relationships over time.”
I think Grant and I will need to think more on those opportunities as they arise
Definitely interested in hearing more about how you practically roll out this strategy 😉 Thanks Jeff.