Why Focus on the Third Sale?
I see this a lot. New entrepreneurs and side-hustle owners spend too much time trying to get new customers, and not enough time keeping the current ones.
We call this focusing on the third sale.
Like a smart restaurant owner, we know if we can get a customer to return to our restaurant for a third visit, there’s a high-probability we’ve acquired a customer for life.
We’ll do the same thing with your business.
If you want to build a legacy-level business, you’ve got to start thinking about the third sale. How can you provide so much value to your customer that she’ll return three times to buy your work.
Whether you sell your product or service on a recurring basis, you’ve got three tiers of service, or you sell three different, complementary products–the third sale builds your business.
I see a lot of businesses build on a single product. Maybe they spend tens of thousands on Instagram ads every month. Sometimes I buy these products just to find their back-end… and there is none.
These companies sell one thing, one time, to one person. Then they’ve got to find another new customer to keep growing. This is an incredibly expensive way to run a business. And if you’ve got a side-hustle, you’ll spend all your time trying to get new customers, with little time left for doing the work.
It’s time to build your legacy business. Let’s not make the same mistakes…
Large Purchases are Just as Guilty…
I recently bought a mattress from an online company. My wife and I had struggled with three different mattresses over five years, having yet to find one we found comfortable.
I found a great company online. They offered made-for-you mattresses with a great story and fantastic marketing. Their guarantee was better than any I’d ever seen. I was hooked. Being a marketer myself, I appreciated everything they had going.
I plunked-down the $1,800 for the mattress. It arrived as-expected. And I love it.
…I haven’t got an email, or any piece of sales material since.
This company literally has a list of $1,800 buyers and they spend all their time and effort on making the first sale. All their advertising dollars go towards adding new customers into the pipeline, while they completely ignore those of us who love their product and would probably buy, say pillows, to go with out fancy mattress.
This company could have easily doubled or tripled its business without spending another penny to get a first-time customer.
Selling to existing buyers is 100X easier than trying to convince a cold customer to buy from you. With email, contacting existing buyers is free.
The mattress company probably spend $150 in advertising to acquire me as a customer. Maybe more.
The mattress industry is cutthroat. And here they won. They sell a product people love. And nothing. Not even a “hey, if you recommend a friend, we’ll give you $200,” type of email.
Don’t make the same mistake with your side-hustle. It effects businesses of all levels.
The Third Sale is the Important Sale, Not the First
We need the third sale (and the fourth) to build a legacy business. These are the folks that spread the word about our company. Word of mouth is the best marketing channel you can have. We buy on the recommendation of friends much faster than we rely on marketing.
Think of your first sale as toe-dipping.
The first sales pays for the customer acquisition, maybe it pays the salaries and keeps the lights going. The second, third, and fourth sales are what builds tiny empires.
The longer we can keep a customer–the more we can captivate her attention, build a relationship, and keep her coming back–the more we’ll sell over time.
It costs nothing to sell more to your existing customers.
When you design your business, it’s important to think about the third sale from the beginning. The third sale is just a metaphor. You can develop a business around a stream of 20 sales if you want.
Your customer list of buyers is much more valuable than making that first sale.
Earn lifetime customers
We earn lifetime customers by focusing on the third sale from the beginning. Maybe we provide a huge, break-even discount up-front. Just to get people in the door.
It’s your job as the business owner to earn the customer’s trust. She doesn’t owe you anything.
We earn trust by providing so much value, for free, in advance of the sale, that the customer can’t help but think, “wow, if I’m getting such great service from the free stuff, what’s the paid stuff going to be like?”
Every interaction, every piece of content, every ad and email–is all designed to keep your current customers engaged, happy, and feeling special.
Show them your appreciation.
It doesn’t take much to lose a customer, but it’s a lot of work to gain one. If you’ve got a happy customer don’t let her go. Survey her. Look at her buying behavior. Find out what she wants and sell her more of it.
Give. Give. Give. Then ask.
Never Run Out of Things to Sell
If you have a a service-based business, develop a series of tiers, ever-increasing in price. With more bells and whistles as the customer climbs the ladder.
- Think packages and premium versions.
- Think recurring subscription models.
- Think additional, complimentary products and services you can offer that go well with the initial purchase
We don’t go into a store with one item on the shelf. No matter how specialty-driven the store may be. When you build a business around a single sale, you create a one-item store.
Design your business with full shelves, even if you sell one core product.
There are always ways you can offer custom service, different packages, longer terms, or extended coverage.
Every customer is at a different place along her buyer’s journey. When we fill our proverbial shelves we’re more-likely to capture each type of buyer, no matter where they sit.
The List of Buyers if More Valuable than the First Sale
Your list of buyers will build a legacy business. These are your best customers–the folks who already raised their hands, telling you how much they love your product(s).
- Give these people the tools to share you work with others.
- Provide them with bounties and affiliate deals.
- Reward them for sticking with you… even if it costs you money in the short-term.
That first sale is just a warm-up.
You’ve gathered a cold customer and turned him into a buyer. Hooray for you. But this is just the beginning of a long relationship. And the place most businesses fail.
We get so wrapped-up in trying to acquire new business we completely ignore the most-lucrative list of people we’ve got–our current customers.
Don’t forget about them.
Keep in contact on a regular basis so they don’t forget about you. It’s your job as the business owner to remind your customers that you’re still here to serve them. They don’t sit around and think, “I wonder what ACME Rockets is doing this week. Maybe I should check out their website and see if they made any cool updates.”
…doesn’t work like that.
Instead, we build an email list of our best customers. We contact them on a regular basis, not with ads or fluff, but with real, free value they can use right now. Occasionally we ask for a sale.
The person on the other end of that email is your mother or uncle.
When we treat our best customers like the humans they are, we’re more-likely to keep them for life. We’ll serve them longer and build a legacy business around this long-term trust.
It’s Time to Focus on Your Third Sale
- What can you do to increase your offerings?
- How can you develop a series of price tiers around the product your currently sell?
- What ancillary products can you offer to keep repeat buyers returning for the third sale?
If you haven’t started an email list of buyers, do so now. You don’t want to let your first-time buyers leave you for another business.
It cost you a lot of time and/or money to make that first sale. Now it’s time to grow your income with the third.
Don’t be the mattress company with a multi-million dollar list of buyers, doing absolutely nothing with it. Don’t start that side-hustle based on a one-time purchase.
You don’t have to be a SAS company either. Writers, artists, coaches, consultants, musicians, and makers can all benefit from the third sale. Once you reach number three, you’ve got a customer for life.
You turn a $100 customer into a $5,000 customer.
It doesn’t cost you anything to contact these folks, so what are you waiting for? Print it on your company coffee mugs. Stick it on a shirt. We Make Third Sales.
Stop worrying so much about tweaking those Instagram ads for tomorrow’s new customers. Pay more attention to the folks you already have today.
If you can build a third-sale business, you’ll be able to run-circles around any competition you’ve got in your space. I can almost guarantee they aren’t paying attention to the third sale either.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.