Expanding Old Revenue Streams

When you aren't able to tap into new markets, consider expanding the revenue from your existing customers.

Tech firms have an advantage: They can keep developing new products or finding growing markets. What if you're in an old-line industry without such obvious ways to grow?

Fred Cohen is a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant who works mostly with commercial and energy industries. He says many companies don't realize how much more revenue they can get out of their existing customers.

"Companies in general tend to focus on getting the new customer," he said. "In many cases (they'll be) providing a steep discount for some period of time, hoping to retain the customer after that. But in many cases it might be a better value proposition to switch that around. Why not give existing customers as much attention as new customers?"

He uses the airline industry as an example. Airlines have built strong brand identities and rewarded customer loyalty with things like frequent-flier programs. But now, he says, they're scrimping on things like meals and prompt service. That can erode return business.

Service companies can also boost revenue by enlarging their core expertise — rather like tech firms expand their basic technologies. Cohen points to the way some utilities have started to offer repair services not just for power glitches, but also for appliances like refrigerators.

It seems so obvious, yet many companies never consider it. Once you get tunnel vision, it is tough to see anything outside of that tunnel.