“Seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.”Bulgarian proverb

You have already cultivated a relationship with your customers — you have put in the time and money to get their attention, establish credibility, and close that first sale. That’s by far the most difficult part — not to mention the most expensive.

The next step is to develop their “lifetime value” (see Message #916) to your business by sending them “thank-you-for-your-purchase” messages, renewal notices, and free information. Reward them for being loyal customers and they’ll become even more loyal. And offer them more products. If they liked what they bought, they’ll buy from you again.

These follow-ups don’t have to cost you a single red cent — if you collect the e-mail addresses of your customers when you make your initial sales. Simply e-mail your follow-up offers … and all the sales you garner will be 100% pure profit!

Of course, you have to ensure that what you’re offering is something your customer base is actually interested in — so offer products that complement your initial product. Even if you have to struggle to come up with an idea for a complementary product, it will be well worth the effort. You’ve already got the interest of your customers, so they will keep buying … unless you don’t offer them anything.

Sell more of the same product at a discounted price. Offer them a “special discount” on the product they’re already buying. If your product is refillable, you’ve got it made. But even if your product isn’t refillable, you can offer upgrades, newer versions, improved models, or add-ons to the original product.

You could even offer someone else’s product! I know it sounds a bit odd, but, as long as the product or service is not in direct competition with your own, you can make a good profit (and further develop your relationship with your customers) by offering a great back-end item as an affiliate.

Joining affiliate programs can be a very lucrative way to increase your sales without having to develop a new product of your own This can be an enormous timesaver and, done right, can make up a significant part of your business. In fact, many people earn considerable online incomes these days just by promoting affiliate products. You have to do your research accordingly, however, and only recommend products that you truly believe in. Also, keep in mind that selling too broad a variety of products as an affiliate will do nothing but confuse your market — and lose you sales. Keep your focus narrowed and your niche well-defined.

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to be pushing products — in fact, if you try the hard-sell approach each and every time you contact your customers, they’ll start to see you as a nuisance. So offer a “tip of the day” or a little contest to entice them to your website. Stay in touch through newsletters and discussion groups. Observe holidays and special occasions (maybe by tying in promotions to those events).

While you certainly want to sell more products or services to this lucrative group, you also want to balance sales with relationship building … developing more trust, credibility, and customer loyalty each step of the way. Focusing on your “Vital Few” customers (the 20% who will be responsible for 80% of your profits) is the best way possible to increase your sales through your back-end products. And once you’ve done the initial promotion work and made the first sale, promoting to this highly responsive group is not only FREE — you don’t even have to spend any time on it! You can actually automate the entire process using autoresponders.

(Ed. Note: Corey Rudl, president of the Internet Marketing Center, is the author of “Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet,” a comprehensive “How-To” guide for e-business success.)