The Hidden Danger of Cross-Selling

the hidden dangers of cross-selling

You’ve likely heard the adage that it is far easier to cross-sell an existing customer a new product than it is to find a new customer — and if your goal is to grow at all costs, then cross-selling can make a lot of sense for your business. 

However, all of that sales growth may not do much for the long term value of your company. If you are consistently cross-selling to your existing customer base, it could potentially make your business far less valuable in the future. When you cross-sell a customer so many things that they begin to account for more than 15–30% of your revenue, expect your value to drop, and If a single customer represents more than 30% of your sales, expect an even deeper discount.

cross-selling and concentration of customers killing a business

Customer concentration is one of the major factors that affects risk and therefore value for your business. To summarize in simplistic terms, the least valuable companies focus on selling lots of stuff to a few people. The most valuable businesses do precisely the opposite: by selling less stuff to more people.

How 3D4Medical Made the Switch 

As an example, let’s take a look at the medical technology firm 3D4Medical. Founded in 2004 by John Moore, the company built 3-D models of the human body, photographed them, and sold or licensed their images to textbook publishers. By 2010, 3D4Medical was selling their high quality images to a handful of large publishers around the world. Unfortunately, the recession hit shortly after, severely impacting the entire publishing business. 

To make things worse, new generations of students increasingly wanted to learn online, rather than through textbooks. The advent of inexpensive digital photography, and the resulting increase in competition for the same customers, also didn’t help Moore. 

Moore had built a successful company on a handful of customers, but when that segment began to dry up, so did his business. Despite working harder than ever, Moore’s revenue plateaued for four straight years. Instead of punching through to the next level, Moore had his hands full just keeping his company going

student studying an anatomy textbook

But while Moore had relied on too few customers, he still had something no one else had: thousands of 3-D models of the human body; Then Moore had an idea.

digitizing a business to pivot

He decided to re-purpose his 3-D images into a mobile app that medical students could use on their smartphones. Moore expanded the idea to include professors and medical professionals, who could use his 3-D images on an individual basis to learn, teach, and share with patients and students. 

By 2019, 3D4Medical had become the biggest producer of medical apps on every app store. The company boasted over 300 of the top universities in the world as clients. Their app served 1.2 million paying customers and had 25 million downloads, and thanks to having a diverse set of customers, Moore sold 3D4Medical in 2019 for $50.6 million. 

The takeaway? Customer concentration is seen as a significant risk when a potential buyer determines the value of your business. That’s why the most valuable companies are the ones that sell less stuff to more people. For more valuable insights like this, check out MAXIMA’s other blogs, and if you have any business ideas that you need a second opinion on, don’t hesitate to reach out to an expert at Maxima. Thanks for reading.  

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