A bulletin board in a coffee shop I frequent is covered in business cards and flyers. It’s a wonderful organic mess, a kaleidoscope of unique rectangular designs. I doubt that it’s created much business for any of the people who posted their card.

There are hundreds of channels your business could get customers through- including a bulletin board in a coffee shop near you. However, most of them won’t do a thing for you.

Instead, there are likely less than five effective channels. And of those five only one or two will be the primary means your industry gets customers.

Unfortunately, these channels are already saturated with competitors. They’re a slightly better version of the bulletin board, where cost and difficulty act as barriers. But they’re still full of businesses trying to get the same customers you want.

The impulse we have when faced with this is to explore new channels. Or to spread ourselves across the channels: doing a little bit of SEO, a little PPC, exhibit in a tradeshow, go to a local networking event. This approach tends to run up against whatever barrier to entry exists in the channel.

However, you’re already getting customers. That means that you have at least one working channel. It’s unlikely that you’ve optimized it to the point of diminishing returns. The implication of this is that there are customers you’re missing out on that you’re already positioned to access.

It’s lower risk and higher impact to squeeze every customer you can out of what’s already working than to overcome the barriers to entry of a new channel.

Optimization is typically much deeper than what any of us expect. But eventually, you will hit the limits of an approach. Once you’ve optimized your existing channels, what’s next?

At that point, it’s time to innovate on or optimize a new channel. But that effort should come from that short list of existing channels and build upon what is already working for competitors there.

If you forget everything else, remember this: only work with winners.

Featured image credit: Original kaleidoscope designs by David Brewster, Athanasius Kircher, Mr. Bradley used under public domain.