When you are a small company just starting out, there is a huge — and understandable — temptation to take all revenue going, regardless of where it comes from. But this is a critical mistake and, sadly, one that many startups make. The fact is, not all dollars are created equal. A dollar of revenue from a big customer is worth far more than a dollar of revenue from a small one — and failing to make that distinction could ultimately spell the difference between success and failure.
If you truly want to build a high-impact, scalable business, you need to focus all your energies and efforts on acquiring big customers, right from the start. That’s because, when done correctly, working with a large client can deliver so much more for your company than mere revenue. It can give you status, credibility and critical mass. And there’s more: a big customer is more likely to be able to provide you with capital in advance. It is more likely to pay for your prototype. It is more likely to help you develop your product or service. And, therefore, it is more likely to be a long-term strategic partner.
So how do you go about securing these immensely desirable large customers?
Firstly, build and use your network. Think about those you already know who could connect you…or those you might be able to get to know. Networks really matter. Being able to get a referral from someone can be incredibly helpful in opening the right door.
Next, really, deeply, understand what that large company in your sights needs right now — the problem it is trying to solve, the issue it faces, the opportunity it is trying to seize. Understand what its pain point is. To make your job easier, a growing number of large businesses now publish their product and innovation needs. Study them. Then think hard about how your company can solve their problems and take their pain away.
Then, tell your potential customers what tangible impact your product or service will deliver to their business, not just in terms of branding but in terms of market share and return on investment. Show some economic rigor. If you can translate what your product or service can deliver into a significant bottom-line saving or a larger slice of market share, then you’ve already captured their attention.
Finally, do your homework and work out which large companies might have a particular interest in doing business with you. There are several organizations, for example, that run supplier diversity programs and have made a commitment to increasing the number of small businesses that supply them. These are easy targets. Governments, too, are increasingly committed to encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises to become suppliers. If you can secure a strategic alliance or partnership in this way, you will really reap the benefits.
Of course, aiming for large customers when you are still small yourself is not going to be easy. It is a high-risk strategy that will take time, focus, effort and tough decisions. It is not hard to be seduced by the quick win and easy gain offered by smaller customers, and it’s even more difficult to turn them away.
But if you sincerely want to create a high-impact, scalable business rather than a marginal one, it is a strategy you must pursue — ruthlessly. The good news is, if you get it right, it will more than pay off.
-via Maria Pinelli at Forbes