CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 12, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Attract Corporate Clients

As a small or medium business owner, people often assume the clients they should pursue are either small or medium businesses. There’s a certain logic to it, but the size of your company should not limit the prospects you go after. Big growth requires big, corporate clients. Set the bar high, remembering that you can chase more than one group. If you’re a small business, the bulk of your revenue might come from small clients, but that shouldn’t stop you from developing a plan to land a big fish. However, attracting corporate clients requires a plan.

Stand Out

What’s your unique value proposition (UVP)? What makes you special? You may not be able to compete against the bigger players in your industry, and that’s just fine. Identify those qualities as a small(er) business that make you different...the things that only a small company can provide. It might mean more 1-on-1 interaction with your clients, higher dedication and personal investment, faster response time...whatever you can spin or highlight that a bigger corporate machine might be in short supply or lacking completely. Ask yourself: what is the main advantage of using a smaller company versus a bigger one? Highlight that. Throw a spotlight on it.

Recognize the Players

Corporations don’t make decisions quickly or lightly. There are multiple personalities and roles in play whenever they consider going with a new service or provider. As a small business, you need to recognize each of them, and give them exactly what they need to promote, suggest, recommend, and push you to the next level on the hierarchy.

Corporations have essentially four types of buyers:

  • Information Gatherers - these people are in charge of finding options. When a corporation has need for a new or different product/service, someone (generally low on the totem pole) is assigned to collect information. Make it easy for them to find information about your product/service (a well written and easy to navigate website) AND to quickly pass it along (downloadable PDFs, data sheets, etc.) to people higher up the ladder.
  • Gatekeepers - these individuals are tasked with keeping you out. Companies are inundated with vendors and providers all the time. The gatekeeper needs to be convinced that YOUR company is worthy of getting through the door. They need evidence, proof, hard stats and figures...anything that clearly demonstrates your worth. Give them that, and they’ll be comfortable removing the velvet rope for you.
  • Influencers - this group can be quite large. These are the people that will be most directly affected by a new purchase or provider switches. They need ample evidence and testimonials from others already using your business. Provide that, and they can happily recommend you to the last group…
  • Decision Makers - this group or individual is at the top. It’s essentially their call whether to go with you or not. They trust the groups below them (if you’ve wooed the first three groups and made it this far, you’re within sight of the finish line), but they are also putting their reputation on the line each and every time they make a decision. So convince them. Emphasize the problems they have, and the solutions you are offering.  

Personalize Your Approach

Do not treat all corporate clients the same. They have no time nor patience for it. When going after those bigger fish, you need to put in the work beforehand. Research and read up on them. Demonstrate that you know and “get” their corporate culture, their pain points, their issues and problems, their needs, wants, and market. How can you help? How do you fit in with all that? Personalize, personalize, personalize.

Become a Visible Expert

Corporations don’t need a corporate provider. They often end up with one because they are more visible and known. So...become more visible and known within your industry or niche. Write guest blog posts and articles. Give talks in your community. Attend conferences. Demonstrate your expertise at every opportunity.

A corporate client is a lofty goal. But not an impossible one. Highlight how and why smaller is better. Provide each type of corporate buyer with exactly what they need. Personalize to the extreme. And make yourself a visible expert. Do that all, coupled with a quality product/service and price point, and you’ve got an excellent chance of reeling them in.

 

Image: iStock

 

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