Landing big brands and corporate clients will boost your business prospects in more ways than one

January 13, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If your business is angling to land a big brand or corporate customer this year, there is plenty of good news to go around.

First off, even in the face of market uncertainty, big companies are continuing to spend on products and services. On technology alone, companies are expected to spend $4 trillion this year. Those kinds of investments, combined with unprecedented market disruption, are creating a ripple effect of change inside of companies. And change, as history shows, breeds opportunity.  

Indeed, a new study from American Express reveals the bottom line benefits of being a corporate supplier. American Express surveyed small and midsize companies with revenues between $250,000 to $1 billion annually, and found that 81 percent predict an increase in their sales to corporations over the next five years, while 50 percent anticipate a revenue increase of 50 percent or more.

Of course, in addition to the sizable revenue, having global brands on your client list lends your business instant credibility. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The survey respondents also said that landing corporate clients has helped offset two big challenges entrepreneurs frequently face: winning the war for talent and securing financing. In fact, 74 percent of entrepreneurs in the study noted that conducting business with large companies has helped them attract and retain employees. And an equal number said working on corporate contracts led to more flexible financing options for their companies.

For all these reasons and more, there’s a compelling case to be made for adding big brands to your customer list. However, a lot of things are changing when it comes to connecting with, captivating and closing these coveted clients. 

Here are some of the new rules of the road we’ve been sharing with our clients at The Corporate Agent, a firm that helps small businesses and self-employed experts land big brand clients.

Rule #1: Face-to-face still matters, but in a new way.

For more than a decade, we’ve heard much emphasis placed on digital and content marketing. But while those things are certainly boxes you need to check, it’s difficult to get the attention of real decision makers through all the noise. Consider that there are more than 2 million articles, posts and videos published on LinkedIn alone every day, and that number is growing.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to supplement your online strategies with face-to-face experiences, which rapidly accelerate the process of building trust and rapport. These interactions also allow you to hear first hand what your prospects are really looking for and what’s urgent to them right now. 

The key, however, is to take the lessons we’ve learned from the online world and apply them to the offline one. Just the way online content is most successful when it’s designed to meet the specific needs of a focused audience, the same is true for in-person meetings. Decision makers are gravitating to smaller, more specialized opportunities that are immediately relevant to them, deliver tremendous value, and put them in a room with people they see as true peers. It also doesn’t hurt to incorporate Instagram-worthy activities into the experience. 

Rule #2: To land big brands, apprehend their objections.

A common complaint about selling products and services to large companies is that sales cycles can take a long time. That’s true in certain situations, particularly when there’s a formal purchasing process that involves bids from multiple competitors. However, not every buying decision goes through the procurement department. Senior executives make purchasing decisions on their own as well, and those opportunities tend to move more quickly.  

But it’s not just red tape slowing down the buying process. The main culprit behind slow sales cycles is lack of consensus among decision makers all along the buying journey inside large, complex organizations. Questions ranging from, “Is this a problem we have the time and money to address given all of our other priorities?” to “Can we solve this internally or do we need an external resource?” to “Who exactly needs to be involved in this buying decision?” are bigger barriers to you winning a corporate contract than say, another competitor in your space. 

That’s why your marketing materials and content need to speak to all the discussions that are happening long before a big company decides to buy a product or service like the one your company sells. Yes, you still need to address why your product or service offering is the best choice. However, it’s just as important to educate prospects on the business case behind why it’s worth solving a particular problem and the best approach generically speaking.  

Rule #3: Innovation is goodto an extent. 

Corporations are well aware they need to innovate. However, they also know that making wholesale changes can be both risky and expensive. Innovative solutions usually haven’t had the chance to establish a track record, and implementing these new ideas can mean ripping the rug out from under established processes or having to retrain employees. These domino effects — not to mention adoption costs — are not always fully appreciated by entrepreneurs when they are pitching their cutting-edge ideas.

That’s why corporate decision makers advise entrepreneurs to temper innovation with pragmatism. Case in point: during a recent presentation I co-delivered with two Fortune 500 brands at a veteran business owner conference, one of the corporate leaders implored the audience to remember that innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be something brand new the world has never seen before. Innovation can mean making one small yet groundbreaking change that creates a multiplier effect in results. It’s that kind of incremental innovation that can really open doors for your business. 

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