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The Huge Company in Town Should Become Your Next Customer

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago that was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. One of the most common activities I do with my clients, typically tech or professional services companies that need to sell more, is help them build target lists of prospects in the vertical markets we help them develop. One reason why tech company CEOs engage our services is to help them get focused on vertical markets where there would be likely customers for their products and services.

I had three meetings in the same week recently that led to the epiphany. The first meeting was with an early stage social media monitoring tool developer. I met with the COO who recently had some success at a large marketing automation software company. After discussing his product and its direction, I asked him who some of his customers were. Mind you, the company had only been around for 6 months, so I didn’t expect much.

He quickly rattled off three Fortune 1500 companies within 10 miles of his office. One company was a well-known national bank; one was a well-established enterprise software company; and the third was a quasi-government entity that didn’t have the purchasing restrictions a typical government agency might have.

I was impressed, scheduled a follow up meeting, and thanked him for his time.

My next meeting was at the offices of another software firm that was a little more established than the one I met with that morning. After getting a demonstration of the product and discussing what type of marketing leadership he was looking for, I asked him about his customer base.

He thought for a second and then listed three Fortune 1500 companies within 20 miles of his office. One company was a well-known national bank; one was a well-established enterprise software company; and the third was a quasi-government entity that didn’t have the purchasing restrictions a typical government agency might have.

Aha. Interesting. Could this be a trend?

My final meeting was with a company that was similar to the first. It was founded by three people who previously had worked at one of the world’s largest database software companies and were now three years into their next venture. All three participated in this meeting. They were at a critical inflection point and were ready to see how I could help them get “to the next level”.

After discussing their value proposition and solution, I asked who some of their early customers were. In this case, there was a little twist. They listed the well-known national bank and the quasi-government entity that didn’t have the purchasing restrictions a typical government agency might have, but they didn’t list the enterprise software company.

Still, I was shocked to hear three relatively early-stage companies list three of the biggest players in the national capital region as clients. Since competition has become so heated in many sectors over the past 15 years, being able to list major companies as customers can be the main differentiation. For example, being able to say that Microsoft has been one of my largest clients has opened many doors. For my clients, being able to say, “we provide services and/or technology that have helped organizations such as Capitol One, IBM, and others” will provoke interest.

While preparing my follow up to the meetings, the commonality of all three companies hit me, and it made so much sense. First, we all have local contacts at large companies we can tap into. Perhaps they are co-workers from previous business lives or past partners. They could also be from local social circles, charitable organizations, or kid’s sports.

Second, younger companies that are looking for any clients to begin with can be flexible with pricing for their services. It’s a little easier to find a sponsor and engage in a pilot project that is below the budget line.

And third, a nimbler company should have more leeway in how they price, deliver, and support, which means they can meet the customer requirements with less stress if out of the norm factors are required.

Around the same time, I was working with a new client that was looking to get on the board with some early stage customers. Wanting to take advantage of this epiphany, we did the following:

  • Had a happy hour for the founder’s close friends to show the product. It was apparent that not many people in my client’s close circle knew about his company’s product offering so we arranged a happy hour at a local hotel. Prior to the happy hour, we demonstrated the solution and let the guests play with the application. It was a great success.
  • Asked for local leads. We then asked some of the more connected guests for introductions to contacts at some of the bigger companies in town, like the companies mentioned above.
  • Viewed each other’s Linked In Connections. We then met with 5 or 6 of the more connected guests to find connections on each other’s Linked In. We invited them to lunch at the company’s office and spent an hour looking at each other’s Linked In connections to see who might have contacts at these companies.

My client found at least three good contacts to follow up on. I look forward to seeing how these contacts progress.

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