QI run a small Web development and online marketing business, and I've done several websites for small businesses. But I'm really trying to get a large client. How do you land a major, name-brand, client for the first time without having other name brands in the portfolio?
AThe first thing to do is to remove barriers between the business and the large client. Only then does it make sense to provide incentives.
The barriers to remove would be things like the fear that doing business with a small, novice vendor would harm the bigger business in some way and harm the career of the person who gave them a chance. Ways to remove that barrier would include providing proof that the applications developed by the small business were reliable and secure. Letters from happy smaller clients would help here. Some guarantee that the Web application would receive a certain amount of use or a refund of all or some of the purchase price might help, also. You'll want to be prepared to verify your capabilities and experience. You can discuss notable successes you have had and the length of time you have been in business.
Another way to reduce the perceived risk for a big buyer is to suggest projects involving smaller parts of the client's overall business. Can you work for a smaller product line or a smaller division? You might also consider finding a partner with whom to approach the larger client. An ideal partner would have experience with the client already and could use that relationship to introduce you.
Incentives might include special prices or conditions such as rapid delivery or special features. Price is the usual incentive in much of industrial marketing, but it does not work well unless the buyer feels confident that the smaller vendor can deliver.
The eventual goal is to build a relationship with the buyer. You need to neutralize the risk of doing business with you at the beginning, then strengthen the relationship to carry you through any difficulties such as late delivery or product performance problems.
PROFESSOR AND CHAIR,
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS
OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS