Being the founder of a startup can be nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to figuring out how to land that first really big client. It is something of a Catch 22: firms want to know that you've tested, that you've worked with bigger brands, and yet at the same time you need that first big brand name to be able to present any such case study. Total chicken and egg scenario. It does come down to netting that first big deal and thereby being able to show that you have the chops (and now the experience/) to work with larger companies. So what's the secret? How do you convince a bigger name client that although you may be a startup, you are more than capable of handling all of their needs?
The Pitch Is Key
And perhaps the most important part of that pitch is the story that you tell. Focusing on the functionality of your service is certainly part of it, but more than that, the customer you're pitching wants to know that you have a bigger picture approach. That is to say, you understand the consumers' main points and you consequently know how your productservice addresses these. To this end, you need to be able to put together a highly convincing story.
And keep in mind, it doesn't need to be a "true" story per se. Rather it can be a future scenario in which your theoretical customer is facing an issue and your firm can expertly address it. Some experts suggest that when pitching that first big client in this way, you do so with the mindset that you are in fact "building a future" versus being mired in current reality. And consequently, in building that future, you are expressing a need for their help to construct this ideal vision.
Refrain From Giving Stuff
Some companies, especially larger, more well-known organizations talking to a small startup will be hesitant to try your product or service without having a firsthand experience of it. Your instinct in the face of their uncertainty may be to simply give them a free trial or product. Don't go this route. Instead, why not offer them a paid trial period. Say of a span of two or three months. The thing about just giving away what you have to offer is that sure, they will likely say "yes, I want to try it"—it is free after all. However, you're not necessarily having a real or serious conversation about how the two of you can work together. Human nature is inclined to be amenable to free stuff; it's a given. But you want to get beyond that kneejerk reaction; you want to get to the core of what a relationship between your two companies could ultimately represent.
Getting someone to pay for your products/service especially in the early phases of your company's life cycle is tricky. But if you can do it, then you're making some notable inroads with them. Plus, you're saying that what you have to offer is worth it, and you are not undermining its value by giving it away.
If they are willing to pay for a trial run at it so to speak, then you also know they are potentially a committed customer and you are not just wasting your valuable time. Let's face it as a new business owner your time is extremely valuable—too much so to be spent chasing after a company who just wants the free sample. Start with a smaller short term contract if they are more comfortable that way, and work on growing it from there.
Show You've Done Your Customer Marketing First
Larger more established companies are often reluctant to push their customers into a new campaign. That said, if you do the leg work first and get those customers to agree, then the rest is all just follow up. You can first ask a customer if you can use their logo and potentially a quote from them on your site. You can also see if they are open to a full-blown case study in which you present a common problem that customers have and then subsequently show how you were able to solve it. Once you do indeed manage to demonstrate your success here, you can ask for a reference call or two on your behalf.
Remember that the first big customer that you do land is going to prove to be your major case study moving forward—that which you use to then land other larger clients. The key is to show how your business is adept at solving consumer problems. Tell the story, paint the picture for them, and show them that the risk of signing with you is minimal. You want to always make it as easy as possible for them to say yes, without again having to give away your offerings. It is going to require some extra effort initially, potentially some longer hours as you strategize, but as a relatively new entrepreneur, you need that first big name to help launch your endeavor. After that, things will come a bit easier.
First Union Lending would love to help. If you are a newer startup and have yet to land that first big client, we can offer you additional working capital as you plan your next move. We offer short term loans, lines of credit, and merchant cash advances among other products. For whatever project you have in mind—whether hiring more staff, expanding your office space, or launching a brand new product—we have a lending solution perfect for your needs. No off the shelf approach with us; all loan programs are custom-tailored. And some clients even receive the cash within two business days. Don't worry about a less than stellar credit score, we likely still have a product that could work for you. Call today and let's get started!