If you are like a lot of small business owners, you are often trying to answer this question. Should you upsell more to current clients, offer new, better, cheaper, or more expensive products or services, or what?
Let me suggest a simple, proven, powerful answer: go out and get corporate clients and/or sponsors.
Corporate clients have bigger needs, more money and bigger budgets than individuals or other small businesses. That means they have more money to spend hiring or buying from you, and that in turn means that you can grow your business faster and more easily with a few corporate contracts.
But don’t take it from me, take it from Bill Gates.
Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, but it was just a dinky little business with a couple of employees and an algorithm that analyzed traffic patterns when Gates’ mom learned that Xerox was looking to buy an operating system for its nascent home computer line. Bill learned of the opportunity from her, got an interview, pitched, and landed a huge corporate contract. This one contract was the catalyst that would eventually see Gates named the second richest person in the world.
So, where do you find such sweet deals? There are many options:
1. Prospecting: Essentially, there are two ways to find corporate clients and sponsors. Either you find them, or they find you. For most small businesses (unless your business has a well-known brand or high social-media reach, see below), the fastest way is to go out and find them.
Corporations have many reasons to contract with small businesses. Not only do they have needs that small businesses can best fill (e.g., supplies, services, etc.) often there are legal and tax benefits to the corporation for hiring a small business. Your job is to help them help you. The steps are:
- Research: Look for companies that you like, are close by, and may need what you sell. Use Google, websites, and social media to learn about the company
- Find the purchasing people. Look especially for executives with titles like VP, head of procurement, purchasing manager, etc. LinkedIn is great for this.
- Pitch them. Email is fine, but a physical package will get you noticed.
- Meet in person and sell.
2. Check out supplier diversity programs: A “supplier diversity” program is a corporate platform that offers contracts with minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, etc. small business. Literally, billions of dollars of contracts are given out this way every year.
Recommended reading: How to Grow your Business with Supplier Diversity Programs
3. Marketing and advertising. Owning a small business can be a lot like being in a dark room by yourself – you know you are there, but no one else does. They only way to get noticed is to turn on the light, and the only way to do that is to market and advertise your business, and then do it some more.
And then do it some more.
Recommended Reading: The 4 Most Important Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners
4. Actively pursue corporate sponsors: You may have noticed that corporations love to sponsor events, websites, programs and so forth. I could write a whole column on this alone, but a better use of our time is to have you go to the expert, Linda Hollander, and her Sponsor Concierge website where she teaches people how to get “$10K to $100K from corporate sponsors, even if you’re just starting out!”
5. Leverage search engines: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your web pages to rank high on Google. It’s a slow process, but once it happens, your brand and sales will explode.
Recommended Reading: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)
6. Build your brand: As I mentioned, the other way to get bigger clients is to have a name and brand that attracts attention. When corporations knock on your door, that’s when the magic really happens.
How then to create that personal brand?
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned. All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation