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  1. #1
    Community Advisor ULTiMATE's Avatar
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    Finding Large Clients - How do you do it?

    Over the past couple of weeks I have been working alongside my employer as we look to branch out our web department towards external clients. In effect, we're setting up our own digital agency that covers everything from development to professional publishing and writing.

    I've got experience with landing smaller clients with budgets around the 1-5k a job range. However, I've only ever been able to offer limited services on my own and haven't had the ability to offer other professional services on the same scale. As a result, we need large clients, ranging from 5-15k and probably higher if available.

    I know a few people that pitch for large development shops and they tend to be able to find and land huge clients. I'm sure that I could put in an impressive pitch, but for the life of me I don't know where to find these people. It's quite rare for the likes of Coca Cola or Google to email me and ask for someone to manage their new campaigns or develop a micro-site for a new brand.

    So, those of you who deal with large clients for either marketing, design/development and content writing/publishing, where on Earth do you guys find your clients? Where should I be looking to find large companies in my local area that need web work?

  2. #2
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    The bigger the project, the longer the "courtship" is [generally].

    I've been the client for a number of fairly large web projects (2-4 million) as well as many mid sized (250-500k) and smaller projects and most of the time the firms I've reviewed were found either from case studies or articles that they published or at tradeshows. Those become long term businesses I "know" and keep in my book for when projects start up... then it's off to LinkedIn to go see whose still around.

    At a certain size a business always needs web work... there is always something that can be upgraded, improved or brought online, the question just becomes do they prioritize any of their projects enough to seek external help with them, so the dynamic changes versus finding a business that needs one site updated every X years. Your goal is to be in front of that business as they're thinking about their projects, and ideally chatting with someone enough that you know their projects and can suggest ways to make them and their company succeed. Everyone wants to look good themselves and most everyone in a decision seat wants to make their company do better as well.

    If we toss aside the larger projects for something more in the range of what you described 5-15k [and perhaps up to 50k] then what you're likely looking at is full redesign for a very successful small business or a smaller project for a mid-sized company.

    So let's think about where you're likely to meet these people.

    - Regional marketing events [ever thought about hosting or joint-sponsoring a half day workshop?]

    - Big digital & ecommerce events [SES, AdTech, EComm Expo]

    - Social networking channels [Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn, Twitter].

    - Referrals from happy clients. Or clients who move jbos. We network too.

    - "Social" events [your university reunion to that silly little event your brother's business is hosting at city hall]

    - From with other sales teams. There are great closers in this world who already know the people you want... if they sell something similar but different you can extend their value, make them more money and get their referrals.

    - Down the street... You can find people at a coffee shop if you know the right one, right time and who to look for

    - We also have phones & email. You can find us, cold contact us, it's hard work, limited return but it's what many shops do.

    In truth we're around just like anyone else but we aren't necessarily obvious and we're trying to avoid you, so the game begins. Your job is to find us and open the door without getting filled away in the "what a waste of time" bucket.

    My advice to you is to not think about any of these opportunities as places to sell. I've got litterally stacks of business cards from people who pitch me; it's not a good road. -5.

    Instead be the expert. This is especially true if you're talking to a brand marketer or executive who doesn't really "know" the web but does know they they want more ecommerce sales or a better integration with facebook. You give them an idea, you show them that you're damn smart, you and you alone... leave a card, offer to chat more... they know the gig but you've already proved value. +10.

    The same applies online. Invest in your business as a thought leader targetting the clients you want to reach. If that's a md-sized business you should be blogging about things relevant to that size of company, not how to optimize your $500 / month SEM campaign; that's not the firm I work with. Find insights you're allowed to share, paint a picture of a shop that's humans and that likes getting great results, not just awards and you stand out as a "botique" in a field of big names.
    - Ted S

  3. #3
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    That is a great overview of how larger jobs are won, and those are excellent tips.

    I sort of think along the same lines, but I would have put it simply like this:

    "If you want to win large jobs, you need to have a strong network of people with real connections to those larger clients"

    In my long history of doing web related work, I have never won a large (i.e. 250k and up) job by pitching, proposing, cold calling, advertising, or any of that. Sure, you have to write proposals, etc. but it's that personal connection that will win you business.

    If you don't have the connections you need, your options are to either hire someone who does (a rain maker) or develop them on your own (a long path). I had some connections with the entertainment industry when I lived in LA, back before the dotcom boom. I was able to land a pretty significant account with a major TV studio, which lead to some motion picture work, and eventually a steady stream of lucrative but mind-numbing work for Hollywood.

    It was that one connection that started it all. Rather than trying to figure out 'how' to get to the jobs, I'd ask myself 'who' will get them for you. After all, there are always people around with similar qualifications, so it's usually down to whoever gets in front of the client first.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    Sagewing that's great wisdom both in your overview quote and experience.

    I remember the days before my "office" gigs working as a freelancer, running a small business, creating small startups. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my knowledge of the field but my connections and understanding of the culture and nomenclature was just so different.

    Fast forward 7 years and while I'm still learning that world every day, my time consulting now is extremely different as a result of my network. You're dead on right, you have to have the connections and positioning to play. Sales rock stars are just that and exist for a very good reason.

    Since the goal here is a much more modest 5-15k [and up] there's certainly of a gap involved from the original position but the rules are no different. Know the players, know how to reach them and know what it takes to close them.
    - Ted S

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    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted S View Post
    I remember the days before my "office" gigs working as a freelancer, running a small business, creating small startups. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my knowledge of the field but my connections and understanding of the culture and nomenclature was just so different.
    That's funny because I'm in the opposite transition right now. I've spent about 80% of the last 10 years dealing with massive enterprise software efforts for massively huge organizations, now I've quit all that and am changing gears. I've formed an internet startup incubator with a partner, and the whole vocabulary has changed - it's hard to get used to.

    Six months ago we talked about resourcing, risk management, disaster recovery, complex legal issues, burn rates, margins, and gantt charts. Now I'm talking about Facebook, Ruby on Rails, and everyone is obsessed with saying that things are 'in the cloud'.

    But you know, the more things change the more they stay the same. Young developers think that they are a new generation, a new breed of technology professionals. But, since the late 1960's not that much has changed as far as how the industry works, how projects work, and how money is made.

    It all boils down to good old fashioned business management skills for venture/angels/investors, just like it always has. And it all boils down to the rolodex for those who are trying sell products or services, just like it always has!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    That's funny because I'm in the opposite transition right now. I've spent about 80% of the last 10 years dealing with massive enterprise software efforts for massively huge organizations, now I've quit all that and am changing gears. I've formed an internet startup incubator with a partner, and the whole vocabulary has changed - it's hard to get used to.
    Totally hijacking this thread for a second but will take it back on topic shortly...

    Oddly I'm actually in a similar spot, or caught between two. I do some consulting for mid-sized clients [marketing rather than software] but have left my "9-5" to play founder and discovered it's a whole new set of vocabulary versus the freelance and startup world I once knew. But as much as it's different, the principles seem to mix... viral campaign to market analysis, leanstartup to burn rate, ruby to cloud.

    And of course, the more I look at the funding side of things, the more the networking game comes back into my life. No escape
    - Ted S

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard webcosmo's Avatar
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    Its all about networking and experience. When you have good work experience on your portfolio many people would find you. And networking at right place with right people is a key.

    I run a small web design and development company(BostonWebDeveloper.com). I hardly do any marketing, other then some profiles at different sites. I haven't got too big projects, however I got quite a few mid-sized ones(upto 100k). Most of those clients found me via word of mouth or searching on social sites or google.

    Although I must say you can be aggressive in your marketing approach.

  8. #8
    Community Advisor ULTiMATE's Avatar
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    Wow, these are some great posts! Thanks for all the helpful advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted S View Post
    I've been the client for a number of fairly large web projects (2-4 million) as well as many mid sized (250-500k) and smaller projects and most of the time the firms I've reviewed were found either from case studies or articles that they published or at tradeshows. Those become long term businesses I "know" and keep in my book for when projects start up... then it's off to LinkedIn to go see whose still around.
    At the moment we're sort of an off-shoot from a larger company. We do web work for our parent company, but we've got enough development power to do work for external clients, and if we can land clients that earn more than our work does for our parent company things will be good. As with most companies, IT makes a "loss", so we're keen to monetise the department by getting external work in.

    To put it frankly, I'd be happy to even be considered for a long-term, multi-million pound contract. I know a bunch of firms that tend to always be in talks with companies over these things with other firms, but I cannot see where they all tend to "know" about these things.

    From the outset I've stated that we need to exert authority to be taken seriously. We'll be maintaining a blog and releasing a bunch of libraries and source code that we use from day to day, and we'll have a larger presence at the various user groups and trade shows in our local area. However, outside of that I'm not sure what else we can do. We're in an area where there's no shortage of creative types, even though in technical ability we're just as capable as the best of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted S View Post
    My advice to you is to not think about any of these opportunities as places to sell. I've got litterally stacks of business cards from people who pitch me; it's not a good road. -5.

    Instead be the expert. This is especially true if you're talking to a brand marketer or executive who doesn't really "know" the web but does know they they want more ecommerce sales or a better integration with facebook. You give them an idea, you show them that you're damn smart, you and you alone... leave a card, offer to chat more... they know the gig but you've already proved value. +10.
    This is an excellent approach to the problem, and likely to be one that we'll be addressing. As I mentioned before we'll run "articles" covering things like basic web terms and our thought processes on certain business solutions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    In my long history of doing web related work, I have never won a large (i.e. 250k and up) job by pitching, proposing, cold calling, advertising, or any of that. Sure, you have to write proposals, etc. but it's that personal connection that will win you business.
    As we're an off-shoot from a larger company we do have contacts in our industry and around it, but it's very specific and in an industry where the "creative types" with their huge portfolios with Coca Cola and Glaxosmithkline are extremely eager to muscle in and get the work.

    To be honest, we've got the dev-power and we've got salesmen that do good work in our parent industry, but it's the simple act of getting our foot in the door once our business is up that's the hardest.

    Quote Originally Posted by webcosmo View Post
    Its all about networking and experience. When you have good work experience on your portfolio many people would find you. And networking at right place with right people is a key.

    I run a small web design and development company(BostonWebDeveloper.com). I hardly do any marketing, other then some profiles at different sites. I haven't got too big projects, however I got quite a few mid-sized ones(upto 100k). Most of those clients found me via word of mouth or searching on social sites or google.

    Although I must say you can be aggressive in your marketing approach.
    What do you mean by aggressive? To be honest, as my area is rammed with web design firms we'll need to be as aggressive as we can.

    We've got a "portfolio", albeit of sites we've done for friends and sites from sister companies. Within time, we'd like our site to become almost self-sufficient, allowing us to go to networking events, but to also pull in clients itself.

  9. #9
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    We've known for quite a while now that the efficiency ratio of the average employee decreases in direct proportion to the GROWTH of the organization. With expansion comes more staff and with more staff comes confusion, administrative tasks and whatnot.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by smith360 View Post
    We've known for quite a while now that the efficiency ratio of the average employee decreases in direct proportion to the GROWTH of the organization. With expansion comes more staff and with more staff comes confusion, administrative tasks and whatnot.
    Not sure how this relates back to the main topic? Can you elaborate?
    - Ted S

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by webcosmo View Post
    I run a small web design and development company(BostonWebDeveloper.com). I hardly do any marketing, other then some profiles at different sites. I haven't got too big projects, however I got quite a few mid-sized ones(upto 100k). Most of those clients found me via word of mouth or searching on social sites or google.
    Craps sellers get crap jobs. I know all the theory about a good pitch and all that... but getting tough with a client and saying "this costs this much if you do it with me and not a cent less" is another subject.

    Besides, with the recession and all the doubts here, nobody wants to spend a single coin and I'm lucky if they want to pay 800 Euros.

    Still, I can only blame myself so...

  12. #12
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ULTiMATE View Post
    To be honest, we've got the dev-power and we've got salesmen that do good work in our parent industry, but it's the simple act of getting our foot in the door once our business is up that's the hardest.
    Salesmen aren't going to do it for you. Salesmen, in the context of large projects, are the ones that go in after a handshake deal has occurred between two executives and sort out the details

    You need a rainmaker!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by molona View Post
    Besides, with the recession and all the doubts here, nobody wants to spend a single coin and I'm lucky if they want to pay 800 Euros.
    The economy is in the toilet here, too, and lots of vendors are suffering as a result. But, plenty of vendors are doing very well and there are still lots and lots and lots of big projects going around.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    The economy is in the toilet here, too, and lots of vendors are suffering as a result. But, plenty of vendors are doing very well and there are still lots and lots and lots of big projects going around.
    Also consider that many companies have reduced their hiring or frozen expansion and while they'd like to do everything on the same resource load, this is often not the case. Thankfully the web is hot for many businesses and getting yourself known as a go to vendor for when they need to ramp up or knock out a project can be a great way to turn a problem into a huge opportunity.
    - Ted S

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    The economy is in the toilet here, too, and lots of vendors are suffering as a result. But, plenty of vendors are doing very well and there are still lots and lots and lots of big projects going around.
    I know! And I know that I'm the only one to blame I have two weak points and one of those is, precisely, sales. Putting the theory into practice is not easy

    As you say, having the right contacts and talking to the right person is a must if you want to get a large project but if you mess up when you are in front of that person ...

  16. #16
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    We get approached many cold callers offering services and the answer is always a flat no. I am sure most large clients would only open the door to a known and trusted entity and if they were seriously looking to procure they would take a long hard look at the market. I think track record is King here.
    <snip/>
    Last edited by ScallioXTX; May 29, 2011 at 05:40. Reason: please wait 90 days to avail of a signature

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    I agree with Tenerfeproperty. Personally, I hate cold callers, they call in the middle of the night, they call you anytime, it's always wrong timing. It is because of this reason that I don't trust cold callers anymore.

    <snip/>
    Last edited by ScallioXTX; May 30, 2011 at 05:39. Reason: please wait 90 days to avail of a signature

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    I agree with you, cold calling must be one of the least productive ways of generating new business from a large client. Imagine how many calls they are getting!

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    Good, loyal and keen SERVICE ATTITUDE is the keyword in what these bigger clients are looking for.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by moorem View Post
    Good, loyal and keen SERVICE ATTITUDE is the keyword in what these bigger clients are looking for.
    Those are traits that help you keep a client but how are you using them to find business?
    - Ted S

  21. #21
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moorem View Post
    Good, loyal and keen SERVICE ATTITUDE is the keyword in what these bigger clients are looking for.
    Sadly, those things won't help you get or keep large clients. Larger organizations have totally different ways of operating, and a service attitude is just sort of an every day thing that won't make you seem any different from anyone else.

    A crappy vendor with a personal connection to a company will beat a high service company every time!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    SitePoint Addict wardcosbyson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    A crappy vendor with a personal connection to a company will beat a high service company every time!
    This is so true. While I actually work for myself online and have considered myself a small online business owner, I have had some sad experiences with my offline business. Kind of a little bit off topic here: we supply computer and electronic equipments to government agencies through biddings. And most of the time if not always, those suppliers with very crappy products win because they know someone from inside those agencies.

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    Sagewing is right again!

    Big companies care very little about all that. I use to work for a large corporate company who use to land deals in the millions. Seriously speaking, it was all about the connections and business exchanges. The only clients that were truly disappointed with our services were the small - medium scale businesses.

    Companies love detailed proposals, many agencies are vague in what they are giving, saying this even a small guy with a detailed relevant proposal stands a good chance of getting those big fish.

    There is a lot of ambiguity in the web market. I still get people who want to pay 500 euros for a site, which is simply not possible for what I am offering. This being the case maybe a small scale might be seen as anything under 1K.
    follow me on ayyelo, Easy WordPress; specializing in setting up themes!

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    SitePoint Member hawke777's Avatar
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    Since we're talking local, you have GOT to have relationships. If you're not in the circles where the bigger companies play, you're not going to get noticed. While many of the contracts that go down, in my experience, have the appearance of bids or proposals, the decision is usually made internally by a select few people - and nothing you submit in terms of a proposal or a well-written bid is going to change the fact that the guy who got the job goes to church with, golfs with, or otherwise has a relationship with the decision-maker.

    So the best advice is to enlarge your social circles and really engage - not for the sole purpose of getting more clients, but simply because if you interact with and associate with the people you are trying to win, you'll have a leg up on the competition. Any advantage is going to be in your favor. The key is to make this your life, not just some task you do to win projects. If that's not you, then you likely need to hire or work with a sales person who is already connected.

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    I show my site on forums and make them reply to the needs


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