Before I ever had business partners, while still freelancing with a full-time job, I landed my first big client.
It wasn’t because I was such a savvy marketer. At the time, I didn’t have much of a portfolio or client base to show. It happened unexpectedly, through word-of-mouth. But what happens unintentionally can be duplicated deliberately.
Landing bigger clients is deceptively simple. Remember how you acquired your first client? Now go out and do that five more times.
But wait. If that’s all you do, you’ll end up with five more clients exactly like the first. Smaller clients are fine when you’re starting out and need to gain some experience but once we do, too often we never bother to adjust our thinking. Imagine a company with 10 million dollars in annual revenue and 100+ employees. Can you imagine having them for a client? Why not?
Breaking the Four-Minute Mile
In 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Forty-six days later, Australian Olympic track athlete John Landy surpassed the record with a 3:57.9. By the end of 1957, 16 more runners had broken the four-minute mile barrier. Since that day, this story has been told as proof of the power of positive belief. Roger Bannister, it’s been said, led the way for others to believe that the four-minute mile could be broken.
In reality, distance runners had been closing on the four-minute mile for a number of years, and several were on the verge of breaking it. By 1954, the record stood at 4:01.4 and competition to be the first to break it was fierce.
What does this have to do with landing bigger clients? Everything, because breaking your personal “four-minute mile” and landing the biggest client of your career to date has more to do with strategic thinking than positive thinking.
To break your four-minute mile, you must do three things:
- Enter the race
- Have a goal
- Make a plan, then work to your plan
Let’s take a look at each.
Enter the Race
Soon after Bannister’s record-breaking feat, sportswriters began propagating the myth that everyone, even the medical authorities of the day, believed running a four-minute mile was physically impossible—except for Roger Bannister, of course.
Bannister himself debunked this claim. Based on the number of runners attempting to break the record, clearly many believed the sub-four-minute mile could be achieved. Yet it wasn’t enough to merely believe that the four-minute mile could be broken. Both Bannister and Landry believed they could be the one to break it.
In the same manner, you know other freelancers like you have managed to land large clients. Do you believe you can do the same? If not, you’ll continue to sit on the sidelines in the small client section. It’s time you entered the race.
Have a Goal
Bannister and Landry had a pre-determined goal set before them. You will have to come up with your own. Setting that goal means envisioning exactly what that first big client looks like.
Companies who sell to consumers look at the characteristics of the consumers they’re targeting, such as gender, race, age, home ownership, employment status. These are known as demographics. But companies who sell business to business need to know the characteristics of the companies they’re targeting, such employee size, revenue size, industry, number and size of locations. The demographics of firms or organizations are called firmographics.
Your objective is to create a profile of your ideal client. This becomes a huge time-saver in terms of disqualifying prospects who don’t fit the profile. Imagine not wasting time trying to figure out if this is a “hot” prospect or not. Instead, you simply state, “We work with clients who [INSERT IDEAL CLIENT PROFILE HERE].”
How to effectively use firmographics to segment your market is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, you’ll need some data to help you out. Tools like Sales Genie will be essential to your quest for the ideal client.
Make a Plan, Then Work to Your Plan
Believing in yourself and having a goal gets you nowhere if you don’t have a plan and work to it. How will you prospect for these bigger clients? There are a number of ways you can do that, but you will need to employ some hunter-style prospecting because, in all likelihood, your ideal client isn’t going to fall into your lap.
Next week: How to Prospect for Large Clients
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.