If you’ve been in business for any length of time, attended industry conferences, or hang out on social media interacting with industry friends, you may have noticed that a lot of conversations are focused around growth— agency growth, brand growth, list growth, moving upmarket, growing a freelance business, reaching a specific income threshold, and working with larger clients.
It seems like everyone wants to work with larger clients. Not only because it would be nice to have that name brand logo on your site as a client, but because larger clients mean larger budgets. The thing is, larger budgets don’t always mean larger profit margins because larger clients require more management, resources, time, and attention. They aren’t just looking for a vendor to complete a project; they are looking for a partner that will deliver a premium experience.
Over the years, my agency went from charging $600 for a website (yes, that’s what I charged for my very first site) to $10,000 for a website, to $30-50,000 for a website. While remarkably there are quite a few similarities between small and large projects, there are things you need to understand and do differently if you want to land larger clients and move upmarket—and they can make or break your success.
Tips To Land Larger Clients
The biggest difference between small clients and large clients isn’t a bigger scope of work, it’s time and attention. The bigger the client, the less time they have and the more they rely on you to drive the project, process, and results. This is also true during the prospecting and sales process when soliciting new business and trying to land a “whale” as a new client.
If you want to attract more lucrative leads and land bigger clients, here are eight tips to help you position yourself as a premium services partner.
Stop Publishing Tutorials
Many designers and developers publish tutorials to prove their level of knowledge and skill, but the people who most commonly search for and read tutorials are other designers and developers and do-it-yourselfers. Instead of investing hours into publishing tutorials, consider investing time into thought leadership pieces that focus on the strategy behind solving a problem or challenge and how you approached building a solution for a project—think about publishing content that removed risk, confirms expertise, and delivers premium positioning.
Provide Case Studies
Instead of building a giant portfolio full of screenshots and visual work samples, curate a collection of your very best work that represents the type of work you want to do and the clients you want to attract. Then write a case study for each project that explains:
- The challenge the client had (what was going on in their business
- The reason they hired you (what made them choose you)
- The objective/goal (what results you must deliver)
- The scope of work (what you were hired to do/did for the client)
- The challenges faced (what obstacles came up and how you handled them)
- The highlight (what you enjoyed about the project the most)
- The results (what the client achieved by working with you)
End each case study with a call to action, inviting anyone who is interested in working with you to contact you and whenever possible, include a client testimonial.
And speaking of testimonials, you can display them on your website in more places than alongside a case study or portfolio entry. Consider a dedicated page of client testimonials and feedback and consider putting a carefully selected testimonial on your project inquiry or contact page, your about page, and anywhere else you may include a call to action.
Remember, testimonials build trust, remove risk, and provide social proof that other people have successfully hired you and received the results they wanted.
Be Strategic About Event Attendance
If you want to connect with big fish, or at least the people who provide recommendations of who to hire to the big fish, you have to get out of your office and go to events where you have the opportunity to meet people.
- Investing in larger event attendance creates opportunities to be in a room with 50 or even 100 potential clients, whereas with a small local networking luncheon, there may be 1-2 ideal fit prospects.
- The key is advance preparations and active networking. If an attendee list is published, reach out to people you want to meet in advance and invite them to meet up for coffee, lunch, dinner, or drinks. While at the event, be careful not to spend the whole event hanging out with people you already know, but to walk around and actively pursue the development of new relationships.
- Also, look for events attended by the types of clients you want to work with, not events created and hosted for people in your industry. When prospecting for new clients, you’ll get better results when attending events outside your industry.
Meet People In Person
You also need to be prepared to get out of your office to meet with prospects in person during the sales process. Whether the client is local or in another state, when you’re negotiating contracts that are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you need to be willing and able to meet in person—and sometimes that may mean driving a few hours to sit in their office for a 1 hour meeting or hopping on a plane to be at a meeting in their offices.
Meeting prospects who are investing heavily in person demonstrates your desire to have them as a client, confirms your premium level of services, and provides an opportunity for you to get to know each other and accelerate the relationship and trust building process.
Follow up is where most business owners, freelancers, and agency owners fail because it’s something you have to make time for when back at your office and faced with numerous distractions that all seem important. Unfortunately, your follow up prowess is often the thing that can make or break a potential deal.
You need to pursue, nurture, and follow up with prospects in a timely manner and you need to keep following up until a contract is signed or the prospect hires someone else. Remember, your prospects are just as busy and maybe even busier than you are, which means that as the service provider, it’s your job to make their lives easier. Don’t make them work for the relationship or work to move the sales process forward.
While you can most likely close a $10,000 and under project in one sales call, a single contract, and a few follow up emails, a typical follow up/sales process for a large clients will include multiple meetings (and maybe travel, a lot of back and forth by email, contract changes and negotiations, and more.
Leverage Social Media
As you move upmarket and begin to pursue larger clients, your approach to using social media needs to change. Your brand social media accounts—the one you use for your business—can no longer be a reflection of you personally. Your social presence needs to reflect the brand reputation you are building.
Whether you like it or not, how you do anything is how you do everything and you will be judged professionally by how you behave personally online. This means you more than likely need to either:
- Evaluate your social feeds and remove posts that are negative or off-brand, or
- Start new social accounts for your brand and keep your personal accounts personal
As for what to share on your professional social media accounts, consider things like:
- Client successes, testimonials, and wins
- Project launches
- Sneak peeks at projects in the works
- Announcements of speaking engagements
- Announcements of podcast interviews
- Things that position you are a trusted expert
- Quick posts about interesting things you’re working on
Never Burn A Bridge
This should go without saying, but unfortunately, it’s not common sense. Never burn a bridge. No matter what the situation is:
- Always look for an amicable solution or a way to meet in the middle
- Always put forth the effort to have the client walk away on good terms
- Always keep your emotions in check and behave professionally
- Always turn down business from ill-fit prospects with grace and help them connect with someone else
I started my business in 2005 and have been offering design and development services ever since. In 14 years I have been in business, I have had to turn away clients who weren’t the right fit, fire clients who became a problem, and part ways with clients for a variety of reasons, and in almost every situation, the clients’ experience during the process was a high priority.
Why? Because you never know what will happen in the future and you never know who they know. Some of my very best (and highest value) clients have come from referrals made by those I either turned away or parted ways with. What’s important to note is that they were so impressed with how the situation was handled, they had no qualms about continuing to refer us to other people.
Larger Clients Larger Challenges
I know that working with larger clients looks attractive. The idea of working with fewer clients at much larger budget levels is seductive—and I’ll be honest, the fewer people you have to make happy, the easier life can be. But larger clients also bring larger challenges and larger problems, and when it comes to delivering solutions that solve those problems, the stakes are high. There is more money, time, and resources on the line than ever before and there are typically more stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, which means more bureaucracy and politics.
Now I don’t share these warnings with you to dissuade you from growing your business, increasing your prices, and moving upmarket to work with larger clients. I share them so you can do so with your eyes open and clear picture of what to expect as you prospect and move through the sales process with them.