Last week I looked at targeting start-ups and small business owners to grow your search marketing business. This week I'll look at what mid-size and larger companies have to offer you.
A mid-sized business, or "medium-sized enterprise," typically has 50 to 250 employees. The good news: in many cases, communicating with these types of business is akin to preaching to the converted. They get search! Mid-sized businesses have often done their homework in advance and understand the possibilities search offers their business.
Another advantage: you're often dealing directly with the prime driver of the business, so decisions can be made relatively quickly.
Plus, there's usually a realistic budget for advertising in place. This funding can allow you to run paid search campaigns and start driving results online quickly. A fast start makes the partnership more rewarding.
What's more, this type of prospective client will often have an established Web presence. That eliminates new site roadblocks you can experience with start-ups. If a medium-sized business is in the process of establishing a new Web site, though, you'll need to ensure expectations are realistic.
Mid-size businesses have usually grown in size over a period of time and are established. Their management already knows how to run a business and have a proven track record.
How to Pitch to a Mid-Sized Business
I've found the pitch needs to be different than presentations to smaller clients. You may be talking directly to a CMO or business owner. Your job is to educate them as to where search fits into their overall business plan and business goals.
You need to outline to them how search can be the "icing on the cake." To do this, you must quickly understand your potential client's business and have the capability to integrate search into overall marketing plans. If you can do this, then the potential client will take your proposal seriously.
Why Mid-Sized Businesses May Be Best Bet
In the mid-size arena, finding clients can be harder. They often know what they want and will shop around to find it. They may also have previous experience with lower-end search marketers and may be wary of anyone associated with the industry. Your job is to convince them your company meets their needs.
My preference is to work with these types of organization. Mid-sized businesses make decisions quickly (one of the reasons I like working with them). A word of warning though: once you win the account you need to take good care of a mid-sized client. If you mess up, you'll be just as swiftly removed as the agency of record.
Large organizations offer you the bounty of large fees! This is the driving force to win these types of clients. However, I've found that dealing with larger organizations can often be a painful business.
For starters, you're more likely to get caught up in bureaucratic interactions. There can be a long lead-time between first contact and the final decision. So be prepared to wait. I've found that these types of clients can take up to a year or more to convert.
How to Solve the RFP Dilemma
Another issue I've found: you may get a request for a proposal and spend a lot of energy putting the proposal together, attending meetings, etc., only to find you're not actually dealing with the final decision maker. And committees often play a role in the decision process.
This can be frustrating. Your challenge is to find out who really has the final say. Is it marketing, IT, finance, or the board? Find out at an early stage who makes the decisions and if the decision has to be approved by higher-level committees.
How to Negotiate the Agreement
Once the decision has been finalized, there are likely to be contractual disagreements. This is par for the course when dealing with big organizations. This means you'll be dealing with the legal department.
Be prepared to wait when it gets to this stage. Rest assured they'll give your contract close scrutiny. Often it will come back to you for detailed adjustments.
Dealing with Cash Flow
Working with larger clients can affect your cash flow if they aren't set up to pay on time. Therefore, make sure your payment terms are clearly outlined in your contract and within the official purchase order.
Be careful before deciding to work with large organizations. If your infrastructure isn't in place for the additional work this will involve, then you can fail with your first "big fish."
Deciding which type of business to target can greatly affect the eventual success of your business. I've looked at the size of potential clients, but there are many ways to evaluate your client acquisition strategy, including who you are, the way you do business, your experience, your resources, and the way you market your business.
Bear in mind you won't attract large companies while marketing to smaller ones. So what can you do to make sure your marketing efforts are reaching your desired target? In my next series, we'll look at how to market your search marketing company.
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Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!