One of the most over-used business expressions is “naming the elephant in the room”. It means talking about the one thing that no-one wishes to mention. For me, a better use of the elephant is the notion of going elephant hunting – looking for the two or three big customers that could change everything for your business.
So much time is spent on ‘business as usual’, keeping things rolling along, dealing with the day-to-day issues that arise from the sort of business that we do. The size and type of customers that we currently have.
So should you up your game? Should you chase bigger customers?
On first appearance, everyone wants bigger customers: bigger and fewer customers, blue chip customers less likely to go bust, bigger (and fewer) orders, more cash, the same pre- and post-order activity but more noughts. Sounds heavenly. Of course there is a “But…”
Going elephant hunting is dead exciting. Going for the big kill offers game-changing potential. Spending more time with bigger, more professional customers who have bigger needs and deeper pockets should be what we are after, surely!
So, what can be wrong with upping your game and moving into the big league?
The obvious problems, although these may appear to be sweeping generalisations, to look out for are:
Larger clients pay slower, much slower
Their bureaucracy is much more complicated
Their purchasing officers are ruthless negotiators
Lead in and set-up times tend to be much shorter
They expect you to say “how high?” when they say “jump!
They will expect you to attend more meetings to scope and agree briefs, to agree terms and conditions and these meetings will have to fit into their schedule!
Their expensive lawyers will write the contracts and they will not be in your favour, often demanding exclusivity or ownership of your precious IP
Time to get to a purchasing decision will be slow, dependent on different layers, sponsors and involved parties
You will have more than one point of contact each asking you to deliver to their political position.
Playing with the big boys changes the rules. Can your business deliver to the quality and volumes required of the bigger order values? Do you understand the rules of the new game? Can you afford to invest in pursuing various scents that may end up in nothing… or may end up doubling your turnover?
Game-changers are exactly what they say they are. They change the game. You probably get the customers you deserve… because that is how you have consciously or unconsciously set up your business to do. Moving to the next level is not just about wishing it might come true. And if it does come true, you may not really be better off. Especially if you aren’t able to benefit from the new world you enter…