It's a fresh new year and a perfect time to broaden your business horizon with additional clients and increased revenue. My experience has shown that working with large corporations, associations and brands are lucrative and can be highly leveraged. In many ways, I refer to them as "paid marketing opportunities" for you and your brand as well. The key is to know what entities to target where you can bring your talents to the table and help them move forward with their overall objectives. You need to be the expert that an inside source may not be able to.
Here are some of the ways to identify key sponsors and partners to grow your client base:
1. Network at high levels. This is crucial to landing these accounts more quickly. In 2002, I bid on lunch with the then CEO of Office Depot. I won at $1050 for a luncheon with Mr. Nelson in Del Ray Beach Florida and it was the single most important investment I ever made in my business. The price for the lunch (that went to charity, by the way), paid back dividends a thousand times over - really. Hob knob with decision makers and attend those events where you're most likely to meet them.
2. Know your client's industry - their initiatives and objectives. I work primarily with companies targeting small business owners - with a sweet spot on women and minority business owners. I know who these companies are who are targeting this market - because I make it my business to. You need to do the same. Attend industry conferences, trade shows and networking events. Write for their trade publications and speak at their events.
3. Create a list of ideal clients. If you know what kind of companies or associations would make a perfect match for you, start to create a database of who they are and what they're up to. I went to a super bookstore and went through countless magazines to see what companies were spending money to target these groups. You can do the same. Remember, your list is not about quantity, but quality. Most of us don't want to work with more than a certain number of these accounts, because you want to be able to offer the best service possible.
4. Identify whom to contact. This is relatively easy these days. You could subscribe to services to receive individual's email addresses or simply set up Google Alerts. You can also surf the web to find out who the CEO is and the person most likely to be a primary contact (i.e. C-level executive who heads up that division or initiative.). Continue to build the database.
5. Write a letter campaign. If this is a new "reach out" - in other words, they don't know you from Adam - launch an old-fashioned direct mail campaign. I know - sounds hokey, but I promise you it isn't. Do your research and speak to the programs and initiatives they're working on. Give praise when due and offer a couple of observations about how to maximize or leverage these efforts. CEO's get their mail, if the pitch is well thought out and presented. Use Priority or overnight mail and follow-up within a few days.
6. Ask for referrals, testimonials and endorsements. If you have worked in the industry you're targeting or had positive experiences with clients in related circles, ask them for a referral or an endorsement letter (a testimonial letter on steroids - one where your client writes directly to your prospect). Nothing shows client "proof" of what you can achieve than a satisfied client singing your praises.
7. Offer what matters most to them. Get to know the industry and your prospects. Ask the right questions when you have an opportunity to speak with them. Are they more focused on client retention and brand loyalty or do they want to attract a new market? Some of this information you may actually be able to "get" from their website, annual reports, press releases, etc. online, or by asking. Knowing what they believe to be important is key.
8. Know their target market(s). Ideally, their target market is your target market. You should know them inside and out. If not, study up and possibly interview people in the know on this topic. You can use these interviews to expand your own knowledge base and position yourself as an "expert" on the subject. Learn what makes them tick and why their markets buy (i.e. price, convenience, location, online, etc.).
9. Provide content that they can brand and you can license. Companies have hired me because I can speak to their target market as a small business owner myself. A corporate "spokesperson" might not have the same credibility. Offer content for their website, online newsletters (e-zines), social media and at trade shows and events that they have a presence in. Be sure it's relevant and what their target market wants and needs more of. Content for content's sake - is just that. Specialized content is king.
10. Institute a follow-up plan and implement it for them if necessary. Where many partners fall short is in the follow-up of reaching their desired market. They might do a stellar job of "delivering" what their customers want and need, then fail to follow-through with special offers, additional information, benefits and ways to attract and retain their loyalty. If you can offer this service for them, they may take you up on it and it could be the most lucrative part of the deal for you and them.