Business New Year’s Resolutions: Reel in a huge client

Any size business is capable of landing a whale of a customer, but be prepared to devote time to your biggest customer

Woman shaking hands with a blue whale

(Illustration by Katie Carey)

This article is part of our series on New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business. Read them all here.

Small though a business may be, there’s no reason it can’t land a big customer. In fact, a small business may be just what that whale is looking for. Small businesses are a “very attractive proposition,” says Robert Woyzbun, chief operating officer of Vector Media and director of Queen’s Business Consulting at Queen’s University. “The smaller supplier or vendor offers a lot of benefits that the large organizations have lost: nimbleness, hunger, creativity, innovation.”

Jacqueline Drew, CEO of Tenato Strategy, says the trick is to look the part. That means having a corporate address and phone number (along with someone to answer the phone), a professionally designed logo and website—and the right business name. Drew’s company rebranded about five years ago, when she realized its moniker, Start Marketing, was creating the wrong impression. “I always thought of it as, ‘it’s time to start marketing,’” she says. “But it came across to others like we were just a small startup company.” Since the rebrand, Drew says, Tenato has heard from much larger clients. “That never would have happened under our previous branding.”

Drew says to ensure proposals are written professionally—no typos, good headings, strong writing, nice layout. Small businesses also shouldn’t underprice themselves. “Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you should be cheaper,” says Drew. “You want to project more like you’re an exclusive boutique.”

And don’t ignore the power of Google. Lots of online activity will raise a small company’s profile and mean a higher ranking in Google search results, bringing in more, and bigger, customers. “No matter what business you’re in, if someone is looking for your service, they will Google you,” says Drew.

Securing a big customer is often “fabulous” for a small business, at least from a revenue perspective, says Woyzbun. But big customers can leech time and attention from other clients and, if they pull out, leave a small business in a rough financial spot, he says: “All your eggs are in one basket.” In other words, go and chase that whale—but be sure you’ve got a plan for when you catch it.