In the digital industry today, it is very common for small businesses to be equated with "less capable" or "not up to par".
As small business owners, we have faced that stigma for years. When given an opportunity to prove our prowess in digital design, development and marketing, the only question left in the client's mind is "why haven't we contacted you before?".
This is a widespread misguided notion that will eventually fade away, but for now, remains a real problem when smaller though capable outfits seek to engage with global brands. The obstacle is a less than optimal "brand perception".
Our first breakthrough was when we signed a "provisional" agreement with a publicly traded pharmaceutical company based out of Denmark. Our performance on a relatively small project sealed our future and shaped the company we are today.
Many of my peers look at what we've done and say that we've arrived. The truth is that many of them are just as capable and offer a tremendous value in their service.
The Obstacle: projecting capability apart from a large team of people in an impressive downtown skyscraper.
The Solution: looking, smelling and projecting like a top-of-the-food-chain Jedi.
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Don't measure efforts when you're producing materials that will represent your brand. These include sales decks, websites, email campaigns, flyers, posters, booths, ads or anything that carries your name on it.
Even your social media posts have a branding element to them and have the potential to elevate or break your brand. Creating a solid brand is very expensive. It takes a great deal of time and research and the message needs to be just right.
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it count. If you’re vying for the attention of well-known brands, keep it straight in your head that you’ll be measured not for the small company that you are, but rather, in comparison to the other players that are seeking to win the bid on a given project.
This is not something for everyone, but for those who play their cards well, it can be the start of a great thing. The world isn't fair and if you want to play with the big kids, you need to buck up.
When we opened our doors in 2008, our start was very humble, even though I had years of experience in the field and was a senior marketing executive in another agency. I had no track record under the newly formed "Fahrenheit Marketing" brand.
I knew from my experience working on other enterprise accounts that in order to breakthrough I had to produce the same level of quality that much larger outfits were producing. I had the choice of whining and complaining about the unfair advantage the competitors had, or seek to close the gap by producing stunning deliverables first and foremost for our own brand.
We broke the mold when we made a decision to cater to world players even though we were a small firm based in Austin, TX. We spent an ungodly amount of time putting together presentations, sales decks, branding materials, and the quality of our work shone through every piece.
Our heavy investment of time and money in our image earned us the privilege of contending with firms that were three and four times larger than we were. Our first contract from a publicly traded account paved the way to a number of other such engagements. Breaking through the first and proving yourself capable will be instrumental in future opportunities.
It Takes Time
My heart was set on boasting the “boutique” brand appeal when I first started. It was an uphill climb from the beginning. We had every ace in place and our image matched or surpassed that of much more established firms at the time.
With everything in place, we didn’t land a significant household name account until after our second year of operation. Oh what feeling! The hard work and investment paid off.
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It’s Not a Given
Don’t think for a moment that clients will start falling at your feet because you’ve landed a significant account. The only thing you’ve been able to accomplish here is to prove to the world that you’re small but mighty. That will grant you a hearing with the other players. We still lose deals, even with our best effort. You can’t win them all.
Recently, we published an article in our blog speaking of the marketing of you. That, we believe is a good start to first and foremost optimize your own personal brand. After that, you can focus on your company as a whole. It's an investment that pays off if you're really serious about it.