Co-founder & CEO of STRV. Forbes 30under30. Startup-minded entrepreneur passionate about cutting-edge technology and adventurous lifestyle.
Client work is a supercharged cycle, especially in the early days when your company’s name means nothing. But tech startups having to hustle isn’t news. What does warrant a reminder is that the best deals will never come to you on their own.
It’s an easy illusion: Once I make it, I’ll be the one being chased by the big guns. But that’s rarely how it works. Your portfolio may span years, and you may have deals knocking on your door. But are they passion projects?
Going after what you want should remain embedded in your business’s identity. Don’t sit back and play the waiting game. Be active and selective. It’s the only way you can do things you love instead of taking what comes just to hit your KPIs and keep your team busy.
As CEO of STRV, a software design and engineering company, I’ve learned that a successful technology business has many tools to pursue a dream deal. You have a voice, a reputation and even room for mistakes. Seize the opportunities you wished for when you were just starting out.
1. Take advantage of long-term thinking.
Teach your marketing and sales teams that good things take time. If you don’t settle for a quick message or call, the probability of getting your dream deal grows exponentially. Set up processes that allow space for trial and error. It’s never a waste of energy: It’s experience and proof that you tried everything.
I’m not saying you should spam clients for months on end. Instead, use multiple channels over an extended period: email, Instagram, LinkedIn or even sending a package through the mail. Follow key stakeholders on social media, track your clients’ news via Google Alerts and extend congratulations when they hit milestones. Be interested in what’s going on in their world. This will all prove invaluable once you meet.
In simpler terms, put yourself in the prospective clients’ shoes and tend to the relationships, even if there’s no reward (yet).
2. Consider using strategies like ABM.
A good business strategy for playing the long game is account-based marketing (ABM), a complex process that pays off by allowing you to create campaigns tailored to each potential client. In fact, 87% of marketing survey respondents indicate that ABM performs better than their other marketing efforts.
At STRV, we put in hours of in-depth research about companies that pique our interest, building an understanding of and a connection to every business before initiating contact to make sure that a partnership is likely to be meaningful for both sides. By the time we hit that first touchpoint, we have a solid idea of the company and how we can help. This lets us reach out with explicit suggestions straight away.
Something worth mentioning: With ABM, don’t underestimate the significance of sales and marketing alignment. Both teams must share the same mindset to make this a successful long-term plan. Create processes that enable the teams to work in sync and emphasize why the initiative is important so everyone is on board for the right reasons.
It’s actually easier said than done. I used to think STRV had sufficient team alignment but, when push came to shove, it still took us around a year for things to really click.
3. Deliver value at every touchpoint.
Reputation or not, going after a win by displaying a resume and comparing a prospective client’s experience to your past projects is lazy. What else can you offer—just you, and no one else?
Arming yourself with irrefutable value might mean building a prototype or preparing an in-depth design concept. You want to make it borderline insane to ignore you.
Combining a strategy like ABM and long-term thinking gives you an understanding of what the client needs, patience to showcase how you can help and confidence that the partnership makes complete sense. When you have all that in check, you’re already ahead of the competition. Now, it’s about showing the prospect that you’re all in.
Your first conversation with a prospective client should immediately offer a special touch specific to your brand. After that, don’t just recycle information at the next meetings. Arrive equipped with more, like wireframes or an AI solution. If you’re convinced it’s worth it, build the entire skeleton of an app. (We did that, and it worked.) Top yourself every step of the way.
4. Appeal to the emotional side.
Advertising genius David Ogilvy said, “You can’t bore people into buying your product.” Value and creativity cover the rational part of decision-making and build trust. But appealing to the client’s emotional side is what gets you the best clients you’ll ever have.
When you love a brand, show your support on multiple levels. Express your enthusiasm in ways big and small. Be genuine with your praise, and let your passion come from honesty.
You can do this by purchasing/using the prospective client’s product or services. Is it fitness equipment? Buy it and share photos on social media. Is it a media publication? Subscribe. Hotel? Book a few nights there. Put your money where your mouth is, in every sense.
When you show your cards and exhibit dedication to a brand you believe in, sooner or later, you’ll get where you want to go. There are people on the other side that want to know they can trust you to do their ambitions justice. And who better to trust than someone who loves what you do?
Don’t look for quick, easy wins.
When pursuing your dream project, don’t stress over what failed. Instead, focus on what’s worked and how you can go a step further.
As I write this, my team has planted several seeds of future success stories by doing what I’ve outlined here. We know that sticking to long-term thinking may mean a year’s work, but it’s worth it. Plant a seed, take good care of it, and the results will come.