“If we get Microsoft, (replace Microsoft with your favorite iconic brand name), then it is going to be a lot easier to get other big guys. So what if you take a little bit of a haircut on that deal? It’s what we are going to have to do to get our name out there.”
When I work with small and mid-size companies, I often hear the siren song of the logo deal.
This is not a discussion I hear on occasion. In one flavor or another I hear this conversation in almost every company I meet. The promise of affiliated greatness for your brand because of someone else’s strong brand is very hard to pass-up, I know.
I’ve written and spoken against this practice at length. For the sake of context, I’ll just give a quick summary of why this is a dangerous temptation. Then I will outline the Trigger-Map Strategy we teach for companies that want to boost their brand through key brand affiliation.
The Dangers of Logo Hunting
- All hat, no cattle.Your industry probably has a lot of companies that are doing business with these big players. Their websites and case studies are full of the logo-player company names. This means that you will go to extreme lengths for something that has little benefit because it is not unique.
- Black Hole prospects.If you go after the big companies for their name, you are invariably going to be asked to do more, answer more and spend more for a deal than you are used too. The never-ending requests and meetings can drain the resources necessary for other great opportunities with real scale and potential, even if they are not logo deals.
- What happens when the dog catches the car?If you land a logo company but your company is not prepared, you will fail in a spectacularly public way.
- Money doesn’t care where it came from. The best way to measure your business success is not by the logos, but by the zeros.
Having said all of that, there is some strategic value in logo hunting. After all, smaller companies do feel safer doing business with you when they see credible companies doing the same. I’ve been involved in landing seven-figure deals for nearly 200 Fortune 500 companies, so I know that there is value in landing those names. However, landing a logo is an event, not a strategy. We advocate the Trigger-Map Strategy to provide you the right balance of effort, result and long-term leverage in your hunting efforts.
The basic idea is dominos—not playing the game, but setting it up. Your strategy should work in such a way that one part, when executed well, will cause a chain reaction. For the Trigger-Map Strategy to work, you must leverage a series of increasingly more credible and sizable companies for whom you are doing larger amounts of work. This will move you closer to the biggest opportunities for your business.
Start with the end in mind.
- Who are the companies you are trying to get too? If you are in the manufactured food business or grocery affiliated business that would be Wal-Mart, Aldi and Kroger’s. However, it is very hard to start there. Regardless of your business, there is the mega opportunity for you. That is the end you are shooting for. Name the company at the end of the rainbow. Now, work your way back to where you are today. You are moving out through concentric circles of size and opportunity that will take you from where you are now to where you want to go. If you try to jump those circles, you may make it, but a more measured approach through the concentric circles will ensure that you are ready when you get there with the systems, capital and experience to handle it. Also, you will have built a business that is diverse enough that you have appropriate leverage in the negotiation to not be taken advantage of.
Build the food pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are the demonstrations of safety and credibility. For most businesses, these come in the following categories:
a. Geography. What is your footprint of distribution and service and who are you serving with that footprint right now. If geography is important, then it is critical that you demonstrate regional capability, then national and then international. If you are a regional player who tries to leap to a claim of serving companies in China, you are going to have a very hard time demonstrating credibility.
b. Scales. This is the language of pure capacity and volume. We like to say that volume has its own complexity. Don’t assume that prospects can make the logic leap that if you can do 10,000 units of product and you have available capacity in your operation to do 100,000 units that in fact they believe you can handle 100,000 units of volume. They don’t. They know that you have to move through thresholds of volume to get to full capacity and that each threshold will have its own challenges. You have to move up the food pyramid before you are going to get the full volume opportunity.
c. Technology. Prospects want to know that your systems will interface with theirs and that you have worked with systems like theirs before. Moving from smaller to larger clients over time will demonstrate your improving sophistication and capability to interface with more complex systems.
d. Certification of Quality. Certifications create a sense of outside validation for your operations that give larger clients some breathing room when thinking about doing business with you. Without these certifications, their risk profile goes up dramatically.
e. Financial Stability. Moving from $10M in business to $35M in business creates bubbles in your financial picture. Without the demonstrated financial capacity and the history of profitable operations, your biggest opportunities are going to shy away. It is very damaging to them when a supplier is in financial trouble and they avoid it aggressively.
Using the food pyramid idea, you are building a demonstrable capacity and significance in each of these areas to support your claims and effectiveness for the rest of the pyramid of promise to your largest opportunities.
Do the “if-then” analysis.
- Let’s use the Wal-Mart example: Wal-Mart would want to see your ability to deal with sophisticated supply chain management systems that you don’t control. They would want to see your ability to work on a national basis. They would want you to be able to handle fluctuations in volume requirements by store, by city and by region. In building the map, you can take each of these requirements and decide who provides your proof points in selecting your targets. One for systems, one for national footprint, one for volume fluctuations and so on. By the time you are presenting to Wal-Mart, you will have a clear 360 degree capacity to meet their requirements.
Connect the dots. Using the “if-then” analysis, it is your responsibility to connect all of the story points along the base of safety and credibility so that your biggest sale opportunities see all of the links. Demonstrate your capabilities through your client work and prove that your company is the safest option. This will allows them to make the big buy early. The alternative is that they make a little buy, wait and see, then make another little buy. This is winning by attrition, and it is a very slow and risky game.
Through the Trigger-Map Strategy you have the advantage of:
- Making money
- Controlling your growth
- Following a plan
Putting this to work is a process. Here are my recommendations whether you are an individual producer or a corporate head.
Pick your ultimate target.
- Make it a company that is big in size and big in name. There is nothing wrong with making it the richest family in town or one of the top 100 companies in the world. You get to decide your ultimate goal.
Surround that target with questions. In your mind, ask yourself what would make that target feel safe doing business with you. What would excite them about your company? Who would have had to have been a client of yours before them to make them want to do business with you? Ask those questions and write down the answers.
Write your list of dominos. Credibility comes from connecting the issues and the companies or people who had to come before.
Surround those dominos with questions. Repeat the process from step number two for each of the dominos.
Connect the dots. This is where you link your business dominos, typically in ascending order of size and complexity, that will lead you to your ultimate goal.
Start from where you are. To go after the first domino, you have to start from where you are. What clients do you have currently and what do you demonstrate in your work with them that can get you to your first domino in the string? Now call on them.
The Trigger-Map Strategy is one of the most intentional approaches to true business development that we know. It puts you in the driver seat for reaching your ultimate goals. The alternative that I see too often is that we call on everyone and we hope that the big one will come in. That’s not a strategy.