In the early years of developing our automated payment system, we cut our teeth with small and medium-size businesses. This was a marriage made in heaven; our clients were thrilled to have personalized customer service and that we were striving to constantly improve our tools. We were happy to have that back and forth with our end user and progressively iron out the creases in our product and processes.
As our tool became more visible among smaller companies, however, we began to attract bigger clients with much bigger budgets. Naturally, our company shifted toward targeting large corporate enterprises and working with a number of multinational corporations. Looking back, this change has been great for our bank balances and global reputation. However, it certainly wasn’t the easiest transition to make. Here are three things to consider before taking the leap:
1. Make Sure Your Product And Business Model Is Scalable
Launching, testing and perfecting a product within one geographical region is pretty standard practice, but what’s really best is to think big and build a business model and product that can scale internationally from day one. If you’re going to be spending 12 or more hours a day working, use these hours to build a product that’s impactful for the largest amount of people possible.
It’s important to assess whether your business model is scalable internationally. This depends heavily on whether there is a demand for your product or service abroad. For example, if you make technology for the legal marijuana industry in the U.S., your business model is not very scalable considering — for the time being — marijuana remains illegal across state lines, and in most of the rest of the world.
Even if your base model works globally, you may find that you need to tweak offerings for them to be suitable for different countries. This means a lot more than making your tool multilingual. Rather, it means considering the cultural differences in each location. Think of McDonald’s, for example. Their franchise model is successful all over the world but offers region-specific foods and drinks on its menu in different countries to give customers what they really want.
You actually might have to do more than small tweaks — and that’s okay too. Our product deals with something every business needs: accounting. Accounting processes vary throughout the world, though, so we actually built four different versions of our product right off the bat. There was one for each country we launched in — the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.
Our success in these four individual markets showed us that our base product was market viable on a global scale and also gave us hints as to the best way to develop our technical infrastructure and architecture to create a global rather than country-specific tool.
2. Focus On Building The Product Your Clients Want, Not What You Think They Want
Upon launching, we were hyperfocused on internal aspects that helped us cater to as many customers as possible. We improved our tech to allow it to serve more people, migrated our infrastructure from Rackspace to Amazon Web Services (AWS), developed new features and rewrote our machine learning systems to automate billing. We wanted to go big, but we misinterpreted what big really meant.
We realized this when we landed a popular Fortune 500 fast food restaurant chain in New Zealand. We’d spent all our energy on making our product accessible to a range of businesses. In doing so, however, we hadn’t left enough time to focus on developing the customized features Fortune 500 companies need. We were trying to create a Swiss Army knife, rather than the perfect tool for our client.
Looking back, if we had focused on optimizing our product for the multinational corporation first — and similar companies who share their model — we would have garnered a stronger reputation and gained better traction with multinationals sooner.
If your company decides it wants to work with multinationals, it is best to target specific market segments and amplify your reach within those markets, rather than trying to create a one size fits all tool. After all, “go big or go home” doesn’t mean scrambling for any corporate client out there. You can still go big by doing the best job possible for specific clients.
3. Develop A Product That Multinationals Can Trust
Big multinationals might have massive budgets, but they also face bundles of red tape and need to please their stakeholders. They can’t afford to task risks on risky third-party products. So if you do get the chance to pitch a large corporate, you need to show them that you have all your bases covered.
With cloud services, it’s never been easier to manage security. Our chosen provider, AWS, offers enterprise-level security environment and is SSAE16(SOC1) compliant. However, to show multinationals that you take the protection of their data seriously, I recommend bulking up your defenses. We rolled out extra security features.
To try and sweeten the deal for corporates, we try to reduce the risk as much as possible for decision makers. We offer a free-trial distribution model so multinationals can see if our product is a good fit before they make a big contract.
Since we began working with multinational corporations, our business, reputation and overall portfolio of clients has grown by leaps and bounds, and we haven’t looked back. However, getting to this stage took a lot of backpedaling when we realized that working with large corporations is a whole new ballgame. If you want to dive into the world of global businesses, make sure you, your team and your product are prepared for the new environment, or you could find yourself sinking like a stone.
Repost from original publication: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/04/06/how-to-make-the-transition-to-bigger-clients