More than a decade ago, my co-founder Tim Molloy and I were selling neckties across a few locations in Melbourne and Sydney. We had quality stock and it was a high-margin product, so for a few years, we did really well out of it.
Then, thanks to a combination of changing fashion (where officewear trended away from tie-wearing) and the global financial crisis, we found ourselves with massive retail rents and just a trickle of revenue.
Enter a marketing manager from BMW.
We had a store in Melbourne’s Westfield Southland and one of our staff rang us at the head office one day to ask if we could supply BMW with 200 ties for a motor show — an order worth about $8,000.
It turned out that the tie that attracted the marketing manager was in BMW’s colours. We collated the 200 ties for her, and from that point on, we started working with BMW Australia providing various types of merchandise.
Out of this opportunity, our branded merchandise agency Good Things was born.
Since then, we’ve landed and kept big clients such as L’Oréal, Vegemite, Mad Mex, Metricon Homes, and Australia Post.
The secret to attracting and keeping big business clients is very simple: be reliable, provide exceptional service, and always deliver on what you promise.
Make clients’ jobs easier
Understanding your client’s role, how your business fits in, and what they want from you will go a long way to help you shape your processes and make working with you more attractive for them.
Find the pain-points of their job, make it your problem to remove them, and they will find it easier to choose you.
In our industry, there are hundreds of branded merchandise agencies out there selling thousands of categories. If you’ve ever received a branded pen at a conference, know that someone probably made a decision on the type of pen after seeing several dozen styles.
We made a decision early on to curate our range. We did not want to be known for having the largest range of items, but for having the most relevant items.
The rationale was that clients would come to us because they wouldn’t have to risk decision fatigue by sifting through lots of items. We wanted to make their jobs easier by saving them time.
One of our first mentors was a woman who owned a major uniform business, and she suggested we work to blow our clients away with our speed.
Together, we coined one of our core values, which is ‘back in a flash’.
The idea is, even before you’ve hung up the phone with a client, you’ve started an email to them with their quote or, after you’ve met them in person, as soon as you get to your car, you send the follow-up email.
We believe that pace inspires confidence and shows you’re on top of everything.
Deliver at all costs
Demonstrating reliability is a huge factor in whether a client will work with you again, especially when you may be small and relatively unknown and the client is a big brand that risks its reputation if you can’t deliver for them.
Once you prove unreliable, it takes a long time for clients to trust you again, so deliver at all costs.
It may sound straightforward, but building trust and reliability are key.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of our clients early on taught us that neither price nor creativity takes priority in a big business’ buying decision. It actually comes down to being able to trust their partners, and knowing that their brand is in safe hands.
Once you are a reliable partner, you become a go-to supplier, and they become your loyal customer.