What’s Different About Today’s Biggest Companies

Today’s biggest companies aren’t the same as they were a generation ago, nor with a few exceptions were those companies the same as the biggest companies from a generation before that. And this is a sign of a healthy, dynamic economy. Fortunes are made by finding and creating the next big thing, not by entrenching in existing industries until their decaying utility makes the entire system collapse and reset. Nevertheless, it’s worth looking at the current-day behavior, effects, and larger consequences of today’s biggest companies.

A Conversation Starter

We recently heard an online interview with PJ O’ Rourke, economic and political writer, who was talking about the new, digital economy when he said:

“You think back 20-30 years ago and you think of the top ten companies and you knew them. You knew what they did; they made stuff. They provided services, and you used that stuff. They made Chevrolets. They made electricity. They made toothpaste. Now, you look at the top corporations and they make what?…Money. Money and trouble as far as I’m concerned.”

 

Marketing Today’s Big Companies

We’re not sure how much we agree with this view. As was also mentioned in the interview as part of the larger panel discussion: With Amazon, people like being able to buy things online and have them show up at their door step. It may be a different kind of service, but the digital economy delivers, in large part, digital services that make things easier, if the tech itself is complicated to understand.

On the other hand, it’s not entirely satisfying to say that appropriating and then monetizing the world’s social networks is just a different version of making toothpaste. So maybe here’s a better way to put it: We’re not sure how much we disagree with O’ Rourke’s larger point, either. And with this dueling perspective in mind, we wanted to take a deeper dive into how today’s big companies are marketing themselves.

 

Loyalty Marketing and Customer Success

If, like us, you keep tabs on trends in the marketing industry, you know that many of the buzzword practices currently include loyalty marketing and customer success. You have experts in the industry blogging about how companies need to understand the difference between customer support vs. customer success—with the obvious implication that many businesses need to put more emphasis on the latter. You have big-time digital marketing publications with articles discussing “how businesses can use AI tools to improve customer engagement. You have major marketing agencies, like rDialogue, out there talking about how loyalty marketing is “the root of their company.”

In turn, we wonder if, and how much, this new emphasis on businesses making a deeper connection with their customers is a reaction to the perception that the only thing “today’s biggest companies do is make money and trouble.” Loyalty marketing and customer success are more important than ever because being associated with a positive customer experience is necessary to reassure the customer that the company is offering any “real value” at all.

 

A New Generation of Socially-Conscious Monopolies?

What are the stakes if the new digital economy continues to churn out winner-take-all companies based on their unquestioned loyalty to their customers. Where does this path eventually lead us? Are we to believe that a new generation of socially-conscious monopolies is going to deliver an economic utopia? With the interconnectedness of customer networks and a business culture in which customer success is so deeply ingrained, will customers continue to have leverage if their success depends on a single company and for which they have no other reasonable choices? Or will the old rules of monopolies apply and loyalty marketing is just a Trojan Horse for price-gouging down the road? We noticed that Amazon Prime membership has gotten more expensive yet again, while you need to use more of their ever-expanding roster of benefits to make the higher membership fee worth the cost. Likewise, we’re skeptical that Facebook’s investment in network security and self-monitoring infrastructure (the one that took a big bite out of future profit projections and thus the company’s market value) was out of any obligation to their customer. Rather, it was to guard against governmental action that would change how the company was regulated, a potentially bigger threat to its bottom-line.

 

A Succinct Guide to Building Relationships with Big Brands

In a previous post, we discussed tips for working with big clients in B2B contracts. However, we need to cover the ways in which smaller companies should enter into these relationships and negotiations. Corporate companies and smaller, start-up-type businesses handle negotiations differently, so you should do your best to prepare for intense, ongoing talks. Here’s our advice for entering these relationships.

 

  • Develop personal relationships. Understand the role and function of the people you meet during negotiations and try to build personal relationships. This will allow you to cater your pitch to their individual interests, highlighting one of the key reasons why working with a smaller company has advantages.

 

  • Be clear and forthright. Focus your pitch on where you can make the most impact for the larger company. Utilize quantitative data to quickly and succinctly tell them that utilizing your services will save X money, X amount of time, or generate X measurable PR benefits. Speak their language and use empathy to make a big impression.

 

  • Value your work. You may be tempted to cut your price in order to snag a big client. In reality, these large clients are the businesses who can and should be paying more; they have the resources, and they’re going to take up a lot of your time. Don’t low-ball price negotiations.

 

  • Understand how your size works in your favor. Don’t change who you are or how your company operates to cozy up to a large client. In most cases, large companies are pursuing you because of the way small businesses operate. Delivering the goods on time and sticking to a budget are essential but remember to incorporate the personal touch you’re known for. Don’t posture your company to seem larger than it really is.

 

  • Find an excellent lawyer. Odds are that you don’t have experience in negotiating commercial contracts. Prevent yourself from getting pushed into a corner by hiring a good lawyer. This resource will tell you what’s normal, if you’re getting a good deal, and how to stick up for yourself when negotiations get tough.

 

Working with Big Companies: Essential B2B Tips

Working with large business-to-business clients is a demanding process and making the transition to serving large accounts can be difficult. However, businesses of every shape and size are beginning to work together—whether it’s to improve market reach or PR relations. Access to lending and a global talent market mean that your business may land a contract with a big company. If this happens to you, here’s what you need to know.

Big B2B will change your business. A bigger client means a bigger budget. The extra revenue may help to fund resources you need to go after other businesses (both large and small), so think of large B2B contracts as investments in the future of your company. Additionally, larger companies will often have people in place to make your job simpler. Prominent clients can dramatically raise your profile and working with well-known businesses can boost staff morale and aid in employee fulfillment. A big B2B contract will allow you to “plug in” to larger networks.

 

Your small size is an advantage. Though your company will benefit from big B2B relationships, the larger company will also benefit. They’ll get faster responses, fewer bureaucratic hurdles, and personal relationships to make the process more enjoyable. Additionally, your team will likely be able to provide the outside perspective creative services many big companies seek.

 

Understand the risks. Working with large clients is both fulfilling and challenging. When taking on a massive client, it is essential to recognize how the contract can negatively impact your business. See below for our complete list of risks.

 

  • If you lose a major client, it will take a long time to replace the revenue source. Additionally, losing big clients will often happen without warning, leaving you and your team scrambling to make up the cash. Be sure to maintain additional clients to safeguard against disaster.

 

  • They will be demanding, and large clients will generally have several checks on process and approval requirements. They’re going to use up a lot of your time. To reiterate: do your best to maintain additional clients for the duration of the contract.

 

  • Price negotiation may be out of the question. To that end, becoming reliant on a big client will leave you without bargaining power when renegotiating fees and retainer arrangements.

 

  • They can cost you money. You will likely need to hire additional staff and subcontractors. Additionally, meeting the expectations of a large, demanding client will increase workplace pressure levels.

 

While entering a contract with a large-scale company will, in most cases, dramatically change your business for the better, it is essential to consider every side and outcome of the relationship.