How to market yourself to big international firms

Posted on: September 14th, 2010

What’s the best approach to marketing yourself to big, international firms you haven’t worked with before?

That was a question someone left in my comment box recently. Here’s my reply:

Over the years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve written for all kinds of international companies. Citibank, Pepsi, Hitachi and SonyEricsson, to name but four.

Working for intermediaries

But I don’t have these multinationals as direct clients. Instead, I work for their web design, graphic design agency, or marketing agency. In most cases, I attend client meetings and have day-to-day direct dealings with the end company but I send my invoices to the agency.

Here’s the reason I do it this way. Every time I have marketed myself (ie: sent mailshots) to large companies, I’ve hit against a brick wall. Yet I succeed pretty well when it comes to marketing to web and graphic design agencies, or to marketing agencies.

The occasions when I do work directly with a large client, this usually comes about through word of mouth recommendation. I’m thinking here about projects I undertook for organisations such as Dun & Bradstreet, Johnson & Johnson and FT Magazines.

Draw up a list of your top ten companies

If you want to give it a go and market to large corporates, I would draw up a list of the top ten companies you really want to work for. Then see if there is anyone in your network of contacts who might be able to introduce you to someone at one of those ten companies. LinkedIn is great for, first of all, searching for these potential client contacts and then getting introductions to them.

You could also join networking groups that you think your potential ten clients might belong to. And go to industry events that they’re likely to attend.

I think it’s unlikely they’ll respond if you contact them by email or direct mail letter. Unless your email / letter arrives on the day when they are looking for a freelancer just like you. That stuff does happen but it’s a long shot.

What success have you had?

I’d be interested to hear what measure of success YOU have had in marketing yourself to big corporates.

Or if there is another question you’d like me to answer, feel free to leave it in the comment box below.

Check out other marketing-related posts.

3 Responses to “How to market yourself to big international firms”

  1. Hannah Marcheselli
    September 14th, 2010

    Carole, thanks so much for answering what was, in fact, my question! With time and money at a premium, freelancers need to take a very targeted approach to marketing rather than firing out direct mail left, right and centre. I’ve been lucky so far in that most of my bigger projects have come from word-of-mouth recommendations, but I still have to keep my finger on the pulse for future projects so it’s really useful to get some ideas on tackling the larger end of the market.

  2. Richard Hollins
    September 14th, 2010

    Your point about agencies is a good one. Most of my work is for multinationals of one sort or another and much of it comes through their design agencies in the first instance.

    The beauty of this is that if you do a good job, the agency is happy to use you for more of their clients and the companies then ask for you when they have more work.

    The difficulty is getting into the agencies in the first place. This is where the power of personal recommendations comes in. Getting friends and contacts to introduce me to their agencies has been incredibly useful. As you say, LinkedIn is a great way of widening the net.

  3. Carole
    September 14th, 2010

    You’re welcome, Hannah! Sounds like word-of-mouth recommendations are proving successful for you. It’s a great way to get new clients – you don’t have to sell yourself, as your contact has already done that for you. :)

    I use the same approach as you, Richard, when it comes to design agencies. I ask as many of my contacts as possible if they can introduce me to their graphic design/web design agency.

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