Whatever vertical you're in, there’s going to be big clients and small clients. Consumer credit card companies charge pennies per transaction, have a target market of “adults” and make mountains of money. Commercial banks fund loans to Fortune 100 clients and private equity firms, may only work on only a dozen projects in a decade, and can also be wildly successful. Both are selling loans, but to very different sizes of target customers.

This principle is simply that the smaller clients are typically more difficult to manage than the big ones. I’ve sold websites to small businesses for hundreds of dollars or even trade. I’ve sold them to governments for millions. In a counter intuitive twist, my experience has been that often the bigger clients are easier to deal with than the smaller ones. 

Smaller clients...

  • Are typically spending their own money hard earned money. They need to see more immediate returns. 

  • Have less experience in the services you offer, the process you sell, or the results they can realistically expect. 

  • Have fewer voices of reason or internal peers to set expectations.

  • Are often more entrepreneurial, eager to bring new and big ideas to the table without the budgets to support them.

  • Can cost more to serve well, as you need to make processes and procedures that can handle many edge cases automatically. 

  • Can make it difficult to scale your growth. 

Larger clients...

  • Have likely purchased what you’re selling before, so they’re better informed on what to expect and pay. 

  • Have a more realistic sense of what is feasible.

  • Can afford to make mistakes, so success isn’t existential. 

  • Are spending an annual budget that they may not even get again next year if they don’t spend it. I've literally been asked "what can you build for $20k before the end of this month?"

  • Can spread blame around if your project doesn’t deliver immediately as expected. 

  • Understand how very very difficult it is to get anything done with a group of people.  

  • Generally cost less to service as you’re billing costs into the bespoke projects they demand and you can afford to build processes as you go.

Of course, like all of my principles, this is an observation to be applied as it makes sense - not a hard and fast rule. There are plenty of small clients that are an absolute joy to work with, and there are plenty of big ones who behave miserably. 

This principle is absolutely a double edged sword. You can easily afford to lose a $20/mo customer, but it can be the end of your business to lose an anchor client spending millions.

It's just something to keep in mind. Many amazing businesses have been bootstrapped on the needs of a handful of anchor clients who got amazing value for budget they considered small and the entrepreneur saw as huge. 

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