There Are No Small Customers, Only Small Invoices


As an entrepreneur I had to learn this lesson the hard way. It took me a while, but I finally came to the conclusion that “there are no small customers, only small invoices,” as Shannon Litton, The A Group’s President so eloquently says. As a business owner, the sooner you learn that, the better off your organization will be.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the “small customer”:

  • They can barely afford your services, so it’s a big investment for them and their expectations are extremely high.
  • They are not appreciative of the “extra” effort or discount you might be giving them.
  • They lack growth potential for your business.
  • The time you spend with them could be spent in a much more profitable way, and/or with a growth potential account.

What else have you learned about the small customer?

  • I wonder if this phenomenon has more to do with the customer’s attitude than their financial strength. Some people always seem to see themselves as on the edge of failure, others on the verge of success. 

  • this is so true. we often say that the less they pay, the more demanding they are. it often is a lose-lose situation as they are looking at the relationship completely upside down from the way we as a company are. we learned a long time ago that we must interview each new client the same way they are interviewing us and WE decide if it’s a good fit or not. and then when we say no, we always point them to someone else that may be better suited to help them. then it becomes a win-win. we serve THEIR best interest and they get matched with a provider more suited to their needs.

    mark clement
    ceo, big picture media/

    • knowing your ideal customer will help you pre-qualify the projects that make sense and those that don’t.

  • I think there is another way to look at this as a small customer could potentially turn into a major client down the road.

    Companies run into the above challenge when they haven’t necessarily positioned or advocated their vision correctly.

    Rule 1:  Never discount
    Rule 2:  Never apologize for never discounting
    Rule 3:  Be passionate about being unique and separate yourself
    Rule 4:  Never sell.  Advocate.

    If these rules are followed correctly, small customers will still come calling but the leverage will be in your hands avoiding the pitfalls that can come from working with smaller invoices.  

    The secret is you have to create a position that fills a unique void only you can meet and without apology.  It won’t take long for all to understand what you are advocating and what you will or will not give in on.

    Food for thought.

    Great post as always!

  • Randy

    Gosh, maybe I’m reading all this the wrong way. But as a small business owner trying to get established, it doesn’t make me feel very welcomed. From the “small” customer viewpoint, there’s an urgency to maximize the impact of every dollar spent.

    • Randy,
      It’s not the size of the business as much as the size of the vision of the customer. Some start up think like the business they want to become and not where they currently are. Small mindedness will keep your business small.

  • I couldn’t agree more… The greatest challenge is to manage expectations for the ‘smaller invoice’ client so that they understand the value being delivered & that they are NOT our only client, and give them room to grow & prosper as well!

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