Is chasing “big name” customers worth it?

Every Friday, we’re answering your questions about business, startups, customer success and more. Happy Friday! This week’s question is: The most valuable lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned the hard way. We spent a lot of time in our first few months chasing a huge potential account. They wanted us to spend many hours building a custom solution for them, provide a full-time dedicated support resource and make other arrangements to make the product fit their needs. And in the end, after reaching an agreement to get started, they walked away, leaving us with nothing but a huge setback in our development timeline. I’ve heard similar stories from many founders. It’s something that Rick Perreault of Unbounce struggled with, too, as he shared in his interview on the blog:
It’s especially tough when you’re bootstrapping, and you’re Ramen profitable, and you start getting recognized brands calling you saying hey, if you just build this feature, we’ll buy. It’s so tempting, but it’s also a huge distraction. We fumbled around for two years trying to do everything for everyone, and it took a lot of discipline to get focused. In order to have a business that’s actually a good operating business we needed to pick a tightly defined customer segment, focus, go after it and win.

Ultimately, these deals (in our experience), even when they go through, are not much more than a massive distraction, and banking your future success on them is a very dangerous move. I also love what Brian Wong of Kiip said about this in our interview: “Winning these things is never going to be as big of a deal as you think they will, and neither is losing them.” So to that end, I’ll answer the question by saying this: Work hard to win great customers. But don’t lose sight of the focus of your business—especially if what you’re doing is working for you—for any one single prospect. If you win it, it won’t be as great as you think it will be. And if you don’t win the client, the less you invested in the process, the better. What have your experiences been with chasing “dream” clients? Share your thoughts—and answers to Nick’s question—in the comments below.

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