How We Beat A Bigger Company at What It Does Best

by Gil Zeimer on November 3, 2010
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Once upon a time I was part of a two-man team that bested a large ad agency in Boston for an accounting firm’s 30-page mini-website project and landed an eventual six-figure annual budget.

What was our secret? How did two people outperform a team of six? How did we work smarter, not harder?

It was a matter of looking at the big picture and doing what we do best. In this case, David slayed Goliath because:

  • We were smarter on many levels. First, we had more combined accounting industry and advertising agency experience than our competitors for this type of project. We leveraged a great working relationship with our client to know what he’d expect at each step. We also were more technically savvy for the mini-site’s database development. The agency we were fighting helped us immeasurably by assigning younger, inexperienced personnel to its side of the project.
  • We paid strict attention to the company’s new branding guidelines. As I wrote the copy for the 30-page mini-site, I based it on their strict branding guidelines for copy. The big agency did not do the same for design and immediately fell behind on the project.
  • We delivered each project milestone early. In fact, we hit our target dates a day or two before each weekly phone meeting, so we had enough time to make sure they were bulletproof. The agency was often late with its tasks because of poor management.
  • We never embarrassed ourselves. Each week, we succinctly summed up our progress and showed our work on our calls. The agency frequently fumbled with a series of excuses, such as, “Our webmaster got busy with another project so we didn’t get this stage of the layout done. But it should be done in a day or two.”
  • We then asked for the bigger project. When the mini-site project was completed and we had clearly outperformed the prestigious Boston ad agency, we asked for – and won – the development of the entire website, which was  approximately 100 pages. In addition, our client also asked us to create a monthly eight-page newsletter, a huge database to track marketing leads, and a robust vendor alliance website. To deliver it all, we built a virtual company with a project manager, a writer, and three web developers. The final budget exceeded $200,000 in the first year.

But That’s Not All…

This relationship continued to evolve over the next five years with our client introducing us to six other divisions of the company to create their respective websites and quarterly newsletters. And it was all possible because two smart guys took on a big agency – and won.

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