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Bill Lee
  July 9, 2017

Time to Get Serious About Marquee Customers

About a decade ago, former McKinsey consultant David G. Thompson conducted important research on how the fastest growth businesses are built. That is businesses that get to $1B in revenue faster than their competitors do (if they’re competitors make that number at all).

One of the key drivers for the fast growth firms is their ability to win marquee customers—a small number of their highest potential customers who exert tremendous leverage that enables exponential growth.

Like IBM did as Microsoft’s first great marquee customer, propelling its operating system into dominance in the PC industry. Or Solomon Brothers, which propelled Cisco into IT dominance in the financial services industry. The impact of marquees is so great in virtually any industry—especially B2B industries–that something like the 80-20 rule apples, or even 90-10: it takes just a few marquee customers to make a huge impact on the growth of a firm.


Surprisingly, there remains a lot of misconceptions about who marquee customers are.
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Failure to find and leverage the marquee customers in your industry may be the greatest overlooked opportunity of all in business today. This is the first of a short series to correct those misconceptions.

Traits of True Marquee Customers  

Here are the traits to look for; customers who are:

  • Highly influential: True marquee customers are the ones with great credibility and influence to buyers in your Note that famous global brands are not necessarily influential in your market.
  • Ambitious: Marquee customers want to gain leadership in your target market, or at least in the area of the business that your firm is addressing.
  • Innovative: Marquee customers are quite open to differing perspectives and new solutions. And in many industries where costs are a factor, that can include seemingly minor improvements.

Using this definition, more firms can land marquee customers than think they can—including start-ups of new lines of business. As one highly valued marquee CIO put it to a roomful of technology vendors at one of our Summits [LINK], when she was feeling pressure to control costs, “I’m interested in that kind of money, especially when budgets are very tight.” And if you bring a vision of how even a modest solution like that can continue to grow and improve with her firm, she is open to providing references and referrals to you, and more.

How do you find such marquee customers? It’s not hard if you look again at that list of traits above. The people in your firm with industry knowledge will know who they are.

That’s the subject of my next article.

Source: Bill Lee