“Big elephants” make or break companies. Bagging big elephants — or huge clients that can launch a company “into the stratosphere” — is Steve Kaplan’s specialty, and he’s eager to share his success strategies with the rest of the world. Visiting Johnson on his Bag the Elephant Unplugged University Tour, Kaplan explained why he began his own company, and shared techniques for seeking out opportunities and “bagging” large clients.
At age 22, he decided that “being a little fish in a big company” was not for him, and so he decided to start his own. A small marketing company at the time, Bounty SCA Worldwide sold tactical marketing strategies like product sampling and coupons. Now making over $250 million in sales with offices in 14 countries, the company is one of many that he helped make successful.
One of the keys to his success, Kaplan says, is seeking out opportunity. While trying to land a relatively small deal with Proctor & Gamble, Kaplan came across somethingunexpected. “I was meeting with a guy to talk about potentially working on the Pantene brand, but when we met I could sense he was having a horrible day. He was working on a nationwide campaign and needed to import 80 million silk bags from China, and couldn’t even get 30,000 of them past customs in Los Angeles,” he explained. In efforts to earn the potential client’s trust, Kaplan decided to “see what he could do.”
Kaplan’s company at the time was not a big importer, shipping mostly between New York City and Syracuse. Nevertheless, after “a few phone calls,” he was able to arrange for someone to go and pick up the 30,000 bags in Los Angeles. When Kaplan called his contact at P&G with good news about his bags, he got the fastest call back he had received: “This guy called me back within 10 seconds,” he said, “and told me to send him an invoice for as much as I wanted. But all I wanted was a shot at the 80-million-bag campaign. And he gave it to me.”
Kaplan reflects that he could have just attended the meeting, pitched his original ideas for the small campaign he was interested in, and walked away. Noticing an opportunity for greater success, taking a risk, and “coming through” made the difference. With P&G behind him, Kaplan says he felt like he “was capable of doing anything.”
Despite the current economic climate, Kaplan still firmly believes opportunity is everywhere — you just have to look for it.