When you are trying to acquire new clients, you want to make a good first impression. One of the best ways to do that is through a company portfolio that provides an in-depth look at your business and prior projects. A company portfolio gives a prospective client an idea of your company’s strengths, the experience of your staff and what working with you looks like. The visuals and text you include can be key to attracting and retaining clients and can put you ahead of your competition.
More than a brochure, a company portfolio provides detailed information on a business's goals, capabilities and successful projects. It includes narratives about how successful projects were completed. It also includes biographies of the company's major players that show off their relevant experience, training and credentials.
Company portfolios can also include the following information:
- Your company’s history and current details about your company, including what your business does, how many employees you have and your locations.
- Your company’s achievements, including any awards it won or local sponsorships.
- Affiliations with industry organizations, noting if staff sit on the boards or volunteer with any.
- Any media coverage your company received, including magazine articles and press releases.
- Testimonials and references from past and current clients. These should be more than just good Yelp reviews from your page. You should seek out clients who had a good experience with you and are willing to write a more detailed review.
- If it makes sense for your industry, include details and images from a product’s progression. For example, if you are a design company, include the initial sketches and renderings and show how they morphed into the final image.
Companies often use portfolios when bidding on jobs. A company would submit its portfolio along with other required documents to win a government contract, for example. You can publish your company's portfolio online as a downloadable document or have it printed in booklet format.
Think of a company portfolio as a resume for your company. If you were applying for a new job, you’d want to submit a resume that shows off your work history, strengths and skills. You want to show off these same things for your company when trying to win a new client or contract.
While a brochure or company website can give potential clients an idea of what your company does and its accomplishments, a company portfolio gives someone a detailed, in-depth look at how your company can serve them and why it’s the best company to do so. They can actually see samples of the work you’ve done and read narratives of how you accomplished projects. This is valuable information for potential clients to have since it showcases your real-world experience.
A company portfolio establishes credibility for your company. It tells someone your company history, the background of your team and highlights actual projects you’ve worked on. When done properly, a company portfolio leaves no doubt in someone’s mind that you’re the best company and team for the job.
Company portfolios also build trust. When someone sees visuals of work you’ve done, they know you can do what you claim. They can also see how you solved problems to get the job accomplished. Included testimonials and references also build trust by giving potential clients actual people they can talk to about work you’ve done. Generally, you wouldn’t provide testimonials or references from people who are likely to give you negative reviews.
A company portfolio is also important for showcasing your range of work. If you do content management, for example, your portfolio can include content you’ve written for the web, print publications, social media and marketing materials. This helps build confidence in your skills, especially when someone can actually see samples of your work.
While you still have to impress a potential client with your interpersonal skills and knowledge, a company portfolio can be one of the many tools you use to earn clients. When meeting with clients, you should always have either a print version of your company portfolio handy or a computer or other device with a digital or online version. Some people may ask you to send them your company portfolio before meeting with you so they can get a better idea of what your company does.
The information you include in your company's portfolio is influenced by your industry. A company working in the entertainment industry may do an online portfolio that includes videos or clips of successful projects along with video biographies of its team. A company working in construction would include images of completed projects and possibly blueprints and renderings.
Zeiss Group is an example of an extensive online company portfolio. The company develops, produces and distributes optical systems, meaning it’s a highly technical company. Zeiss includes a map of its six business groups, grouped into four different segments so that it’s easy to navigate to the area of interest.
Each business group has its own page that describes relevant products, history, certifications and project sites. Images of optical systems are included along with descriptions. There is even a section of the site that features stories on how Zeiss’s products have been successfully used in the real world. The website is clean and easy to navigate, but contains a lot of relevant, in-depth information, making it a very effective company portfolio.
A less extensive but just as effective company portfolio is found on the website of Mecklenburg Paint Company. The portfolio features images for several of their paint jobs, broken down by type. Clicking on the project leads to more detail. Since painting is more visual, typically a local business requiring less description, the company portfolio doesn’t need to be as extensive as one for a global tech company.
Some industries rely more on engaging visuals for their company portfolios than others. The Special Event Company plans strategic events for a variety of industries. Their online portfolio features images from their highlighted events. Visitors to the site can hover over an image to find out exactly what the company did for that event. Clicking on the image takes users to a page with more detail on each event.
Though not included as part of the official online portfolio, The Special Event Company’s website contains all the other information you’d find in a company portfolio. There are bios on the key players that list their job experience, awards and certifications. There are also pages that detail the company’s history, clients and industries served, news coverage and awards the company received.
Before starting a company portfolio, it’s good to get an idea of what others in your industry have done. If you only have a few printed pages that you think show off your company but your competitors have stylized and interactive web pages, you will probably want to rethink your presentation. Remember that your company portfolio is there to make an impression, not just to relay information.
Whether you already have an existing company portfolio or want to create one, there are a variety of things you can do to make sure you have the best portfolio possible.
Highlight successful projects: The first step is to compile a list of your company's most successful projects, rather than all your projects, to include in the portfolio. You may need to review memos, emails, meeting minutes and other forms of communication of past projects to write clear narratives of the steps you and your staff took to achieve success. Identify the best writer on your staff to draft your portfolio narratives or hire a public relations or marketing firm to draft the narratives for your portfolio, budget permitting.
Get input: If you aren’t sure what projects to include, get input from other people. They may be impressed by projects that you never even considered including. Other people may also be better able to whittle down your projects into a manageable amount so that you don’t include too many.
Prioritize quality: The overall quality of your company's portfolio plays a role in your prospective clients' receptiveness to hiring you. For an easy-to-read company portfolio, use desktop publishing software or hire a graphic designer to complete the task. Use only high-resolution images and produce the print version on high-quality, semi-gloss or glossy paper.
Be visually appealing: If you are doing an online company portfolio, the quality matters just as much as a print version. Unless you are good at website design or have someone on staff who is, hire a designer who can make your site visually appealing. It’s easy to include too much information on a website, making it look cluttered and hard to navigate. Make sure you have a clean site that highlights your portfolio elements so people can easily read through the information.
Tailor your portfolio: You may be seeking new business from clients in different industries because you have a vast array of product offerings. For example, if you are a tech company like Zeiss, you may find potential clients from the medical, virtual reality and sports optics industries. One portfolio may not be sufficient to cover the variety of products or services you offer. In this case, it may be helpful to have company portfolios that are tailored to different potential clients. Or, in the case of a website, there should be a web page focused on each distinct industry, which is what Zeiss did.
Get it reviewed: Before printing your company portfolio or launching your website, have it reviewed by people inside and outside of your company. You want to make sure you have all of the pertinent information included and didn’t miss a project that needed to be showcased.
Be engaging: You also want to make sure that a reader of your company portfolio has the reaction to it that you want them to. Make sure the language you use has a tone that represents your company and engages the reader. Ensure that the visuals you include are compelling photos that actually showcase your work and aren’t just stock images.
Be current: Your company portfolio should always be as current as possible. You don’t want to only have examples of projects you completed a decade ago since that will leave a potential client wondering. Keeping your company portfolio current is easier to do online since you can edit your website. Having to redesign and reprint a hard copy portfolio is a more time-consuming and expensive proposition.
When done correctly, a company portfolio can be the best marketing and sales tool you have. Sure, there are other ways to represent your company and the work you’ve done, but compiling a company portfolio to present to potential clients is always impressive. Take the time to think about what you want to include and how you want to present the information so it best represents your company. The time and money you invest now can result in more and better clients in the long-term.