Do you know who your ideal clients are?
When I pose this question to the agencies I work with, they usually summarize information like job titles, types of companies, and professional responsibilities.
It's an accurate answer. Nothing wrong with that, right?
But, when you rely only on data like this, the basis of your pitch becomes a set of facts and figures. You recite your credentials, telling the prospect:
- We have big, important clients just like you
- We offer a wide array of services
- We’ve won these awards
- We have this talented team
You err on the side of more information, rather than less. You demonstrate your thoroughness and ability to anticipate their every need.
And you sound like all the other agencies, including the incumbent your prospect is already paying to do the work you want to do.
There’s a reason for this.
When you need to tackle a complex problem, like trying to figure out how to effectively pitch your agency to a new prospect who knows nothing about you, you go straight to your neocortex for assistance.
It makes sense on the surface of things. The neocortex is the most highly evolved part of our brain. It handles the tough stuff like abstract reasoning. And it spits out rational arguments why your prospective customer should choose you.
The problem is, we buy based on emotion.
In fact, the more complex a buying decision, like evaluating a new agency, the more likely it is that we rely on feelings versus details. It’s an emotional short-cut, a “gut feeling,” that indicates we’re making the right decision.
It’s not that your agency credentials aren’t important to your prospective clients. Your prospects use them to rationalize their emotional gut feeling. The mistake some agencies make is neglecting to think about their prospects as irrational, emotional creatures.
You're a sophisticated marketing practitioner, so this is stuff you already know and likely apply in your work every day. I'm sure you would never agree to develop a marketing strategy for a client without a detailed customer persona.
So, do you know who your ideal client is?
What are the emotional triggers they’re likely to experience just before punching a set of keywords into Google that perfectly match your agency?
When I started my business, I thought deeply about who I was best qualified to help. I thought about my favorite clients, the ones that allowed me to do my best work. I recalled when I was a part of senior leadership teams at agencies. What would I have given anything to solve?
It wasn’t long before a detailed picture began to form in my mind.
I envisioned a CEO absorbing the shock of the news that her agency didn’t win the pitch. This was a big pitch with a prestigious client. She’d been counting on this one—so much so that she let it consume the agency. After all, it was enough revenue to make the numbers for the rest of the year.
Now what? How is she going to make up for all the lost time?
And how is she going to break the news to her team? What on earth is she going to say to reassure them?
To hope that another opportunity like this one crosses their transom soon?
That she and the rest of her leadership team will hustle for business? Scramble for low-hanging-fruit with sub-optimal clients?
I imagined the frustration, the anxiety, the feeling that she lacked control over her agency’s destiny. And, critically, the recognition she can’t continue doing what she’s been doing all along and hope to see different results.
By crawling inside her head, I was able to make a connection between what I do and why someone would want to buy it.
I recommend you do that same.
Get out of your own head. For a moment, stop thinking about your fears, hopes, and dreams. Approach this exercise with empathy for them, their challenges, the hazards they face in their jobs every day.
Start by looking at your current clients and ask yourself some basic questions. Whom do you love working with? Who trusts you to do the work you do best? Who pays you what you are worth?
When you have that list—it may even be a list of one—start to paint an insightful, empathetic portrait. You’ll probably surprise yourself at how deeply you know them.
Then, enjoy the shift you begin to feel within yourself and your agency.
As you translate those insights into marketing messages, you’ll notice you don’t have to work as hard to find the right clients. You’ll struggle less to communicate your benefits and differentiate your agency from your competitors. You’ll connect with your prospects in a meaningful way even before you have a conversation with them.
Your prospects will start to pre-qualify themselves. You’ll trigger that gut feeling that you might be able to help them conquer their biggest challenges.
You’ll quickly get beyond—or even eliminate—the need to justify your existence through the traditional display of credentials. You’ll flow right into qualitative discussion about their challenges and how you might address them, supporting your offer with evidence that you’ve solved similar challenges for others. Credentials will be a coda, an act of due diligence akin to checking references.
Of course, those that don’t recognize themselves will have no interest. That’s OK. That’s one less conversation you had to have to find out a client isn’t for you.
Aren’t you ready to shorten and simplify your new business cycle by doing a better job of defining your ideal client?