Stories are a perfect pitching device. Yet, despite the many agencies that declare themselves “brand storytellers”, they don’t always deploy that same skill on their behalf.
They get swallowed up by their own jargon or blindly grasp for the right words to describe the intangible qualities that make them different from their peers—with the ironic result that they end up sounding exactly the same.
If this applies to you, then I want to offer you a technique to use on your next pitch.
Winning a new business pitch hinges on your ability to perform a crucial task: communicating to your prospect that your agency brings more value to the deal than your competitors. Sounds straightforward enough, so why do the majority of agencies lose more frequently than they win? Because, there’s a fundamental disconnect between how we communicate our pitch and how our audience receives it. Here are five ways you can close that gap and win more new business.
Going after new business puts you in a vulnerable position. There’s always a risk that you’ll be unable to persuade the other party to buy what you’re selling.
We don’t like feeling vulnerable or being rejected. In fact, it’s deeper than dislike. It’s straight-up fear. To avoid the fear, we might convince ourselves to stay in our safe place and keep doing whatever it is we’ve been doing (or not doing), no matter how unsatisfying or unproductive it is.
The devil you know…
Until a crisis shakes us out of complacency and forces us to act. And then we scramble to fix the crisis, dipping back into our network or lowering our price because we need a win.
What would change for your agency if you could take fear out of the equation?
Effective salespeople know that a good story is the fastest route between them and winning new business.
This is especially true for ad agencies. Advertising is a craft that relies on abstract thought processes that lead to inspirational ideas like “Just do it.” The problem is, abstract ideas are difficult to describe and even more difficult to value. That’s why it’s so easy to succumb to meaningless, anemic phrases like “fully integrated,” “digital-first” and “consumer at the core” when trying to describe what you do to a prospective client.
Stories, on the other hand, make the intangible tangible. Discover how this technique, as old as humanity itself, is one of the easiest ways to win new business.
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Thanks to Publicis Groupe’s CEO, Arthur Sadoun, it was an especially headlined-filled week at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Sadoun’s announced that Publicis Groupe would take a one-year hiatus from awards shows and other industry events to focus on building out a network-wide, AI-enabled platform called Marcel. It sparked surprise and skepticism (among other things) from both marketers and agencies (some of them Publicis executives who were as surprised by the announcement as everyone else, apparently).
It got anyone with an opinion about creative awards coming out of the woodwork to express it–including me.
For most of my career, I’ve had mixed feelings about awards shows. Do awards materially affect the ability to win new business? And is it commensurate with the massive investment of time and money that competing for them requires?
I don’t think it is for most agencies. In my latest post, I’ll tell you why and offer a few suggestions for other, more efficient ways to redirect that budget.
Our complex marketing ecosystem has resulted in a Cheesecake Factory menu of specialist agencies filling every marketing niche imaginable.
As these specialist agencies seek new growth, they’re turning to other agencies.
For example, a social media agency (let’s call it the Selling Agency) might partner with a digital agency (the Customer Agency) to fill a gap in the Customer Agency’s services. The Customer Agency can offer its client what it needs, the Selling Agency gets exposure to more potential clients on the other agency’s roster, and both make money. Hooray!
But there’s a big downside. The Selling Agency will never have as much influence over the client relationship as the Customer Agency will.
That leads to all sorts of hazards. In this post, I’ll tell what those hazards are and give you strategies you can use throughout the sales cycle to hedge against them.
Whether truth or myth, the story goes that the famous architect Philip Johnson once answered an RFP with the shortest response possible.
His winning proposal simply said, "I'll do it."
Too bad we all can't rely on this simple approach to writing proposals that win new business. But, you can do more to make your investment in time and effort pay off by turning your proposals into the strategic selling tools they're meant to be.
Last January, I started off the year with some thoughts on what’s required to hook a big client. In case you don’t have time to re-read the post, I’ll cut to the chase: winning big takes the courage and commitment to think big.
But details matter too. Sometimes they matter a lot. In extreme cases, neglecting the details derails the pitch, turning your big ambitions into a lot of wasted energy and frustration.
So this January, I thought I’d start off 2016 with five stupid and avoidable reasons for any ad agency to lose a new business pitch.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to set positive intentions, such as reeling in a big, game-changing client. It’s a daunting challenge for any agency, but it is particularly challenging if you’re a small- to mid-sized shop. You have to work that much harder to differentiate yourself and get the attention of the "big guys".
The good news is that hooking a big client doesn't require that you make massive operational changes or even hire an expensive "rainmaker". It relies more on having the right mindset. Check out my guest column in today's Agency Post (also on my blog) to see if there are things that you can do today to best position yourself to win big this year.
Almost universally, agency pitch teams hate to rehearse. But one of the many advantages is the freedom it gives you to read the room – instead of reading your notes (or worse yet, reading off your slides). The better you know your material, the easier it is to change course if you feel the attention of your audience slipping away.
This point hit home for me recently when I found myself confronted by a roomful of blank stares. My stomach dropped. What was I doing wrong? Find out -- and how I fixed it -- in my latest
What's a "brand-centric consumer catalyst" anyway?
My last blog post tossed around the notion that it’s almost impossible for a full-service ad agency to have a completely unique selling proposition, so it's understandable that many agencies veer the other direction and try to be all things to all people. I think this stems from a fear of losing out on opportunities by being too specific, but in fact I’d wager that the opposite is true. The more you can articulate who you truly are, the more easily the right prospect will find you and the wrong prospects will avoid you.
Made Movement in Boulder, CO is a great example of an ad agency that's boldly put a stake in the ground. With clients like Seventh Generation and Church's Chicken, it seems to be paying off.
There's a lot to be learned from Made's approach -- check out my latest blog post.
A Unique Selling Proposition – we should all have one, right?
The truth is, an astounding number of advertising agencies don’t and there’s a very good reason for that. With approximately 20,000 agencies in the United States all pretty much offering the same set of services, the chances of landing on a completely unique selling proposition are slim. Unfortunately, many agencies go to the opposite extreme. Fearing missed opportunities, they get seduced by the idea of being all things to all prospects.
My latest blog post explores the notion of "unique" when it comes to positioning your ad agency and includes a few concrete steps to get you focused on what matters to your prospects.