Stories are engaging, memorable and repeatable—and this has big implications for winning over new clients. Wrapping your sales message in a story not only makes it easy for your prospects to understand your value, they’re also more likely to remember your message and repeat to others what they liked about you and why they want to hire you.
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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.
Those of you who know me or have worked with me know that my mission is to help ad agencies and creative services firms communicate more persuasively. When I find a tool or technique that has the potential for changing that behavior, I pass it on. Nancy Duarte's Sparklines is one of those tools.
Sparklines was developed after she asked herself "what does persuasion look like?" She’s certainly qualified to explore the question. Her company, Duarte, helps organizations like Google and Apple tell effective stories through presentation. To find the answer, she analyzed two extraordinary presentations: Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch in 2007.
Essentially, it’s is a method for drawing an audience over to your side of an argument by presenting a series of contrasts between what is and what could be. It's one of the most compelling presentation structures I've ever seen. Plus, it's not a technique that's difficult to learn. In fact, it has more to do with reframing your presentations than reinventing them.
Imagine a couple of common scenarios - an important RFP has just landed in your in-box. Or, an important client has just asked you for a proposal that will significantly expand the amount work you do for them. Do you...
...tangle yourself in boilerplate language that you've recycled from a past proposal?
...jump in without a clear content strategy?
...suffocate your language with esoteric terms that the client can't relate to?
If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to check out my recent guest column on Agency Post. I've noticed that ad agencies get into some bad habits that, if broken, would make proposals not only easier to write but also more effective at what they’re meant to do - win you more business.
Why is so much advertising agency-speak filled with unnecessary words and generalizations?
I’m always urging my ad agency clients to eliminate unnecessary words in their writing for new business and marketing. As Mark Twain noted, it’s an easy exercise that requires little effort and has a big impact.
But wordiness may be a symptom more than a diagnosis. The real diagnosis may be what Chip and Dan Heath call the “Curse of Knowledge” in their book, Made to Stick.
Experts like doctors, academics, attorneys… and the majority of advertising professionals often succumb to the curse. But my latest blog post offers you one technique to avoid it.
Think about the number of agencies you’re aware of (including your own) that have a truly differentiated work process.
If you’re being honest, the answer is easy: not many. Whether it’s three steps or twenty-three steps, most agency work processes look the same. In fact, sometimes I think they’re more of an afterthought, something to be written up for an RFP response but rarely put into action in real life.
But Park Howell, founder of agency Park&Co., channeled his fascination for the power of storytelling (a fascination I happen to share) into a work process he calls the Story Cycle that's become an integral part of all his client engagements.
Last month, I lost an ally in my quest to eradicate jargon and wordiness from ad agency pitch documents (not to mention emails, client reports, briefings and marketing copy).
William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, a beloved guide for non-fiction writers since its publication in 1976, died at age 92.
He was a constant inspiration as we developed Persuasive Writing for New Business, a workshop that teaches ad agencies how to use simple, clear language to communicate their value to prospects, clients and others.
While it may have seemed like a tactic to keep you on the edge of your seat a little longer, the link to my latest post was not included in the original email. This is now fixed.
It's finally here! The hotly anticipated third installment in my three-part summertime series on why blogging should be a central part to an agency's business development strategy.
In Part 1, I talked about why it’s a good investment to maintain a blog and Part 2 focused on how you can keep up a steady flow of topics without a lot of anguish. This final post is about making sure you capitalize on all your smart ideas.
Here's a preview: it has to do with unlocking the magic that happens when you pair a strong positioning with an audience that wants what you're selling.
The idea that storytelling is an important part of the sales process is nothing new (in fact, if you’d like to read more on the subject, I’ve included three good sources at the end of this post).
Successful advertising agencies tell stories all day everyday on behalf of their clients – great stories about brands that capture the imagination. Ironically, this skill often doesn’t get translated when the agency writes its own case studies. I’ve observed an almost contradictory tendency to say too much without ever really getting to the most important point. Here’s an example, paraphrased from countless case studies I’ve seen from my clients (names changes to protect the innocent):