Tip-toe into marketing strategy with new clients

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We all have grandiose ideas of what a company’s branding or marketing strategy should be when we are looking at them from the outside.  It’s easy to make those inferences and voice them.  The more challenging part is sitting on your hands when preparing to quote a project, letting your prospect speak freely about their strategy, even when you think it could be improved. Sometimes, the potential client just wants to be heard and to address an immediate need.

What do you do?  How much strategy do you interject?  More importantly, how much do you let your strategy guide your quoting process?  

Agencies and consultants tend to run into this challenge most often during the client courting process.  As the age of “agency of record” goes further by the wayside, it’s replaced with a phrase I call “agency of reckoning.”  More and more companies are dividing up their projects and inviting specialist agencies to bid on smaller chunks of business.  Ongoing programs are being replaced with one-off projects, and it is becoming more difficult for an agency to fully understand business objectives as the idea of full-service gets more diluted.

We may still want our shot at baking the whole cake, but sometimes we are only called upon to deliver a slice.

The good thing is that more companies are open to third-party agencies and consultants as personnel budgets get tighter.  The idea of lean marketing is gaining steam for various reasons, including flexibility, higher returns and more choices.  The last one being the reason for the “reckoning” nomenclature from above.  In Cleveland alone, there are more than 150 agencies and firms (and this doesn’t count unofficial freelancers and consultants) swimming around in the same waters fighting for the same business.  If one can’t do the job, another one can easily step in.  Contracts are getting shorter and demands for results are getting higher.

As a consultant working to support both the marketer and the agency, I am privy to these issues on a weekly basis, and at the end of the day, it becomes clear that the right fit for the right expectations is key.  

So what’s a potential partner to do? Here my three rules to winning and securing new business for marketing consultants and ad agencies:

Solve the problem


Don’t worry about anything else.  Focus on their problem.  This is easier said than done, however.  Many like to back up three steps and introduce their strategy or philosophy as an intro into their agency because, in many instances, it’s the talk track they know best.  “Buy into our philosophy and then we’ll solve this problem and many more!”  

Forget it.  Work to understand their situation, their limitations and provide the solution as your very first step. Follow-up work will come once the company knows you are listening to their request.

Offer recommended purchases to enhance their solution (The Amazon method)


This does comes with a caveat that you should still be “solving the problem” first.  Once you have a solution for their main problem or a game plan for their initial project, give them a brief taste into complementary projects. Amazon does this well when purchasing an item. “If you like this, here are similar items…”    

Again, be cautious with how you approach this angle, but I know companies value what services or tactics could help improve results while or after their original problem is solved.  It shows you’re understanding their business, their budget and their needs… and that you know how to be proactive.

Show success


It’s all about tactics first.  Show them you understand their issue and you have the “proven” solution to address their problem.  Give them results of past projects.  

Too many agencies rely on a set protocol of presenting their approach and why it’s better, when really companies just want to know: how much, how long, what should I expect, and why you?

Remember, you’re not forcing your philosophy or thinking onto your prospective client as your first order of business.  If you are, I can’t imagine you’re winning much new business.  Start with tactical knowledge and then once both parties believe their is a great culture and working fit, then tip-toe into introducing your strategy.

In an age of new technology, new solutions and new competitors, it’s the small wins that can go a long way into developing a strong partnership with your client.  

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