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Ten (And a Half) Tips For Your Next Pitch.

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The team at Promax/BDA (a professional association for entertainment marketers and creatives) recently asked me if I could write up some tips for Agencies on how to best prepare for a big new business pitch to potential Clients. This isn’t about pitching an idea after the Client has approached you for creative thinking. It’s about the step before that – getting their attention, and getting them to test you out for the first time on a project. Thanks to some past presentations at Promax’s annual event and The Client Blog, they thought of me and asked for some quick tips for the Agencies to think about when selling in their business to Clients. I was happy to jump in and pull together a top ten list – with a bonus “half” tip that is less about the pitch and more about the long-tail in building a brand and creating demand for your creative. Thanks as always for reading and sharing the blog with others, and here are my top 10-and-a-half ways to pitch your Agency/Company to a potential Client.

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TIP #1: KNOW YOUR STRENGTH.

Note that I didn’t say “strengths” – plural. Don’t try to be all things to all Clients – be prepared to answer the “what do you do BEST?” question. (Hint: The answer shouldn’t be “we can do it all!”) Many clients appreciate an honest self-assessment and often look for specialists based on their project’s needs rather than creative generalists.  Agencies need to ditch the Fear Of Missing Out on potential jobs (#PromoFOMO) and instead focus on landing the job where they can deliver their best work – which can then lead to even more jobs down the road.

TIP #2: KNOW WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU.

Your Strength and Your Differentiator are not always the same. The intangibles beyond “we’re great designers” can make you stand apart from the rest.  Do you have a partnership with a well-known photographer or director?  Do you have an all-star project management team? Whatever it might be, those little things that can make you easier to work with or more cost-efficient can help make a difference in the Client’s decision.

TIP #3: CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES.

Every single agency claims that they’re “collaborative with our Clients.”  That sounds great and all, but can you prove it? Walk into a pitch with some unique, non-boiler-plate recommendations or success stories from past and present Clients, and you might stand out more. Recommendations from past colleagues or friends of the Client are often the biggest influencers in hiring a new agency.

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Celebrating a successful shoot with Variable in the Yukon.

TIP #4: DITCH THE SIZZLE REEL.

Or at the very least modify that sizzle reel. Everyone has them – a flashy montage of your best graphics or moments from spots cut to music. Those can be great (and tend to work better for cinematographers as just a showcase for lighting and direction) but often they feel generic and taken out of context. Customize your message for your audience – know what they’re looking for, and showcase the work that best relates to them. Montage sizzle reels don’t often demonstrate how you can connect with a Client’s needs.

TIP #5: DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

What are your prospective Clients’ challenges? What is your favorite show on their network?  Do you have any insight on what you’ve observed?  A Client is always impressed when they feel like you know more about them than just the obvious stuff. Spend some time looking at their product, and formulate some thoughts and questions about it that can spark a good discussion, and potentially allow you to showcase your strategic thinking. (without telling the Client what they should be doing, of course)

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If you did your homework on me, you’d know that this is my favorite photo I’ve ever helped create. Photo by Joey L.

TIP #6: BE SELF-AWARE.

What is your reputation in the industry? Who is your competition?  Know what the Client may think about you (and your place in a very crowded industry) before you even sit down, and you’ll be able to better anticipate challenging questions and have a thoughtful response ready. I ask a lot of Agencies who their competition is, and it’s always very interesting to hear the answer – it helps me understand them a little better, and helps categorize where they fall within a very cluttered marketplace of creative companies.

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TIP #7: DON’T PRESSURE THE CLIENT.

They get dozens of pitches, cold-calls and emails a week, and you don’t want to be the email that sends them over the edge and auto-deletes your emails. Share your work, keep in touch from time to time, but don’t be a nag. When they say “we’ll call you if we need anything!” take that as your hint to back off.  At a certain point, you run the risk of your Agency becoming branded by that Client as a nuisance – and it’s very hard to overcome that. In the research for a Promax/BDA panel “Don’t be an asshole” our industry research found that nagging from Agencies was the #1 biggest complaint from Clients. If you don’t do the calling yourself, but rather hire a Rep to help drum up business – make sure you know what that Rep is doing. Do they reflect your company’s style and personality?  Make sure you’re crystal clear how you want to approach new Clients, and that they aren’t selling your business in a manner that you wouldn’t do yourself.

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TIP #8: BE CREATIVE IN YOUR APPROACH.

You say your agency creates breakthrough, clutter-cutting creative? Prove it in your approach to the Client.  Generic email blasts and DVD/jump drive mailers are the quickest way to the trash heap. But finding a new, inventive way to communicate with potential Clients could be the way to get that all-important callback.

TIP #9: SHOWCASE PERSONAL WORK.

This is a certainly a familiar Client Blog topic, and worthwhile to bring up again. When a potential Client sees your work, it’s hard for them to know what’s “yours” and what your Client brought to the table – or made you do against your better judgment! When you create personal work that is 100% your vision & aesthetic, it helps the Client understand your sensibilities and potentially partner up on the right projects. Plus, isn’t it just fun to do whatever YOU want to do from time to time?

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From Masters in Motion 2013, that’s me talking about the importance of personal work.

TIP #10: MAKE THE CLIENT’S LIFE EASY.

Not because they’re lazy (which I guess could also be true), but because they’re likely juggling a dozen or more projects at once, sometimes across multiple channels. With only a few opportunities a year to partner with external Agencies, Clients are looking not only for talented creative partners, but also ones that are easy and fun to work with – and won’t cause additional headache.  Position your Agency in a manner that appreciates and understands that Client perspective.

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TIP #10.5: GET SOCIAL.

How is this a ‘half-tip”? Well, because it’s less about a direct pitch of your agency, and more something to think about regarding your brand and the long-game. Share your work across social media, post interesting content and thoughtful insights that will make Clients want to follow and work with you. Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc are all powerful tools for creatives that are often misused or under-utilized. It may not directly translate to work tomorrow, but if done correctly it can build your reputation and brand. (Note: ‘Get Social’ does not mean trying to connect with a potential Client on LinkedIn that you’ve never met.)

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CONCLUSION.

So there you have it. Ten and a half simple tips for pitching your business/services to a potential Client. Some familiar themes from past Client Blogs, and some new ones that I’ve personally experienced.  I always try to approach each new situation with an Agency thinking about their perspective as well. If I were in their shoes, how would I want to be treated/communicated with? Ultimately, the Client/Agency relationship should be symbiotic – without each other, the industry couldn’t exist. Clients need Agencies to provide great work and breakout ideas and executions. Agencies need Clients to keep their doors open and work going out those doors. Both sides being fair and recognizing not only the creative possibilities but the business realities of that relationship is extremely important. It all starts with that first pitch – the first opportunity to get that relationship off on the right foot.

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BONUS VIDEO.

With that, I will leave you with this short video – one of my favorite scenes from “Mad Men” with Don Draper’s wonderful pitch to Kodak. While he is pitching an idea in this video, not his Agency, it’s still a relevant scene.  The creative manner of how he approached the idea hit the Client right in the heart.  It’s a great reminder of the importance of emotion and the connection between product and audience – one of the great truths of advertising. Truthfully, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this video in a relevant blog post before, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Enjoy – and thanks for reading!