No matter what kind of agency you’re a part of — whether it’s web design, pay-per-click, content marketing, or conversion rate optimization — at the most basic level you’re all selling the same exact thing:
If you’re a copywriter, those ideas might be expressed in the form of a powerfully emotional brand narrative. If you’re a search engine optimizer, they might help you bring attention to a worthy cause.
Regardless, you’ll never get a chance to follow through with your ideas if you can’t convince your clients they’re worth pursuing. To begin converting client's head shakes into nods, heed these words from industry leaders, polarizing characters, and history’s greatest thinkers:
Present big marketing ideas in small packages
Big ideas are what drive businesses forward, but if they’re not condensed into smaller packages, they have the potential to sound overwhelming.
Sure, you and your team understand how you’re going to generate 100% more leads per month for this particular client, but all they may see is a lofty, seemingly unattainable goal. If your client seems suspicious, explain step-by-step how you plan to make it from point A to Z, along with all the tools and strategies you’ll use throughout the process. The more you break it down, the more realistic it becomes.
When you’re tempted to overshare all the big plans you have for a client, remember this line from the classic film Lawrence of Arabia: “Big things have small beginnings.”
Back up your ideas with research
Fact: 93% of businesses today use video in marketing.
Fact: 78% of people watch online video every week.
Fact: 95% of viewers retain the message they see in videos.
It’s statistics like these that have the potential to give an idea the foundation it needs to gain the approval of a committee. Citing them before you go into your presentation on how you plan to transform your client’s business with video marketing will give it an added element of persuasion, rooted in research. It’ll also prove your willingness to prepare.
As Alexander Graham Bell put it, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Drop the buzzwords and the jargon
You wouldn’t pump your landing page full of jargon, so why would you use it during your presentation to your client?
To you and your team, the explanation of your idea may sound simple, but it could sound like an entirely different language to your audience. You shouldn’t assume they’ll understand terms like “UX design” or “CPC” that you use amongst yourselves throughout the office. Instead, talk to them about improving their “user experience through sound website design,” or lowering their “cost per click.”
In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Court your prospective clients
Winning over clients is a little like dating. If you don’t put in the effort outside of face-to-face meetings with your significant other — answer phone calls, texts, emails — your relationship is doomed to fail.
Most marketers understand that you can’t rely on a single pitch to win you business. It takes days, weeks, sometimes even months before a client feels comfortable enough to roll with your idea.
"The final pitch is no longer about the big show; this was how pitches were won in the 80s and 90s,” says Frazier Gibney, Chairman of independent agency Inferno. “Nor is the presented 'big idea' the only tipping point, ask anyone in the game and you'll find it very rare to see pitch work running. The win starts well before the pitch, initially by the new business team, when the early relationships are nurtured."
Leverage case studies
Finally, your meticulous record-keeping of all the client work you’ve done to date is going to pay off.
We learned in a report from the Agency Management Institute that clients are more likely to be receptive to your ideas if they’ve produced positive results for similar businesses before. Being able to cite examples of specific case studies will prove that you can back up all the promises you’re making.
As one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, put it: “Well done is better than well said.”
Understand where their business is coming from
Another important takeaway we gleaned from AMI’s Hiring and Firing Insights Report is that clients approach the new business search very differently. Some are amicable toward agencies while others that have “been burned” before are harder to win over.
Do some digging to find out if they’ve outsourced their marketing to another agency before — and why they’re seeking new representation. Identifying where previous agencies went wrong will help you formulate fresh ideas your client hasn’t tried before.
In this case, follow the old English proverb: “To know where you’re going, you must first know where you’ve been.”
Present your idea passionately
Are you enthusiastic about your work, or is it something you lazily threw together at the last minute?
Whichever it is, you can count on your client’s ability to tell.
When you finally unveil your idea, be excited about it. You can’t expect your client to be if you’re not. Take some presentation tips from legendary speaker Steve Jobs, and never forget these words from English poet Samuel Coleridge: “Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.”
Speak the language of the bottom line
If you’re determined to win over a client, you need to understand one crucial thing about your idea:
Your clients don’t care about it.
The only thing they care about is results; so make sure you’re speaking their language.
If it’s brand exposure they’re looking for, tell them how many eyeballs your idea is going to attract. If they want to boost ad revenue, explain how much money it’ll help them earn.
As prolific businessman James Ling used to say, “Don’t tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done.”
Some Buddhist monks spend their lives traveling from place to place creating beautifully intricate sacred designs called “Mandalas” with millions of grains of colored sand. The laborious process can take hours — even days to complete.
When it’s finally finished, the monks pray over the design, then completely destroy the entire thing. Why?
The ritual reminds us to refrain from forming attachments because nothing in life is permanent — not our wealth, our relationships, or even ideas.
So if you worked late nights and skipped social events to prepare this spec work for your client, be willing to let it go.
Remember: your idea is only a means to an end — that end being to satisfy your customers. If they’re not happy with what you have to offer, channel your inner John Wooden and remember: “Flexibility is the key to stability.” Then head back to the drawing board.
Make them think they came up with the idea
Douglas Van Praet, executive vice president at agency Deutsch LA and author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and inspire) Marketing, claims that if you want your client to fall in love with your idea, you should convince them that they came up with it themselves.
"The brain doesn’t always clearly differentiate between something real and something imagined,” he says. “Our imagination and our perception of the real world are closely linked since both functions engage similar neural circuitry. Numerous scientific studies confirm that visualization and mental imagery enhances actual physical performance, demonstrating the very real benefits of mental rehearsal. If you can get someone to imagine something vividly enough, you are well on your way to making the suggestion real."
Instead of coming right out with the idea, lead you clients down a descriptive path to it. Nudge them in the direction of your idea until they have a “eureka” moment.
And if it’s credit you’re worried about getting, don’t. At the end of the day, John Lewis said it best: “Who gets the bird? The hunter or the dog?”
Tell a story
Facts, statistics, and research will all help you persuade your clients to run with your idea, but only if they’re presented in a compelling way. As Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich explains:
“If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca's area and Wernicke's area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that's it, nothing else happens.”
But things change drastically when we’re told a story, he claims. Descriptions of sounds, sights, and tastes can activate parts of our brains that experience those sensory events. Not only that but in every aspect of our life, our brains are actually wired to think in narratives and stories.
We’re used to them, they entertain us, and they improve our comprehension.
Use this advice from Russian playwright Anton Chekhov to completely immerse your clients in your next big idea: “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Listen to the client
All the ideas you have may be innovative, but they might not be needed. According to AMI’s hiring and firing insights, while some businesses expect you to take hold of their marketing process from ideation to execution, many already have their own ideas in place, and simply expect you to carry them out.
Don’t spout off all the ideas you think would be beneficial to your client; rather, heed these words from Ernest Hemingway throughout the earlier stages of your relationship: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” That way, you’ll know what they want instead.
Get to the point
“We in the agency world forget that while we pitch often, for the prospective client, this is an unusual event. They see this as the beginning of a new tomorrow filled with opportunity. They're excited. And then your agency comes in and spends the first 20 minutes blabbing about yourself or setting up some elaborate ‘understanding’ or something equally not about the task at hand — and you lose them.”
When pitching your next big idea, don’t bore your audience by droning on about your agency’s accomplishments. Like you would on a landing page, convey value, and do it quickly. Your chances of converting will be much higher.
You have more ideas than you think
Don’t forget, your product or service stemmed from an idea too. It’s the solution to a problem that your business uniquely solves.
So when you need to pitch it persuasively to your website visitors (or your client’s), don’t forget this quote from Instapage’s founder, Tyson Quick: “Every promotion needs a page.”
Create yours in just a few minutes using Instapage’s 100+ expert templates and fully customizable software.