You leave the conference room feeling confident — barely able to stifle a Tiger-Woods-like fist pump as the door shuts behind you.
You nailed the presentation. Your team answered all your prospective client’s questions thoughtfully. There’s no way you’re not getting this contract.
Back at the office, anecdotes of your suave salesmanship are shared among the rest of the group, and congratulatory high-fives follow. A high-profile client like this one is going to put you on the map. Their retainer is going to afford you all the sleek new marketing tools that your competitors use.
Heck, maybe you’ll even hire somebody to manage your offshore development team.
But a few weeks go by, and through the grapevine you hear they’re going with different representation. What gives? Where’d you go wrong? What could you have done better?
Fortunately for you, the answers could be hiding in a report from the Agency Management Institute.
AMI conducted a study that polled 500 participants from across the country in a variety of marketing roles. Of those 500 respondents:
62% of the entire group claimed they had the final say on marketing strategy and expenditures for their business, and the other 38% said they were a key part of the decision-making process.
That process, as it turns out, is much different for some businesses than others. For that reason, AMI segmented these respondents even further, into three groups:
These respondents, according to the report, “are looking for a personal connection with their agency partners. For them, meeting agencies face-to-face is a critical part of choosing the right agency.” They have a favorable view of marketing agencies overall.
These respondents are “often required by their organizations to review multiple agencies even if they’ve already identified the ones that they want to hire, and to review agencies frequently even if they’re happy with their work.” That being the case, participants from the arm’s length segment are less emotionally invested than kindred spirits and are more interested in your brand name than a personal connection.
These respondents are “much more skeptical about agencies than the other two groups. They believe most agencies pretend to know more about their industry and their business than they do, and that agencies usually don’t give their company’s needs the level of attention they should.” This segment is much more critical than the others of agency performance.
While their predispositions have an impact on the way they choose an agency, a surprising 57% of all respondents said they “like or love” the process of doing so; and 94% say they believe they’re effective at picking the right representation for their business.
But what does that process entail?
To many who operate agencies, it’s a bit of a mystery. What makes a business choose one agency over another? Why’d you lose that last contract to your arch nemesis?
Maybe it was something you said. Or something you didn’t say? Something you had no control over?
Let’s find out.
For businesses seeking agency representation, experience is key. If you’re already knowledgeable in their industry, they won’t have to school you in all the basics. Not only that, but you’ll likely already have a deep understanding of their audience — their demographics, their pain points, and how to get them to respond.
Some businesses are willing to work with you if you’re willing to learn, but it’s always a good idea to go into a face-to-face with an idea of how the industry operates.
If you’re not well-versed in your prospective client’s vertical, prepare by reading relevant marketing case studies and industry reports formulated by experts in the space. At worst this shows initiative. At best, this knowledge could be what sets you apart from the other agencies competing for their business.
Your internet marketing agency specializes in copywriting, but your client is looking for graphic design, too. Your social media manager kind of understands Photoshop, but not nearly well enough to do what this business is asking for. Are you out of luck?
For bigger businesses, this may not be an issue, as many are okay with hiring multiple agencies to meet their many needs. However, the smaller ones are more likely to be one-stop shoppers wanting to get all their work done in one place.
If you don’t have the in-house resources they’re looking for, at least have access to freelancers who can complete tasks for your client on an as-needed basis. Check out Upwork to find people with specialized skills in a number of verticals.
Your current clients won’t keep handing over chunks of their marketing budget without proof you’re producing positive ROI, so what makes you think prospective clients will?
Make sure, whether you’ve scheduled an in-person meeting or just a conference call, you come ready to prove to your prospect that you’re capable. Bring case studies of current and former clients, along with key data to back up all the promises you make. Without proof that you can deliver, you can’t expect anyone to sign on the dotted line.
Like an arrogant teenager, you thought you knew it all. You spent the entire meeting focused on “me, me, me” — explaining that you’re an authority in the space, and exactly what your prospective client needs to do to boost their business.
What you should’ve done was pause, stopped shoving buzzwords and strategies down their throats, and listened to what they were looking for in a creative agency.
Some businesses have ideas already in place, and just need the staff to execute them. Others want you to not only execute ideas but develop them yourself. One client in the report said of an agency: “they think they can address our needs with little input from our team.”
Next time, don’t be such a control freak. Listen first to what your prospective client’s needs are, then address how you’ll be able to help them after.
74% of respondents said that hearing about agency clients who faced challenges similar to their own, and overcame them with your help, is a major selling point.
Do an audit of their current marketing materials before you meet face-to-face, and figure out where their gaps are. For the meeting, have a few anecdotes prepared about former clients who had the same issues, and explain what you did to solve them.
You wanted to put your best foot forward at the first meet and greet, so, of course, you left the socially awkward copywriter behind. The pitch team is far better at putting on a show and fielding questions from potential clients. There’s no question as to why you brought who you did.
The only problem is, during the vetting process many agencies prefer to meet with the team they’ll be working with regularly. So if you have to help your shy copywriter brush up on his public speaking skills, do it. Bringing him to the meeting next time could be what lands you the contract.
A testimonial on your website claims John the plumber was ecstatic when you boosted his lead generation ROI by 700%. That’s great, but when they called their friend and former client of yours, Mark the IT guy, they heard a different story.
According to the report, recommendations from current and former clients are what get you on a business’s shortlist. Do your best to keep every customer happy, regardless of how big or small they may be. You never know who they could be talking to behind closed doors.
According to the AMI, 49% of businesses say they take three months or more to decide which agency to work with. That means if you’re serious about getting a client’s business, you should expect to be answering emails, taking calls, and scheduling meetings for the next 90 days or so.
Sure, that may sound like a long time, but keep in mind, these are people who are looking to form a long-term relationship with your agency. If you can’t keep an open line of communication for three months, why should they believe you’ll be able to promptly meet their needs as their agency of choice?
Make sure your staff is always available to take any questions that a prospective client may have during the vetting process.
While most marketers couldn’t care less about appearances, unfortunately, that’s not the case for the people looking to hire them.
The “arm’s length” demographic expects you to be an authority in your space. They’re looking to align themselves with a prestigious brand that collects awards, speaks at industry events, gets regular media coverage, and has sleek offices in multiple locations.
This demographic also happens to be the one with the deepest pockets, so if it’s a fat contract you’re after, you’ll have to work on keeping up appearances to land it.
When asked why one business was so successful at choosing the right agencies routinely, they responded by saying, “All agencies are reviewed by a variety of staff, not just the marketing department.” Be prepared for this type of gauntlet-style interview should you be called in for a meeting.
When we said earlier you should bring the whole team, that means everyone within reason.
It’d be silly to bring all the designers, customer service coordinators, search engine optimizers, and copywriters responsible for handling the potential client’s work. So instead, bring a few executives or managers who have in-depth knowledge of how the agency operates at every level — ones that will be able to field questions from a wide variety of interviewers.
Just make sure they’re part of the team that’s going to handle the client’s work on a regular basis.
Wondering why you didn’t get a call back after submitting a proposal to that prospective client? One respondent from AMI’s report has an answer for you:
Often, because your agency is so focused on client work, your own marketing materials suffer as a result.
You’ve been meaning to replace those cheesy stock photos on your homepage for almost a year now, and you haven’t released an ebook since that first one in 2011.
If that sounds familiar, it won’t matter that current clients may have wonderful things to say about you. Many times prospective ones will discount your agency before they get a chance to hear them.
Make sure you’re projecting a professional image by giving your website, blog, and social media accounts the regular TLC they need.
When asked by AMI what will immediately disqualify an agency from getting their business, one respondent said, “Their proposal is filled with typos.”
There’s no excuse for this one. It’s laziness — plain and simple. When you’re crafting a document as important as a proposal, it’s probably wise to hand it over to a copywriter to proofread when you’re done. Then have that copywriter hand it to her editor.
In fact, get as many eyeballs as you can on it before you send it in. It’ll decrease the likelihood you make a mistake that immediately ruins your chance of earning a client’s business.
For the “been burned” group, building trust from the get-go is crucial. Do more than just promise results. Agree to hold yourself accountable.
Send in weekly reports, and work out a way to schedule regular performance reviews. The key here is to prove that you’re not only the best choice, but you’re the safest one as well.
What’s your digital marketing agency’s client acquisition success rate? How do you continually impress clients to win their business?
Let us know in the comments, then start projecting a professional image using Instapage’s landing page software to create beautifully-functional pages in minutes.