Unleash Your New Business Presentation: Ignore the Brief, Focus on the Client’s Business Objectives

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Brent Hodgins
Brent Hodgins



shutterstock_8606935As you know, clients are often unclear in terms of what they need from an agency. Be it a lack of sophistication or the political complications of conflicting internal agendas, it can be frustrating. Briefs now often feature objectives that read like a laundry list of marketing tactics, with their most critical business needs – and your new business-winning opportunity – buried somewhere between the lines.

While it can be a challenge dealing with this lack of clarity, the truth is that these situations actually present you with an opportunity. They provide a way in which to differentiate your agency by bringing clarity to – and delivering against – that which will most impact the client’s business. And it’s not as complicated as it might appear at first.

The First Three Missteps

As agencies prepare their questionnaire responses, RFPs, and pitch presentations, some will attempt to address as many of the client objectives as possible. A quantity play over a quality play.

Others will focus on those objectives in the agency’s comfort zone. On the surface, they see it as a medium-focused pitch. They believe, “The client is looking for a social media agency.” An agency-centric play over a client-centric play.

Or even worse, some agencies will take all the client’s objectives at face value, without reinterpreting, challenging or providing a level strategic value that improves them. An insecure (or inept) play over a leadership play.

All three are flawed and bring down many a pitch team.

Be Careful of the “Red Herring Objectives”

It’s a challenge for agencies when the client isn’t even clear. To make matters worse, to compensate for this lack of focus, clients will often submit long lists of objectives. One clear sign of danger is when those objectives are vague or “soft,” such as:

  • Drive website traffic
  • Increase our Facebook likes
  • Triple our impressions
  • Improve brand awareness
  • Build consumer recognition
  • Create a dialogue with our target
  • Help our target audience understand why our product is superior
  • Strike an emotional chord with our consumer

These are not meaningful objectives. They are all in fact “a means to an end.” Focus on the end benefit that these softer goals ladder up to.

It’s Right In Front of You

Here’s the best source for identifying meaningful objectives that will command the attention of the client. Answer these two questions:

  1. What are the most significant business and marketing challenges unique to the client's category?
  2. What are the top KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of the category?

Forget all the soft marketing goals. Look instead to the client’s hard business agenda. For example, Key Performance Indicators in the travel and tourism industry include:

  • Inbound Inquires: volume, velocity and quality (think: new sales leads, which they’re likely desperate for)
  • Occupancy Rates: spend and duration (heads in beds, over time)
  • Cross-Sell: spend across all service offerings (think: restaurant, room service, spa, etc.)

Notice the focus isn’t even on “sales” per se, a dark and scary place for many agency teams. However, you are speaking the language of their category - their unique language - and dialing in on some of the most meaningful challenges and objectives. Dedicate your entire pitch to achieving some of those meaningful business objectives noted above and you’ll immediately differentiate your agency. Yes, still include the objectives provided in the assignment, but those will play a secondary role to the client's business. More importantly, you will command the respect of every single senior decision-maker.

This is an effective approach when every other agency is focused on talking about an undifferentiated social media offering or how they’ll build awareness and drive online traffic.

Where Can Business Growth Be Sourced?

Following clarity of business objectives comes clarity of target audience. From which target demo and product mix will the client source the greatest business growth? Unless they have provided razor-sharp direction and rationale for a particular target demo, drive your targeting in the direction of the greatest revenue opportunity. For example, who is most likely to spend the most (or grow the most) with what element of your client’s product or service offering?

The Medium is Not the Message

Only after establishing the business and target audience direction, then speak to the medium. For example, a brief from Weightwatchers.com may position their need as a digital assignment to build awareness and drive traffic. But make no mistake, it is actually a “drive online membership enrollment with women” assignment. The client will care most about driving incremental revenue against their female demo. Build your business case well against that objective and the medium almost becomes irrelevant in winning the pitch. No matter what the brief dictates, the mistake is to think you’re in a medium-centric digital or social media review – which is to put tactics before strategy.

Which Agency Would You Rather Hire?

Is it the one who’s building awareness or the one who’s building the bank account? Here’s the thing, because you can dramatically increase awareness without actually improving a client’s business in a meaningful way, a soft objective like this alone is not worthy of your attention. Positioned as awareness with the end objective of driving occupancy rates – now you have a pitch-winning focus.

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