Pitch the Right Idea.

By: Greg Brown

Pitch the Right Idea.

By: Greg Brown

5 years ago   |   Research & Strategy

Picture this, ad people: You’re no longer a maker of strategies and ideas – you build homes. A customer comes to you and says, “I want a new home for my family of six. Two bedrooms, eight bathrooms and built completely out of sticks since that’s everywhere these days.”

What do you say?

Probably something like, “Instead, how about if we look at a traditionally built home with five bedrooms and three bathrooms, because not only will that function better for your family, it will make your resale value much higher in the future. And if you’re looking for something cutting-edge, maybe we can look at geothermal energy?”

So why do we, as agencies, let our client come to us with “I want to do an international handstand contest to help sell more chicken sandwiches,” and we ask, “How many handstands do you want and what’s the budget?”

In reality, we owe it to our clients, our team and our budgets to convince clients that we understand the need for a fun and exciting activity to drive adoption – but we need to take a look at the bigger picture and see if we can create something that is sure to be more effective than any handstand contest ever performed.

How many times have you heard something like, “I’d love to understand what we could do from a PPC standpoint to drive more leads. They seem to be leveling out these days!”

So now is the chance – is this an issue of pay-per-click ad optimization or an issue of driving more conversion from PPC traffic? The client approaches the “issue” with the deliverable at the center – but the reality is that a PPC ad is only as good as its landing page. This is just one tiny and relatively perfect example, but you get the idea.

First, let’s look at the why – why does this make more sense than “making the client happy?”

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1. TRUST.

You’ll never be a trusted partner if you don’t make your client uncomfortable from time to time. It’s our job to know the how (the strategy and delivery) to get their what (business change and accomplished goal).

Every agency wants to be the “go-to” – but how do you get there? How do you get to a point where a client is bringing you questions that aren’t relevant to current projects, don’t connect to next year’s planning and don’t end in “What can we get done by EOW?”

The answer is simple enough – give them what they are ACTUALLY asking for, not what they think they are asking for. Think about this – why go with an agency in the first place? It’s because an agency has the people, the time and the knack to dive deep into big ideas.

If you want to open the door to more trust in the client/agency relationship, be the expert they hired you to be.

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2. MORALE.

Nobody, and I mean nobody – in a Dirty Harry voice – likes working on the client who doesn’t innovate.

I’ve seen it too many times to count – agencies get in a place where they let past experiences or client attitude stop them from digging just a little deeper.

“The client is expecting a complete plan.”

“This will never get approved.”

“The client needs something to say yes to.”

“The client doesn’t like to do X on this brand.”

Damnit – if X is right for the goals given to you by said client, then prove that X is going to change the game for their business. The past is the past and things change way too fast in our business not to keep trying to find the best way.

Here’s one more fact about team morale – when your team sees the account team, strategist and planners pushing on the client for an opening they can exploit or an insight worth building on, they will bend over backward to bring something to life that is truly impactful.

You want to get a creative team excited about building a landing page for a rubber stamp company? Show them they’re solving a business problem.

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3. REVENUE (WHAT?!?).

Yep – I said it. Pushing for the right strategy is a revenue-building model for any digital agency.

We essentially have two tactics:

  1. I need to sell everything I present because revenue depends on it.

-or-
2. I need to present everything I can because revenue depends on it.

The latter is revenue that keeps coming back. It’s the kind of revenue that is so linked to a client’s goals that they won’t go anywhere else.

This pains me to say, but ANY agency can give a client what they want. It takes guts to be the team that gives them what they need before they know they need it. It’s that level of partnership that clients shake their heads at six months down the road saying, “What would we have done without Oodle?”

Probably building a new set of banner ads, Mr. Client.

HOW DO YOU DO THIS VOODOO MAGIC CRAZINESS?

Let’s stick with the rule of three.

1. ASK WHY.

Stop saying yes. Seriously, stop. Instead ask, “Why?” every single time you are given an assignment. This comes into play across the board, but here’s how we see it:

How can you know the strategy is right if you don’t know why?

How can you effectively measure the strategy if you don’t know why?

How can you optimize the strategy if you don’t measure effectively (see above)?

2. LISTEN AND REACT.

The great thing about clients is that once they say something, they can’t take it back.

This is especially important when a client gives you the go-ahead to jump outside of a project. If you’re listening, you’ll hear things like, “In the end, we need to move the needle,” or “We can’t forget how this connects to the retail marketing,” or even, “I don’t care what it looks like – I care that it works.”

We talk as a client service team all the time about how we can make everyone else’s job as easy as possible. One of the best ways for us to do that is to clearly connect our strategy with a nugget of insight from the client that is so concrete, we can’t help but build from it as our foundation.

3. BRING IT. (DATA, I MEAN.)

We really are lucky – data is at our fingertips. When you bring a data-driven insight to the table that aligns or challenges a client’s strategic direction, you essentially ask a client to either choose to ignore hard data or find a way to exploit it.

Obviously, you’ll run into challenges in our business – after all, we’re all experts. But the clients who will stick around for a long time are the ones who value the data we can mine in our digital environment. They are the ones who value insights. They are the ones who want partners – not agencies.

END THIS THING, ALREADY.

So go now – push the envelope, fight for great ideas and be the organization that has a zest for changing the game.