1. What is my most intelligent business objective?
Where and how can direct marketing contribute to its achievement?
Never forget that the aim of business is not just to make an immediate profit, but to get more customers and keep them longer.
Research by Ehrenberg et al. shows that in highly competitive markets the more customers you have, the stronger your brand – that is, the more they are willing to pay and the less likely they are to drift away.
Moreover, the longer you keep them, the better you will do; and how you well you serve them will determine how much longer you keep them.
2. What is marketing?
“Identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
Chartered Institute of Marketing
Everything starts there.
A good product, even poorly sold, will do better than a bad product, however well sold.
3. What is “positioning”? And does it matter in DM?
You are wise to spend more time improving your product or service and thinking about its positioning than anything else.
The positioning is the ‘character’ or personality of your product, service or firm, as opposed to what it is. Is it efficient? Or friendly? Or cheap? Or a luxury?
How do your competitors see you? How do your employees and shareholders see you Who do you think you are competing with?
How you are perceived and your position in your market should govern much of your direct marketing – or any other communications.
For instance, the tone of voice you use when communicating with people, the frequency with which you communicate with them, and the types of offer you make to them. Indeed, everything – right down to the emphasis you place on your brand name in your communications.
4. What is a brand image?
James Webb Young, a famous creative director in the early days of J Walter Thompson, theorised that one purpose of advertising was to build into the product an added value beyond its physical constituents.
This added value derives from the constellation of qualities which together make up the brand image.
One of the great names in packaged goods is Heinz. One of its most famous products in the U/K. is baked beans. Other firms make baked beans, but none is as successful as Heinz. Much of this has to do with the power of the Heinz brand.
One competitor used to conduct regular taste tests to find out how their product compared with Heinz. The taste tests were “blind”, i.e. the brands were not revealed. Their product used to be preferred by customers in the ratio of 2:1. The minute the brands were revealed, the very name Heinz changed customers’ perceptions. They preferred the Heinz product.
Jim Kobs, in Profitable Direct Marketing, tells the story of Montgomery Ward, the American catalogue firm which wished to launch an automobile club. They tested the power of their brand name by doing identical communications to similar target audiences. There was only one difference: one file of prospects was told this was the Montgomery Ward Autoclub; to the others the name Montgomery Ward was not revealed.
At that time the firm was nearly 100 years old. It had a fine brand image. The name doubled response.
It is because of the importance of the brand that the word “image” has emerged from the world of advertising and become general currency. If one were able to calculate the money squandered as a result of that word, the sum would be colossal. How many times, for instance, do corporations imagine that the solution to some endemic problem like lousy products or second-rate service will be simply to have a new ‘corporate image’ created at vast expense?
Sometimes the results can be disastrous. For instance the venerable Abbey firm was almost destroyed and had to be sold off as a result of ill-advised re-branding
Your brand, and its image – or how people see it – result from what you are, what you do, far more than what you say about what you are and what you do.
The way you have dealt with your customers, the products you have sold, the value you have offered, will do more for your brand and its image than anything else.
5. What do you mean by a “strong” brand?
Professor Andrew Ehrenberg of South Bank Business School has probably done more work, with various colleagues, on brands than anyone else in the world.
The conclusion is that the expressions used like brand equity, strong and weak brands are usually far less important than the number of customers you actually have.
6. What are the benefits of building a brand?
How is it that when confronted by two apparently identical products people are willing to pay substantially more for one than for another? On the face of it, there can be no good reason. Yet people constantly do just that.
In America, the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Plymouth Laser were made in the same factory – identical except for the badges on the front. Five times more people bought the Eclipse than the Laser. Even when the Laser was reduced in price to less than the Eclipse it still didn’t sell as well.
A strong brand can induce people to pay more for and buy relatively more of your brand. A strong brand inspires trust and even affection so customers are willing to forgive your mistakes.
If customers prefer your brand, you get more repeat purchases and they stay with you longer. This mean you can afford to pay more to get and keep customers. As a result, you can out-promote your competitor at every turn.
If you make and sell more, economies of scale mean you can, if you wish, undercut and eventually kill the competition. If you sell the same number of items at a greater margin, or even better, more products at a greater margin, you can outgun your competitor at every phase of business, starting with improving your product so as to strengthen your position even further.
Moreover, the longer you keep them, the better you will do; and how you well you serve them will determine how much longer you keep them.
7. How do you build a brand through DM?
A brand is intangible, magic, mysterious – but enormously powerful. It demonstrates the power of image over reality. But can direct marketing build a brand? And if so, how can we prove it? That has been a big debate, and continues to be.
A brand and its image are born of countless tiny things – from the look of your stationery to the language of your recruitment ads. The speed with which people in your firm answer the phone tells the customer something. It is an advertisement. And people forget that direct mail is advertising.
Many years ago my colleagues and I were doing direct mail for TWA airlines – now no longer wth us.
We wanted to know what, apart from getting people to reply, did our direct mail do? Did it shift attitudes?
We asked recipients: if you had to fly across the Atlantic tomorrow, which airline would you choose? Only 11% of those who had received no mailing from TWA said they would choose them. Of those who had received just one mailing four months previously, 27% said they would choose TWA.
These surprising results led us to conduct more tests with other brands including Chivas Regal, Impulse and Codorniu, a Spanish champagne. In all cases we found: yes, direct mail had a significant impact.
I see no reason why the same prinsiplke would not applyto e-mail.
8. How can you measure the impact on your brand of DM?
How do you measure the impact upon your image of direct mail, for example? You wish to have a certain sort of image, which you must clearly define.
Take a file of people and divide it into two halves. Then conduct research either via the telephone or direct mail, asking people how they judge your firm on a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, according to the characteristics you wish to communicate.
You then mail one half of the file using direct marketing. You do not mail the other file – the control file. Mail people several times, then repeat the research.
You can do the same thing – quicker – with e-mail.
All communications affect how you are seen. A single postcard had a significant impact on how customers viewed one of our clients’ brands.
9. What is a Unique Selling Proposition?
Your brand image is an emotional construct. Emotion is ALMOST always more powerful in swaying people than reason, but people like to be able to rationalise their choices. This is where, in addition to the ‘reason-why’ approach, awareness of another advertising theory – the USP – can be helpful.
The USP (or unique selling proposition), formula was developed by Rosser Reeves, an ex-copywriter who became head of the Ted Bates agency in New York. He wrote an excellent book, largely dealing with this theory but also covering other aspects of advertising, called Reality in Advertising.
To establish your USP, you compare your product or service with your competitor’s. Then you determine one feature you have which no one else can offer. This is your unique selling proposition. It is this which you must promote single-mindedly.
Here are some typical USPs:
‘Cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth.’
‘The too good to hurry mint.’
‘There’s more for your life at Sears.’
‘It ain’t fancy but it’s good.’
Horn & Hardart
‘The mint with the hole.’
‘It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.’
One problem with the USP is that you sometimes have to rely upon some pretty trivial points of difference to arrive at your proposition – as you can see from the list above. For simple products a good USP may often supply a successful selling idea, it is hard to arrive at one for complex services such as American Express or the Customers’ Association. Sometimes the secret is to say what others can say, but say it more persuasively or more fully.
10. What problems should international marketers watch out for?
‘Men’s natures are alike; it is their differences that drive them far apart.’
Different nationalities are far more alike than you might expect.
They may eat differently, have different views on sex, marriage and religion. But they all want to be happy, rich, respected and comfortable.
Don’t be too impressed by people who tell you “we are different here”.
In finance and business, people often have the same motivation.
So never ignore an idea that has worked in another country.
Many firms like American Express, Reader’s Digest, Procter & Gamble, Disney and Coca Cola find similar approaches work everywhere.
Cultures differ – but if the benefits of the product apply, then the same approach often works.
First try what’s worked elsewhere, with the minimum change to suit the market. Then try something else if that doesn’t succeed.
Cultures affect how decisions are made.
In some countries management is dictatorial; in others democratic. The same with families. In some countries husband and wife decide together; in others one is the boss.
11. How can I determine my product’s strengths?
Seventeen questions to ask yourself
Is it unique? Less expensive? Or quicker?
Better value for money? Better designed? The latest? The friendliest?
The first of its kind? The most fashionable? The oldest established?
The most highly regarded? The one experts prefer? The most reliable?
Are your products better designed? Are you easier to deal with?
Is your service better?
12. Can direct marketing work as corporate advertising?
The answer is, yes.
Any message you send out affects how people see you.
But it takes years to shape the public’s view of you.
Firms suddenly start investing in corporate advertising when they think they’re going to be taken over. This is almost invariably too late. You must be consistent and persistent. Once again, you have to spend the time, the money and the effort. A last minute campaign will never solve your problems.
It sounds pretty obvious, then, that you must spend the time, the money and the effort to send out communications that look and read well. You cannot betray your corporate image by putting out ugly Direct Marketing.
What about bad mailings? Mailings that may work, but alienate people? A few years ago I saw research which indicates that if over a period of time you continue to run promotions which may work, but which the public don’t like, you will run into trouble.
Let’s suppose you’re running garish, vulgar sweepstake mailings. Yes, it does work the first year. The second year. The third year. The fourth year. The fifth year. But each year, people may like it less and
This does not mean don’t use sweepstakes and competitions. But if you are concerned about your corporate image, if you send out trashy stuff it does your image no good whatsoever. The public will one day judge you and find you wanting.
David Ogilvy used to say you should never run advertisements you would not like to show our family.
Who are your family? In this case, your investors, your staff, your customers. When you review anything, ask yourself: Would I be proud to show that to my staff? Would I be proud to show it to the people in the City?
13. What’s the secret of making great speeches and presentations?
How to present successfully
Here are some of the things to bear in mind before the presentation takes place.
Perhaps you are familiar with the little scenario entitled: ‘I’ve got a taxi waiting at the door – is the work ready?’ It’s the sort of thing that happens far too often when the time available for a job has not been managed properly.
Time is vitally important in our business, and above all in presentations. Indeed, more good work than I care to think about dies the death because somebody could not work out how many days there are in a week, or how many minutes there are in an hour, and didn’t allow enough time.
The moral being:
Manage time properly
If you’re the client contact, don’t promise something that can’t be delivered in the time available. If the client insists, let him know the consequences – likely errors, work that’s not quite as good as it might be.
Once you’ve made sure you’ve got enough time for a decent job to be done, it’s essential that the creative people are aware of the deadline. You must also allow enough time to review the work in progress (maybe more than once if it’s a big project). And allow yourself time to familiarise yourself with the rationale for the work.
Make sure everyone believes in what you’re presenting
No matter how enthusiastic you are, it’s very difficult to sell something if everybody involved doesn’t actually believe in it.
So you need to know why the creative people think their idea is a good one. Let’s face it, if you don’t know what’s in their minds, you certainly can’t explain it to the client. Indeed, you may even find yourself in the uncomfortable position of presenting work you don’t actually agree with, or (maybe worse) seeing your creative partners enthusiastically put forward views you don’t share.
The creative work is the visible manifestation of all our efforts. All concerned must be committed to it, and understand the reasoning behind it.
Structure, rehearse and time the presentation
The presentation has to be carefully structured with each element given its due weight. And also carefully structured to make sure we don’t spend time talking about ourselves, when the client wants to hear about his problems.
The client really isn’t interested in how many directors you’ve got, or the names of your other clients, as much as in what you are going to do for him or her. Those things may be of interest, but only as support – as credentials. Never put them at the beginning of the presentation.
You have to make sure that the things the client is most likely to be interested in are given the most time and emphasis. You certainly don’t want to end, at the magic moment the client has been waiting for – usually when the creative work arrives – he or she has either fallen asleep, or there is insufficient time to give it full justice.
But once again, timing is critical. Clearly, you have to allow enough time to get the work done. But making the presentation itself run to time is perhaps even more vital.
Long amateurish presentations are the bane of our business. Many presentations which certainly should succeed do not because they have not been rehearsed or timed.
I have attended literally hundreds of presentations where the agency failed to keep to the allotted time. I would go so far as to say that the majority of presentations overrun.
Most clients are too polite to tell you to shut up, but it happens sometimes – and I don’t blame them. After being bored to death for half an hour over the allotted time, they say: ‘I’ve had enough’ – just as you’re about to come up with the piece de resistance.
So, rehearse at least once, and time each section carefully. Don’t accept mere promises that people will keep to time. They never do.
Finally, err on the side of brevity, not length.
I recall, some years ago, making a presentation with three of my colleagues to gain what turned out to be, eventually, our largest client. We did the whole thing in 55 minutes. And it included presenting over 20 pieces of creative.
I have now finished with the matter of time and I hope you clearly understand how important it is.
Seek independent comment
There is a great temptation, because you want the presentation to succeed, to convince yourself that it is brilliant. Don’t. Be as critical as you possibly can, and listen carefully to the criticisms of others.
If possible, let someone unconnected with the presentation see it, ask questions and comment.
Do you know who will be present from the client side? What are their jobs? How do they think? Who matters? Who doesn’t?
Where is the presentation to be held? Your place or theirs? If possible, make it your place. But wherever it is, be there in advance so that you can survey the scene. This is particularly important if it is at the client’s offices – but it is easy to imagine that everything is going to be OK just because it’s in your own. Don’t count on it. You would be amazed at the number of things that can go wrong – and probably will.
There are many practical things to consider when you look at the venue. You have to check the equipment. You have to sit in the room and see whether you can see the slides or visual aids when they are displayed. There is nothing worse (and, once again, I have seen this happen far too many times) than having little things go wrong. Illegible type or inaudible tapes can kill great ideas faster than anything else.
The client’s reaction, naturally, is ‘If they can’t get a mere detail like that right, what the hell are they going to do to my business?’
One important issue is: Where is everyone going to sit. Avoid seating arrangements which place you opposite clients. The idea is to mingle, so that the process becomes physically joint, not antagonistic.
(Psychologically it is often a very good thing to rearrange a room to suit yourself. You are taking control of the situation in advance, and this can pay big dividends.
Determine how many people you should field – and who.
Not too many. Everybody at a presentation should be there for a reason. Often there is a temptation to drag everybody and his mother in and get them to do a 3-minute slot in the hope that the client will be impressed by numbers. The net result: a series of people the client can’t remember, all jumping up and down like jack-in-the boxes. It’s confusing, boring and unnecessary.
On the other hand, a change of presenter in a long presentation can add interest. (It is fair to say that one school of thought feels strongly that you should just let your best presenter do the whole thing. This, I know, is what David Ogilvy used to do. Sadly, we have few embryo Ogilvy’s available in our agencies.)
So, make sure you weed out anyone who would just be there for the sake of it. You must be firm about this.
You don’t want the client to feel as though he’s surrounded by an army of obsequious grovellers – possibly even threatened by them. Many clients wonder whether they are paying for hangers-on, and resent it. Others, of course, do like a show of numbers to make them feel important. If so, oblige them – but don’t overdo it.
And one important tactical error: don’t wheel in very senior agency people to present to relatively junior clients. It makes them nervous, whilst simultaneously lowering the status, by implication, of your senior people.
Should the creative people be there?
This is a common question. The answer is, in my view, that if the presentation is important, yes.
Clients often like to meet the creative people, and find out what they’re thinking. Creative people who are proud of their work often want to present. If so, and they’re articulate and have presented to you all in a way you find convincing, let them do it.
One bonus is that if work gets turned down the creative team sees why. They appreciate the client is not an ogre, but someone just like them trying to do the best job he or she can.
What should be the tone of the presentation?
It’s important to decide what degree of formality is appropriate for a particular presentation.
Major presentations tend to be of a formal nature, minor ones informal. But this may often depend upon the nature of the client or, for that matter, how close your relationship is with the client.
For my part, I counsel informality, except when the issues are important. A relaxed atmosphere, in my view, tends to be more beguiling.
Does the presentation have a theme, and some drama?
Most presentations are simply a boring and turgid recital of facts and figures, culminating in the presentation of the creative work. By which point, most clients have lost interest.
Why are they so dull?
Because people fail to apply the same thinking to a presentation as they would to, say, a direct mail shot, or a TV commercial. They fail to remember that first of all they must interest people. And the whole thing must have some point to it.
A great man once said: ‘There is no theme to this pudding.’ And a theme is what you need for a presentation. A thread which runs through it and is pursued logically to the close.
And, of course, just as with any piece of creative work, you need a striking opening which will capture attention. In fact, if you want your presentations to succeed, you would do well to remember that they are themselves pieces of creative work.
Have the right frame of mind
Napoleon once observed: ‘In war, numbers are far less important than morale.’ This is true of many things, and certainly true of presentations.
If you have the right frame of mind, you’re far more likely to succeed than otherwise. If you remember that the client is not your enemy but is coming in the hope of seeing good creative work, you will approach the whole affair more successfully.
Your job simply is to show the client why what you’ve done is good, and relevant. The presentation is an opportunity to demonstrate how excellent the agency is, not a ritual sacrifice.
1 might add that having the right frame of mind will be very much governed by whether you have taken the trouble to do all the other things I have listed.
One last piece of advice: make it fun for everyone. When clients come to agencies, they like to have fun. Don’t be bores. Show that you are enjoying yourselves, and that you expect him or her to enjoy themselves.
The great day
1. Be punctual
You can lose the sale before you begin if agency stragglers stroll in after the appointed time of the presentation. You should be there well in advance anyhow to check out the room, as I’ve already pointed out.
Being unpunctual shows you don’t care enough about the opportunity. That you are impolite and incompetent. Moreover, it is expensive to have highly paid executives sitting around waiting for some minion to condescend to appear.
2. Introduce everyone
Make sure everyone understands who all the other people are in the meeting. (There can be some very embarrassing mistakes made if you don’t realise the precise rôle of all those present.)
3. Outline the problem and the objectives
This is extremely important. You must all be agreed on what you are there for. It may even be worth pinning the objectives up on the wall prominently and leaving them there so that everyone can be reminded of the subject at hand.
Another advantage is that if the client has suddenly changed the brief – which can sometimes happen – he can tell you immediately, thus avoiding wasted time.
4. Explain your reasoning
Few of us – either Clients or agency people – are good at analysing complex problems quickly, or immediately appreciating why particular creative solutions are arrived at.
Accordingly, no matter how brilliant you think your thinking is and no matter how striking you believe your creative solution to be, you must have a sound rationale.
How did you arrive at your solution? What alternatives did you explore? ‘What did you reject? Take the client on the journey to the answer.
It’s important to remember that the fact that you and the agency think the work is brilliant is not an argument in its favour. You must give other, objective reasons. Tell why you have done what you have done; cite other authorities; give proof.
For instance, if a headline is long, explain that research has shown long headlines work better than short. if you’re using a photograph rather than an illustration, explain it is more convincing – and so forth.
5. Always repeat
George Bernard Shaw said the way to write a play successfully was to “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; then tell ’em; then tell ’em again.”
This is a good principle for presentations. The presentation you have laboured on and thought about is now familiar to you. But the client has never before heard what you are about to say. It may be difficult to take in. Repetition will do the trick, as long as you don’t treat the client like a half-wit. A good idea is to simply say: ‘Is this clear?’
6. How many creative solutions should you present?
Preferably only one. The one you believe to be best
On the other hand, there is no reason why you cannot go through some of the alternatives you rejected before coming up with your perfect solution.
But if the client insists on having more than one solution, never forget there are more ways than one of skinning a cat. But only present alternatives that you genuinely believe in. You are not there just to demonstrate how many clever ideas you’ve had.
Discuss the merits of each solution, ending up with what you believe to be the best one. If you aren’t sure which is best, don’t be afraid of admitting it.
One danger when showing alternatives is that clients are tempted to combine two or three and produce a mongrel. That’s why you must make your arguments crystal clear.
7. Presentation is not confrontation
Do not ram anything down the client’s throat. Say what you have done, why you have done it and why you think it is right.
It is not your job to hard sell the client. He likes to feel he makes the ultimate decision. It’s his money. On the other hand, don’t grovellingly acquiesce to everything he says. If you agree with everything he says, what the hell does he need an agency for?
8. Don’t just present to the big cheese
Although you must be aware of who is the important decision maker, ignoring the others will antagonise them. (Which could be fatal later, because they may be the people you are actually going to have to work with day-to-day.)
9. How to deal with questions
If possible, let questions be asked at the end. Politely ask the clients to make a note of any questions they may have, because you may well cover them during the course of the presentation.
Some clients prefer to interrupt and ask questions as they go along. If so, it’s their money – let them do it.
Never dismiss questions out of hand – no matter how foolish you may think they are. If you don’t understand a question properly, don’t be afraid to say so.
And never underestimate one important fact: all clients think they’re experts. Everybody, from banker to housewife, has an opinion about advertising. And they all believe they can write direct mail letters. This is something you have to accept and overcome, by producing work which is clearly much better than anything they could do.
10. Listen carefully
Many clients are difficult but that does not necessarily make them fools. Also, they are the people who pay your salary.
Agencies tend to be somewhat arrogant, and many a meeting has gone astray because the-agency has blithely carried on ignoring the fact that the client is saying: ‘I don’t like this.’ Often, the client is right and you aren’t. Often, too, the client can improve on your thinking. He certainly ought to know his business better than you do.
11. Ask for a reaction
It is wise to encourage a reaction from clients. You want to know what they think, but you want their comments to be considered. Therefore, after you have got the initial reaction, try not to let them go through all the work on the spot (unless they appear to have bought your ideas with enthusiasm, and simply want to make a few small amendments.)
Normally, you should suggest they go away and reflect on what they have seen, because you’re sure they’ll have comments which you would welcome. Under no circumstances let them start going through the copy piece by piece and changing words here and there. This is an utter waste of time.
12. Don’t duck the essentials
Although they are not very interesting, the logistics of how an account is going to be handled, and how the work is going to be prepared within the constraints of time and money involved are extremely important and must be covered.
Even more important, and something many agency people are frightened of talking about, is money.
I have been to countless presentations where the agency was unwilling to give the client even the vaguest idea of how much money it was all going to cost. It is extremely important that this hurdle is leapt over right at the very beginning. Later on you could find yourself in a real financial squeeze if you have not done this.
Never forget that it is at the moment when the client has seen the work and enthusiastically bought it that he (or she) is most willing to pay out good money for it. Later on, when you are battling your way through getting everything done, the client will be far less enthusiastic about parting with cash.
It is a good idea to explain clearly why you are charging what you are charging; how you have worked it out; and even, sometimes, what sort of profit margins you operate on.
How to present the work
Often how you present will be determined by factors such as time, money and personal preference. Thus, it is crazy to spend a fortune on slides or typeset boards for a relatively unimportant presentation. The opposite, of course, applies.
I recommend that you present in a way that you feel most comfortable with. Always bear in mind that if you are going to use an overhead projector or slides, then it must be a lively presentation. Otherwise, in a darkened room, you will face the severe danger of people literally falling asleep.
Having said all that, let’s turn to the tricky business of presenting creative work.
1. Where do you start?
Start where you feel the reader or viewer is likely to start in the pack, ad or commercial. E.g.
the front of the envelope or the headline or the beginning of the commercial.
Explain how what you have done fulfils and relates to the proposition you’ve already explained; and why your proposed method is the best way to draw people into the message.
2. It’s important to rationalise
Reiterate why a particular piece fits into the logic you’ve already explained in the presentation. Show bit by bit how the various parts of a piece bring to fruition the thinking you’ve already revealed.
3. How do you show direct mail?
If there are only two or three people there, it’s perfectly OK to show a dummy and go through that pack, starting with the front and back of the envelope, then opening it up to show how the piece ‘tracks’.
If large numbers are present, I recommend a concept board showing an enlarged version of the envelope and all the various pieces within that envelope.
4. Presenting Ads and TV commercials
It’s easy to present ads, but TV commercials do tend to be a problem. In my view, it is a mistake to go through a complete storyboard. (Apart from anything else, all too often at some later date the client will ask why the rock you referred to on the left hand side of Frame Three didn’t actually appear in the finished commercial.)
The best way to present a TV commercial is to tell the story – paint a word picture. Just use two or three key frames so that they can understand what’s happening.
Apart from anything else, trying to read the copy and simultaneously describe what’s going on in the pictures in a storyboard is a nightmare of a task.
5. Should you read the copy?
Not if it is long. No sane person wants to listen to you droning on interminably through a 4-page letter, no matter how brilliant.
The important thing to do is to take people through the key parts of a communication: the presentation of the offer, the opening, how the benefit is emphasised, the captions, the subsidiary headings, the P.S. – and anything you think particularly important.
6. Bring the audience close to the material
As you present you can sometimes walk up to the audience and bring the ad or concept board close to them so that they can see it. Then let them look at the package, or examine the ad if there are small numbers – but only after you’ve finished the presentation. Let them examine it, play with it, get involved in it.
7. How to handle documents
If you have a presentation that demands a document, for goodness sake don’t give it to the clients before or during the presentation. It will be a distraction; it will be flipped through while you are talking. Just produce it at the end of the presentation for them to read afterwards. (If you have a very long document, make sure there is an Executive Summary at the beginning, not more than two pages long, for people who are too busy to plough through the morass.)
The follow through, and hints
Has a call report been completed, outlining what happened and what was agreed? This should be checked with all the key people who attended including your main client contact.
You would be quite astonished how often people who were at the same meeting come away with totally different ideas on what happened.
2. Call the client the next day to ‘rehash’ the meeting
This shows you are interested, and gives you a chance to find out your client’s reaction to the presentation – as well as enabling you to show how keen you are.
Sometimes, too, you may discover that although you didn’t quite win the presentation, you may get the opportunity to have a second shot. There have been quite a number of occasions when determined agencies which appeared to have lost an account went back and proceeded to win it.
However, I do not think it is a good idea to keep on constantly ringing up the client and badgering him. It makes you look as though you’re terribly worried and wastes his time.
3. What if you have to sell ‘up the line’?
Often, infuriatingly, you’ll discover that the people you presented to really don’t have the power to make a decision. Or, alternatively, that whatever decision they have made has to be ratified by higher-ups.
If at all possible make sure that you yourselves have the opportunity to present to the higher-ups. If not, then you must do everything you can to prepare your client to do the job for you.
If you do get the opportunity to present to the higher-ups, make sure your clients introduce you. That way they are endorsing your ideas publicly. Let them open the meeting. Let them say that they believe in your proposals. Then they are publicly committed.
4. Reduce material for higher-ups
The top bananas are not going to be as interested in detail as the juniors. So don’t go through the fine detail of all the alternatives you’ve examined. Just show recommended and approved work.
Make sure the strategy is clear, understood and agreed to. Don’t bore with details about costs, timetables and so forth. But make sure they’re there in case somebody wants to know about them.
Above all, don’t embarrass your junior clients at these meetings. Never suddenly produce new work at a higher level meeting which you have not discussed with your lower level client. This can be fatal. It causes confusion, and can make the people you deal with look foolish.
5. When you think the client is wrong
Listen carefully to his arguments. He may be right. But if you’re quite certain he’s wrong, don’t tell him he’s a fool. Just say something like: “Well, I’ve told you why I think you ought to be doing what we recommend, but it is your money. However, I must be honest: if it were my money I wouldn’t do what you propose.”
Remember, you’re not going in to fight to the last ditch. Giving way gracefully is often smarter than fighting furiously. Either you can compromise – which is much better than having a dispute – or you can come back on a later occasion to re-state your case.
If you feel strongly that the eventual decision is wrong, make sure you write and say so. If you turn out to be correct, your judgement will be vindicated and respected in future. If you haven’t bothered to write, and you turn out to be correct, you will probably be blamed by the client for his own poor judgement. Sad but true.
14. Who are you really competing with?
Somebody selling the same things? Banks competing with insurance firms to sell pensions.
Somebody selling it in a different way? Through the post versus party plan?
Somebody selling something that does the same job? Train versus plane.
By asking these questions you can determine what you should be saying – and to whom
Two questions your prospect has in mind:
What will it do for me that nothing else can?
Or can it do something better than anything else can?
If you don’t address these questions, you cannot do a complete selling job.
And guess what your greatest competitor is. It is apathy. People doing nothing – or spending money on something entirely different.