Fun Client Conversations - Or, Nobody Likes To Be First

Have you ever noticed that everyone wants to be perceived as “innovative” -- but no one wants to actually be “first”?

Think about it.  How many times have you filled out an RFP where someone asked you for “ground-breaking, out-of-the-box, new ideas” that haven’t been done before, and statistical support or analytics to support why this is a great idea for their brand.  If the idea was so ground-breaking and it hasn’t been done before, then how could you possibly have data to support it?  Inevitably your negotiation with that brand will devolve into something like this:

AGENCY/BRAND: It sounds like a good idea, but we have a few questions.

SALESPERSON:  OK, how can I help answer them and get you to try us out?

AGENCY/BRAND: Do you have any past performance on this opportunity?

SALESPERSON: Not really.  You asked for a new, fresh, innovative idea that no one had done before.  That’s what we provided, and we think it will be great for you.



AGENCY/BRAND: Yes, we did, but we want to know ahead of time how it will perform.  Has anyone done this kind of campaign with you before?  Do you have any performance data?

SALESPERSON: No.  This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity.  It was created specifically for you.

AGENCY/BRAND: Hmmm.  Well, can you test someone else with this idea and then let us know how it works?  That way, we will understand it in advance of testing.

SALESPERSON: Really?  You want us to test the customized-for-you idea with someone else -- who would not be you -- and then let you know how it did?

AGENCY/BRAND: That might work for us.  That could work!  Maybe we can try that.

SALESPERSON:  But then, this will not be a ground-breaking, fresh, out-of-the-box idea for you.  It will be an also-ran idea that someone else tested.

AGENCY/BRAND: Well.  Maybe you can deliver some new thinking into the idea?

SALESPERSON: Ummm, OK.  Then, you do understand that we would have a new, new idea, and there would be no data behind that one, right?

AGENCY/BRAND: I think we need to bring this to my manager and see if this will fit into our budgets.  Let’s schedule a follow-up call for next week.  By the way, do you do any CPA?

Of course, not every call with an agency or brand goes like this, but it certainly does happen.  The truth is that very few people like to go out on a limb in a market where the unemployment level is around 10%, and there are lines of people waiting to fill your position.  It’s true from the CMO all the way down to the account executive you work with every day -- people are afraid for their jobs, and fear is a strong demotivator.

Marketers are risk-averse, but you can work around their fears to deliver something they will sign off on.  First, be sure you have a very clear understanding of their goals and the metrics by which they will be measuring success.  Ask the right questions, do your homework, and make sure that you are diving deep into their business to know what they’re trying to accomplish.  Secondly, make you sure you ask the questions upfront: How will you be measuring and providing data to them that aligns with their needs? 

Too many times a salesperson will present click-through as the ultimate metric, but traffic is not the goal.  Customers are important.  Sales are important.  Traffic rarely is the end goal.  Know that traffic typically turns into customers, and get an idea of the ratio between the two, and that can be your strongest weapon.

The best thing you can do is to present your ideas in the context of relative ideas that have worked for other people in the past. Make sure your idea is rooted in something that you have done or seen be effective.  That root comparison is your lifeline to reality; your brand customers need that lifeline in order to justify their existence and keep their job.  The tighter your lifeline, the more likely you are to get a sale!

And of course, be patient.  These conversations will happen, and there’s really not much you can do about it.  Someone, somewhere, is going to give you a hard time.  Just take a deep breath, sit back and try to answer their questions to the best of your ability.

And be sure to share your war stories -- post them on the Spin Board.  It’s fun to share them with others, and they will probably make you chuckle a bit, too!

5 comments about "Fun Client Conversations - Or, Nobody Likes To Be First".
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  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, November 23, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.

    You hit the nail on the head. Lameness is our national affliction today. It makes me sad. One of our ideas is the best sports/entertainment opportunity in the last 20 years. Yup, better than UFC, but since it has a broadcast component, VCs don't understand it. They only like online content. But the money is in broadcast. Hello! And they wonder why there are no IPOs.

  2. Matt Straz from Namely, November 23, 2011 at 10:55 a.m.

    Great post, Cory.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 23, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.

    Terrific post ! In a word, newspapers. And they haven't required or invested in metrics to provide clients or new ideas. Nothing new.

  4. Mike Mcgrath from RealXstream PTY LTD, November 24, 2011 at 6:44 a.m.

    Hilarious! That's the main problem my company has been having for several years... Appreciate that the "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" mentality applies to all sectors including brand marketing, but still, one would hope that advertisers are empowered with enough creative licence to at least be open to talking about new ideas.

  5. Jenifer Joyce from Hacker Group, December 2, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.

    Cory, well said! New thinking and unique ideas won't get very far without thinking them through, ideally all the way to point of sale. This is a critical first step for CMOs and agencies alike to build truly ROI-focused programs mitigate risk, and are measured well beyond clicks. The CMO Council identified the importance of metrics-driven programs, and the ability to "report up" on these as one of the essentials for new CMOs to succeed. You’re right, the stakes are too high for marketers to commit to unproven programs. I’d suggest that in-market testing is the bridge between unique ideas and bankable results (and focus groups are not enough.) By testing a number of approaches and concepts in measurable media, CMOs limit their risk and have confidence to roll out the best performing concepts and strategies because they’re equipped with the results that prove it.

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