How to stand out as a professional promotional services provider

If you offer promotional services to clients, including:

  • Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Conversion Rate Optimisation
  • Lead Generation
  • Cake Decoration

Alright, maybe not that last one. Anyway. It can be hard to stand out. How many things can you really say about Content Marketing (whatever that is!), SEO, or Google Analytics, for example, without giving the game away, boring people to tears, or sounding just like everybody else?

Remove Doubt and Stand Out

Just as charming emails get attention in the inbox, your proposal has to get attention in the boardroom. (Or the small conference room. You know, the one with the whiteboard and speakerphone nobody uses. Used to be a big cupboard. That one).

For example, when I ran a digital agency and we pitched our Content Marketing offering to clients like Symantec, Barclays and Sabre, we would talk up our research and pre-marketing process. The main aim of this was simple: to protect the client from one of their biggest fears when signing a new agency:

Our big ideas would look flashy, cost a lot, yet deliver no results.

Jon Buchan Hotline Bling

Nobody wants to buy expensive bullshit.

When we first charmed Symantec into signing on the dotted line, the whole agency went into a frenzy. It was all hands on deck. The biggest project we’d ever done. All ten of us got stuck into doing research.

  • Finding the best keywords in the sector.
  • Finding the loudest journalists in the sector.
  • Finding the biggest publications,
  • the freshest videos,
  • the dankest memes

You get the picture. We scoured the internet searching for each and every scrap and morsel of data. All manually. We created Excel tables and pivot pivot PIVOTed but it still took bloody ages.

Then, we matched up each journalist with a content idea we wanted to put into action. We outreached to every single one with a personalised, individual email congratulating them on a recent award, mentioning something from a recent article we agreed with, and asking for a little of their expertise on an idea we were cooking up:

“C’mon, mate. Settle a bet. Symantec doing a comic strip to illustrate the dangers of Shadow IT? They won’t go for it, will they?”

Before we knew it, journalists, influencers, and experts in their field were responding to us in earnest, offering their opinions and interest in the ideas they liked – but more importantly, damning in quick fashion the ideas they didn’t.

We took an internal process document and made it part of our pitch. It was simplified, of course. No need for every last detail. But it contained three key sales hooks.

Research, Premarketing, and Charming Cold Pitching

I learned this from Daryl Warner, the best cold calling guy I have ever met. He would take my 10 or 15 (sometimes more!) slides and shrink them down into a 1 minute pitch containing something intriguing that the prospect likely won’t have seen before.

Clients still often ask – quite fairly, might I add – “How do you know this will work?”

We asked ourselves the same question time after time after time.

Results – and a process for how you got them – allow you to show clients a wireframe for achieving similar results for their brief.

If you can simplify your system, and make it so easy to understand that the folks you pitch to can parrot it to their colleagues and superiors, you’ll have a huge advantage.

You can deliberately build systems with some unique mechanisms ro protect against whatever fears clients may have, as long as you don’t expose yourself to too much risk.

Don’t give them too many freebies. Just make a logical argument.

It takes gumption and charm to open opportunity, but it takes more to get people to open their wallets.

Knowledge. Credibility. Enthusiasm.

… And the ability to convince people your approach is going to work, and be more equipped to deliver results over competing suppliers.

If you can take clients on a journey – showing them past results, and the deliberate systems behind them, they will more easily be able to picture your proposed campaign – and it’s successes – themselves.

You can create a paint by numbers picture for them that isn’t vague, fuzzy or abstract.

And with those clever sales hooks, you can focus on how your offering is more effective, efficient, reliable, ethical, enjoyable, flexible, safe, innovative, profitable, easier, faster, and uniquely beneficial to their needs.

Impress your clients, acknowledge their fears, and then quash them mercilessly. You have the ability!



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