Every (prospective) client is different

The subject of this post might sound obvious so why on earth did I pick this topic and what am I on about?!
Well, I thought I would share with you my recent experiences in relation to the differences in personalities and ways of workings from new clients that I have come across and how to prepare for the first meeting.

As expressed on my website, experience has taught me that every client is different in terms of their requirements, their industries, their expectations, their experiences and of course, their budgets. With these in mind, I feel that it is essential that the small business owner can adapt to these inconsistencies, especially if service is core to their offering.

What do I do to give myself the best possible chance of working with this prospective business?

Well, I feel preparation and research play a vital role in preparing for each meeting. Really invest time to get to know the person or persons you are about to meet. Make sure you know their role within their business, their job title, their background and, wherever possible, try and make sure that you know as much as possible about their business. To do this, look at any biography they might have on their website. In addition, do some online research into what they might say on Twitter or Facebook or……..what is said about them. Maybe you could add a Google alert based on any postings, press releases or even trends within their market. Or even, try and get hold of any current marketing material.

Secondly, to demonstrate your credibility, do you have any examples of working with similar organisations or even examples of working within similar markets. Presenting case studies can really help your cause.

Thirdly, not every prospective client will come into a meeting wanting to simply give you their business so it is up to you to convince the prospect that you are a worthy appointee and the right person to deal with. Try to find common ground with them – mirror what they drink if need be – and try and develop a conversation about personal issues. After all, your personality and character are huge influences in the decision process.

Fourthly, try and ascertain exactly what they expect from the relationship – timescales & deliverables. I always take very specific notes so that I can email over a contact report bullet pointing what I got from the meeting. This acts as a point of reference if they decide to appoint you.

Finally, if the meeting moves towards costs, this is actually a good sign. BUT, be very careful not to buy business. Most organisations will respect a business that offers a fair price and will not respect one trying to buy their business. After all, if you don’t value what you do, no one will.

With competition in pretty much every industry and sector increasing, potential clients hold most of the power and are more than likely to be speaking to a number of people offering what you do. The fact that you are sitting there means that you are in with a shout so do your research, be yourself and be confident.

Possible objections when cold canvassing

When it comes to objections, how many could you come up with? How many have you had? I am sure the prospect will have more, but below are a list of the ones I have encountered and some tips to overcome them –

1. Happy with competition – am I the same? Is my offering the same. Very unlikely.
2. Too expensive – how do they know? Prices are project based and talk about value rather than cost.

3. Used you before – may have used the company, but have they actually used “you?” After all people buy from people not companies.

4. No budget – irrelevant as you are in it for the long term.
5. You’re too big; we’re just a small business – flatter them with your attention.
6. Put something in the post – danger here! Tell them that your services are tailored so would be far more beneficial to meet up rather than send literature.
7. Too busy at the moment – very typical. Have your diary open for the next 3 months and just put in a speculative date that can be changed.
8. I’m not interested – anybody in business should be aware of what is out there. Since when was ignorance bliss?!?
9. I’ll think about it – try and help them in the thought process.

If you can keep a mental note of what might come up as an objection you can sort of prepare your answer. My suggestion is to accept the objection and then try and neutralise it by offering a different perspective. Remember that your aim is to get a meeting not to make an immediate sale.

The Brochure Part 2 – A New Approach

Following on from my previous post, I think that the planning and the production of the company brochure should be the catalyst for producing a range of print material for the The Brochure Part 2 - A New Approachorganisation. I am talking about looking at corporate ID and other design issues such as stationary. Either way, my suggestion is to change the way you view printed material to try and produce genuinely client orientated, helpful material that will be collectable rather than binable.

The aim should be that anything printed takes elements of your business and your expertise and, without telling everything, puts it at the client’s disposal  thereby offering genuine help in a convenient format. This should result in it being an efficient sales tool due to its appetite whetting and longevity.

In addition to the brochure, there are also other initiatives like the newsletter. This can be a valuable print tool if well produced. Most organisations find that contributors don’t meet your deadlines and that once a quarter becomes far from easy! Newsletters have to be single-mided and client orientated offering really up-to-date news, opinions, technical advice etc. They must avoid being ego massaging tools!

Whenever consideration turns to print material, the question of design rears its ugly head. Let’s be totally clear, I would never underestimate the power of design. It is undoubtedly a vital element in the marketing of your organisation. With design, you have the power to distinguish yourself from your competition. It is a way to reveal your personality – your brand – so get it right. Use a blend of house style and creative identity.

Print is very much a subject I could go on and on about, but I am hoping that this and the previous article go some way to helping you in your thought process.

Good luck!


During the pitch..

Following on from my last 2 posts, I thought I would continue with some more helpful tips about the actual pitch itself to help you get it bang on.

Enjoy it!

Firstly, if you are going to use charts and/or graphs, be creative. Keep them simple, clear and uncluttered. Do your upmost not to read them and simply talk around them. If you can, use recognisable logos to back up your experience and use multi media rather than powerpoint.

When pitching, one of the key things is to remember not to waffle. In my first ever agency pitch in London, I got very nervous, lost my way and managed to say “etc” about 30 times! Luckily my CEO stepped in and we managed to win the account!
Research has proved that a speaker has the whole audience’s attention for about 10 minutes, half their attention for the next 10 minutes and after 30 minutes, most of the audience are simply not interested and their minds are on other things.
  • Keep the focus on the client’s business – offer reassurances and demonstrate how you add value.
  • Try and make a key point every 3 minutes.
  • Get the pace of your delivery right and try not to use ‘umm’ as a filler.
  • Make sure you are heard by everyone and even try and get interaction from the audience.
  • Body language + eye contact are essential. Remember that the communication of your pitch is 58 body, 27% is voice & 15% is content.

A lot of the rest of my advice is obvious – try and enjoy it, remember that you are the expert, keep hands out of pockets, breathe deeply to calm nerves, if you get stuck – take a sip of water to catch up, dont be arrogant, stick to the timetable etc etc.

At the end of the pitch, CLOSE – ask for the business. Try and leave something behind like a brochure or a DVD of the presentation. When you get back to the office, review things and judge how you think you did………………and, if you win the business- CELEBRATE!!

I hope my last 3 posts helped you and please feel free to get in touch with my via my website or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

The pitch – structure and planning

While undergoing numerous sales training courses when I was working at the Sunday Times and then Miller Freeman, I was always told to :

  • Say what you’re going to say
  • Say it
  • Say what you’ve said

…in other words, remove uncertainty at the start, move on to the detail and then drive the message home via repetition!

    Always plan.
However, following on from yesterday’s post, please find a list of tips that I find help give structure and clarity to a pitch.
  1. Give it a title
  2. Write down in a single sentece what you want to get across to the audience – the “theme” of your pitch.
  3. Give a role to each speaker – DON’T use your MD all the time just because he/she might be a good presenter. Keep in mind that a lot of the pitch may hinge on systems and/or processes so ensure that that person has a definable role within the pitch.
  4. Try and avoid showing an organisational chart.
  5. Use case histories/studies to reiterate your point, but be careful not to give any sensitive information away.
  6. DON’T lie!
  7. Prepare, prepare, prepare!!
  8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!!
  9. Try and pre-empt any questions and harmonize your answers.

Finally, make sure that you demonstrate how you and your organisation can help the client i.e. outline the benefits NOT the techniques you will use.

More on how to use props and the actual steps to take during the pitch later in the week. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below or get in touch with Bath Marketing Consultancy direct via the website.

The beauty parade – before the pitch

In contrast to a credentials presentation or document where the content is usually decided by you, the competitive pitch is led by the client brief. Since this is something you should always receive in advance I am going to split my advice between what to do before the actual pitch and then what steps to take during the pitch itself.

Of course, all pitches are not the same, but my suggestion is to use the below steps as a sort of checklist.

Before the pitch – 

Discuss with your team.

1)Clarify and (if necessary) challenge the brief. Make sure that you understand EXACTLY what is required by who and when. In my experience, it always helps to try and start a dialogue with the prospective client before the actual pitch so call your contact, build a rapport by asking questions. In addition, try and get a timescale and a budget.
2)Determine their attendees. Who is going to be there on the day and possibly their job titles. NEVER have more of you than of them.
3)Plan your team around the response from the above point. Who of your team is the leader. Your leader doesn’t have to be the CEO or MD as the pitch might be based on client services or even creative so match the needs of the client to the correct person in your organisation. 
4)Send your team CVs in advance together with any background literature and decide what you are going to leave behind.
5)Know your competition. This is not always possible, but if it is, prepare comparisons with them and try and present last.
6)Travel to the pitch is essential. Always try and travel in the same car and get there early enough to set up. There is nothing worse that setting up while the client is in the room waiting for you!

These are just a few tips on what to do beforehand. The next post will centre on the pitch itself…..

Seminar or Conference – how to make it a success

Outline the benefits

This is not as easy as it seems, especially when you consider how many are available at one time. In addition, once you have set the date it is going to happen, whether you are ready or not! Deadlines just have to be met and planning is vital so here is Bath Marketing Consultancy’s checklist:

Choose the title with extreme care – It needs to offer something valuable to the audience not just be a sales platform for you and your business. I suggest a title along the lines of “How to…..” i.e the benefits rather than the “We do this…..” type of approach.
Venue – select on the basis of audience (i.e size and type) and your budget. VISIT IT IN ADVANCE to ensure it is appropriate, has good acoustics, air conditioning, good service from the staff, blackout facilities, toilets etc.
Invitations – these should be quality and well produced invitations not just a piece of A4 with lots of words on it about you. These have to be sent out a long time in advance; 2-3 months is about right. Always specify the day, time, contents, directions, parking facilities etc.
Follow up – always telephone as a follow up as opposed to just an email or an e shot.
Day/Date – believe it or not, this can have a massive impact on attendance. Avoid Mondays or Fridays. Obviously avoid National holidays!
Location – again, this is very important. Chose somewhere easy to reach and maybe somewhere where overnight accommodation is available.
Timing – my suggestion is not to run a seminar for a full day on one topic. Offer a morning only starting at about 10am and run until 12.30pm and provide a buffet!
Outside speakers – these really add credibility especially from a client side so maybe look to team up with another business. It also means that the audience wont get bored of one topic. (I ran a seminar on website design and content management and brought in my SEO expert = a natural partnership).
On the day – make sure you arrive early to test everything and then have sufficient staff on hand during the event. Maybe have handouts, badges etc.
Copies of the material – make these accessible, but possibly as a download from your website!!

In summary, if you are going to run an event, do it properly and professionally or risk some serious consequences. You want to be remembered for the right reasons and, if done successfully, a seminar can make a real positive impact on your business.
Need help? Get in touch with me via my website….

Direct Mail – have you used it?

About a year ago, I wrote an article giving tips on how to use Direct Mail as an effective marketing initiative, but I have come across a lot of cynicism recently about its place within strategies.

As I tweeted earlier this morning, I believe there is no such thing a junk mail – only mail that is badly targeted and misdirected. In my opinion, ALL mail has the opportunity to be impactful and interesting and it is your job (or the job of your marketing company) to make it so. Even to throw it in the bin requires an action from the recipient and therein lies the opportunity!

Your prospect probably receives 100lbs of unsolicited mail per year comprising of 500+ items. Ask yourself why your mailshot should be treated differently from the rest? If you send 10 items of literature to perfect strangers, two of them will be binned unopened, another two will be opened but not read. This leaves roughly six that will be looked at. MAKE YOURS STAND OUT!

Out with the ‘junk’
About one-third of mailshots are wrongly addressed. This is something that will have a serious impact on response rates. In addition, do not address your mail shot to ‘The Owner’ or ‘The House Owner.’ Try not to make your mailshot look too much like mail they haven’t asked for; consider all possibilities for personalisation – a handwritten envelope, use a Christian name, use a stamp rather than franking etc.
As we all know timing is essential. Try and avoid any seasonal influences (i.e. half terms). A lot of companies also match their finacial years to coincide with the standard financial year so avoid making offers in March; allow sufficient time to get into peoples’ diaries before budgets are set.

Language is also imperative. Use good English. No mistakes, be brief and to the point and avoid the unclear and ambiguous message. Also, if money is tight, try contra deals with someone else where 2 businesses run a campaign together (e.g web design & SEO) and make the offers interesting, relevant and original.

Statistics say that successful direct mail marketing will yield a 2% response rate. In my opinion this is rubbish. All you need to know is the profit per reply. Ask Johnnie Boden how direct mail works for his business.

Need help? Why not ask me?