The Art of the Virtual Pitch Part 4: Sealing the Deal With Post-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

Note: This is the last in a four-part series about navigating the unique challenges of pitching without any in-person meetings.

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

If you’ve been reading this whole series, you won’t be surprised to hear that the most important part of post-pitch engagement goes back to nurturing the relationship with the clients. Revisit Part 1 of this series, because you just can’t put too much effort into romancing the client. Being creative and thoughtful will take you far.

Work your relationships: If you got the lead or the opportunity through someone you know, keep close to them. They can give you the inside scoop as to who’s in the running, who’s doing well, and what turned the team off during the pitch process — that allows you to tailor your pitch and the way you follow up.

Go big or go home (when appropriate): For example, years ago we were pitching Cadillac just after their move to NYC. They were looking to update their image, and we came up with a great street art program to show off new Cadillac models. As part of our pitch we created a roadmap for our program in the same street art style and had handouts at the pitch. We built on that after the pitch by having street artists paint a 10’x10’ canvas of the roadmap for the Cadillac office.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes — Fix Them

We’ve all had an “oops!” moment during a pitch, or got grilled by the client and don’t feel great about how we handled it. While it’s important to analyze these moments and improve for next time, a few goof-ups don’t spell failure for your pitch.

The post-pitch follow-up should never just be a thank you note anyway, so take it as an opportunity to round out your pitch in whatever way you want to. Address your mistakes, offer clarity on elements there were a lot of questions about, etc.

Act Like You Already Have the Business

Don’t waste any time showing the clients that you’re excited and ready to dig into the work.

For example, if the clients were super responsive to certain elements of your pitch, create an action plan to show them how that program would get off the ground. Or, say you’re doing a PR pitch and the clients mentioned targeting publication in a specific journal. Show them you’re the one to make that connection. Imagine how the client feels when you’re following up and say you talked to Tom Smith at Dream Journal and he’d be happy for you to broker an introduction.

Do what you’d do if you got the job, like setting up relevant media alerts so you don’t miss the opportunity to congratulate the clients or point out an opportunity. When clients feel confident that you are on top of the job before you even have a scope of work, it answers a lot of questions for them. You’ll have an advantage over the competition when you show that your team needs less guidance, less onboarding.

Do you feel ready to conquer the virtual pitch now? Tweet me @rumekhtiar with any questions about handling pitches in the era of all-remote work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guiding Clients Through COVID-19 Challenges

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you’ve got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy?

The move toward more remote work has been advancing for years, but COVID-19 is forcing an acceleration at breakneck speeds. Scheduling a video meeting while folks work from on Fridays is one thing, but moving your big industry events to virtual-only is something no one was truly ready for. But we should consider this the new normal.

Times of drastically scaled back face-to-face client meetings are likely to pop up several more times over the course of your career. Even if you’ve been lucky enough so far to have no local COVID-19 concerns, you have got to start answering the question: In an age of fewer in-person meetings, how do you adjust your client service strategy and help your clients?

Don’t Panic! You’re Already Pretty Good At This

Less face-to-face time can feel like a huge blow to your client service strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. The number of remote workers and companies with remote work policies increases all the time. Chances are, you already know how to work successfully without routine in-person meetings. Just consider COVID-19 your glimpse into the future.

Inventory your client relationships and determine who’s going to need a new approach when lunch meetings aren’t happening. Whose business is likely to suffer most from periods of widespread quarantine, and how can you expand your scope of work to help them plan a response?

The guiding principles for you and your clients are the same as ever: creativity and communication.

Shake Up Your Client Service Strategy!

When it comes to marketing, you’re going to have to take a whole new approach to your client service strategy. Professional conferences in every sector are being cancelled, postponed, or rolled into online-only events. That means big news about data, clinical trials, product launches, trends, and more aren’t going to be communicated the way anyone planned.

Talk to your clients about what they’ll do if in-person events are off the table. Social media and paid media will have to take a much larger role in pushing out the major announcements usually reserved for the year’s biggest in-person events. Many companies have been dragging their feet on developing robust strategies for virtual events, which is where you come in. Whether it’s a live tweet event, Facebook Live, Instagram stories, or something else, get creative about turning the content you wanted to share “in real life” into great web content such as animation, recorded presentations, infographics, etc.

Embrace the Chance to Plan

Getting clients to commit time and resources to planning for contingencies is never easy, but with this new virus on everyone’s mind, seize the moment and have those big conversations. If your clients aren’t worried yet, push them to imagine what they would do if their field’s biggest meeting got canceled.

Ultimately, planning for something like this makes you and your clients more nimble. You can draw on the lessons learned and shelved plans to adapt to other issues that come up.

If you never have to draw on those plans, that’s great, and you’ll have pushed yourself and your clients to find new and compelling ways to share the information that’s most important to them.

Remote work is only becoming more popular, and there’s no telling when the next global health crisis will have us all stuck at home. Start planning now.

 

 

3 Ways to Maintain Strong Client Relationships

After the initial investment that brings clients on board, you enter a blissful honeymoon phase where everyone’s happy. Resist the temptation to rest on your laurels! Before your clients’ eyes start to wander, do something proactive.

To build on my last article, let’s continue down the road of showing client love and keeping the spark in your client relationships alive.

I used to want my clients to like me. Now I make them fall in love. It doesn’t happen by accident — this is all about strategy. After the initial investment that brings clients on board, you enter a blissful honeymoon phase where everyone’s happy. Resist the temptation to rest on your laurels! Before your clients’ eyes start to wander, do something proactive.

Here are three rules I live by when it comes to maintaining strong client relationships.

1. Merchandise!

You never want your client to think, “what are we paying for?” If you do PR for yourself on a regular basis, they never will. Before a client even asks for an activity or results report, you should have it ready to go. I give mine a new spin by merchandising our work to date. Putting your projects in context this way helps clients better understand how what you do on a daily basis is paying off.

Now I’m not saying to be boastful. Be factual, but remind them of the value that you brought them. And if you’re really smart, you’ll develop the report in a way that they can share internally — helping them do their own internal PR while doing yours as well.

Remember, the name of the game is to help them achieve their communications objectives and, even more importantly, make them look good in front of their boss and peers. On top of that, sharing your reporting is a great prelude to my second tip.

2. Become an Idea Machine

After you’ve shown your clients what you’ve accomplished together, start conversations on where you’ll go next. Mapping out possible futures gets people excited, especially when you’re bringing new ideas to the table.

One of my favorite moves is to walk my clients through case studies on what their main competitors and parallel industries are doing. It’s a casual way to talk about possible roadblocks and how to overcome them. Plus, we get to draw out lessons from what competitors are doing right.

Heard about a conference they should attend? Tell them! Identify how they can push themselves, and how you can help. This is the perfect time to refresh strategy without having to wait for your clients to bring up concerns on their own. You also might hit on exciting ways to expand your scope of work.

Now there is a fine line. If you know your client doesn’t have additional budget, don’t try and get blood from a turnip. If these new ideas will help them look like rockstars, propose shifting existing scope to support the new idea or couch it as something to plan against once budgets are back in play.

3. Take a Page from Amazon – Be Obsessed

Your clients have no reason to leave when you’re more invested in the business than they are — something I’ve been proudly accused of many times. Take a page from Amazon’s playbook and be obsessed with your customer. If you sense that their eyes are wandering, figure out why. Try to better understand them and their industry so you can identify their needs, including which needs you’re not meeting.

When I was helping MetLife recruit mega tech talent, we totally immersed ourselves in the tech community to understand what would draw a candidate to work at a particular company. We hung out on Reddit forums, attended big data conferences, conducted interviews, you name it. In the end, we employed many cool tactics that the big tech players were using to draw talent. For instance, we attracted top engineers through “Easter egg hunts” — basically, hidden messages/code on various websites across their homepage. Once we drew in the curious coders, we gamified the application itself, having applicants code their resume in LinkedIn. Not to toot our own horn, but we won awards for these recruitment campaigns. (I told you to merchandise, didn’t I?)

Success in client services is about constantly strengthening yourself and your client relationship. Just like in your romantic life, you need to put in the effort to keep your client’s eyes from wandering.

Dating Tips That’ll Help Marketers Get Their Client Relationships Unstuck

Committing to improvement is a good idea any time of year, but there’s something poetic about marketers revitalizing along with the calendar. So let’s talk about what we can learn from the intersection of marketing personalization, dating, and client relationships. Are you a good date?

Committing to improvement is a good idea any time of year, but there’s something poetic about marketers revitalizing along with the calendar. So let’s talk about what we can learn from the intersection of marketing personalization, dating, and client relationships. Are you a good date?

I’ve been dating and doing client service (separately) for long enough to know they’re actually pretty similar. When you first get together, it’s all magical. Every text and call makes your heart skip a beat; things you’ve done a million times before feel fresh and exciting. You think about them constantly. However, the newness of the relationship soon starts to fade; you’ve got the scope of work signed and things are just humming along. So you start to rely solely on email and that scheduled “touch base.” Pretty soon, things get stagnant and your priorities shift.

This is a make-it or break-it moment. Will you put in the work to keep everyone at the level of full-heart-eye emojis, or will you get stuck in a routine? Lessons from the dating world can help you get those client relationships unstuck.

Inventory your client relationships.

  • Are you speaking their language by using their preferred method of communicating?
  • Are you still keeping in touch the way you used to at the exciting start of things?
  • Are you genuinely listening and engaged in conversation?

You want this relationship to last, so ask yourself how you could do even better. What if you rolled into your client’s office with cupcakes and cookies — and hung around to enjoy them with your clients? I make a habit of it, because who doesn’t love a treat? High-touch, high value … great date!

But it goes much further than just being the guy that shows up with flowers.

  • Are you proactively suggesting new ideas?
  • Are you forwarding them news that has an impact on their business?
  • Are you identifying materials and work product that went out of your agency that wasn’t up to your standards and then offering to make it right?
  • On the flip side, are you having those tough conversations about parts of the relationship that aren’t working that are faults on their side?

Those big personal investments are the secret to getting client relationships unstuck and, for me, it’s just the natural result of being a friendly, curious person — and it’s the No. 1 reason why my clients are usually clients and friends for life. Sure, this is business, but being open and letting your personality help forge relationships is what guarantees people remember you. I’ve always believed that the way you engage with your clients should stick with them just as much as the measurable outcomes of your work.

In 2020, build your relationship checklist. I’m talking a real, tangible checklist! Keeping track helps you assess whether you’re doing enough to sustain a happy relationship, and it’s a great way to make sure that all of your clients feel special.

Here’s the bottom line: In client services, as in dating, success depends on showing that you care, and putting the work in to keep it fresh. Whether you’re in client services or courting a dreamboat, you have got to nurture the relationship beyond day-to-day work.

Here’s the net-net: it may be a new century, but the personal touch in any relationship stands the test of time.

Chicago With a Purpose: Wrapping up the DMA2013 Session Picks

With apology, I want to say that this blog is a little about me—what topics I’m interested in, and sharing a little bit of this knowledge (or lack of knowledge) with blog readers. In the process, I’m hopeful you’re doing the same bit of pre-conference research—because it is this forethought and planning, beyond the engagements and booth visits on the Exhibit Hall floor, which make for a truly informative DMA13 conference

With apology, I want to say that this blog is a little about me—what topics I’m interested in, and sharing a little bit of this knowledge (or lack of knowledge) with blog readers. In the process, I’m hopeful you’re doing the same bit of pre-conference research—because it is this forethought and planning, beyond the engagements and booth visits on the Exhibit Hall floor, which make for a truly informative DMA13 conference

With the Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference starting literally at the end of this week, I’m still at it here lining up MyDMA2013 schedule with sessions I’d like to attend—admittedly doing some double-booking because of the great, comprehensive content on offer.

Yes clients and professional colleagues are on hand, and I’ll be sitting in on some of their sessions—but my guideposts for session picks are simply the subjects to which I welcome new learning, new updates and state-of-the-art in data-driven marketing such as it is. That’s why “The DMA” is always a conference attendance “must.”

A few weeks back, I cataloged some of first-impression session and events picks here: http://targetmarketing.adweek.com/blog/creeping-up-fast-dma13-making-plans-chicago

I’m hopeful our paths will cross in Chicago as I add 10+1 to the session wish list here…

  1. Who drives client relationships and customer engagement today? Advertising. “Mad Men + Data Specialists: When Two Worlds Collide,” Tuesday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
  2. Follow the money (and media) trail… “Outlook 2014: Data Driven Marketing in an Omnichannel World,” with The Winterberry Group’s Bruce Biegel, darnnit, also Tuesday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
  3. And trending too, “B2B Trends in 2014” with SAP’s Jerry Nichols, B-to-B magazine’s Chris Hosford and leading biz marketing consultant Pam Ansley Evans: Monday, Oct. 14, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  4. “The Big Data Ecosystem: Informing Effective Marketing Campaigns,” with Time Warner Cable—curses, also yet again, Tuesday, Oct.15, 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. This is really a parochial pick, since my apartment building is now allowing RCN to enter my building—and I’m curious to see (finally) if TWC will give me a better deal on pricing its services.
  5. Multichannel (yet digital) ROI—too bad we don’t have offline here, too, but it has some client-side folks, “No BS, Strictly ROI: Definitive Case Study Panel on Successful Multichannel Digital Marketing” with Intercontinental Hotels Group, Travel Impressions, Equifax and FedEx, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.
  6. Pinterest + Email = Customer Engagement, with Sony and (disclosure, former client) The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks—now here’s a social media case study that taps Pinterest users, first I’ve seen in a venue that I’ve attended, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  7. “Creative Masterclass” with “THE” Herschell Gordon Lewis, and it won’t be a horror film classic (one of Herschell’s other talents), but I know it will be entertaining, focusing as it will on word choices and testing with minimal waste. Afterall, we all should test and choose our words carefully, on Monday, Oct. 14, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  8. “USPS Goes Mobile: Direct Mail Integration with Mobile Technology”—hey this is a postal-focused blog, and USPS is offering postage discounts here, so there is money to be made/saved: Monday, Oct. 14, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  9. Evaluating marketing service providers—”Why You Must Look at Least Three: Solutions Showdown.” Yes Bernice Grossman—database marketing extraordinaire—has lined up Neolane, SDL and IBM to help us evaluate and compare leading trigger-marketing vendors, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2 p.m. to3 p.m
  10. The elusive attribution question gets answered, at least by Petco: “Power-Up: How Petco Uses IBM Marketing to Drive Attribution.” OK, this is an IBM-sponsored track on real-time and automated marketing, but I know many brands struggle with attribution assignment in multichannel and omnichannel environments, so I’d like to hear this case study, Monday, Oct. 14, oh well also 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  11. AND a BONUS: Speaking of real-time marketing, my editor Thorin McGee at Target Marketing, is moderating his own panel on “Real-Time Marketing: Tools and Techniques to Own the Moment,” on Wednesday, 10 am – 10:45 am. Do I get extra credit for mentioning this one? Afterall, this blog post was a bit behind his deadline—though I’m hopeful it will be posted on time!

See you in Chicago!