Perfect your agency pitch: tips from an in-house marketer

Marketers, looking to land more clients? Columnist Amy Bishop has the inside scoop on what type of information your prospects really want.

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I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve spent 99.9 percent of my career on the agency side of the fence. In that time, I developed a pretty good understanding of the pitching process, the decision-makers and the key influencers.

I very recently transitioned to an in-house role (“the dark side,” as some might say). Within my first few days, I was able to quickly gain some new perspective on what the selection process looks like from the other side — especially when receiving unsolicited pitches from agencies and vendors that I’m unfamiliar with (which is frequent).

I strongly believe that client-partner relationships, be they media vendors, agency partners or otherwise, are just that: relationships. Beyond results, whether or not the partnership is successful largely depends upon the strength of the relationship, which encompasses open communication, shared learnings and an equal stake in results. But before any of that can be developed — before a relationship exists — companies have to vet and select partners.

With that said, here are my tips for approaching in-house marketers with your products and services:

Differentiate yourself

I’ve worked in marketing long enough to know that there are good marketers, there are mediocre marketers and there are… not-so-good marketers. So, although I know that good agencies and products are not a dime a dozen, unsolicited pitches most certainly are. For this reason, it isn’t enough to send an email simply outlining the media channels that you manage, because everyone and their brother has sent that same email.

Take the time to differentiate yourself from the next guy. Are you doing something that nobody else is doing? Do you have a new way of targeting? Do you have a unique strategy? These are the kinds of things that make me want to learn more.

Be clear about what you offer

To add to the above point: Don’t be vague in your initial communication. I know it can be tempting to provide a little teaser with the intention of hooking the prospect and divulging more details on a sales call, where you might feel better equipped to close the sale. I really do understand the logic, but by being too vague, you risk being ignored altogether. You would probably be surprised at the number of emails and calls I receive where the salesperson is so vague that it isn’t clear what service they are offering. Here’s an example:

“I’m reaching out to see if we could schedule some time to chat. {Insert Company Title} is a top-rated agency known for delivering successful results to our clients. We’d love to talk with you about how we can assist you in achieving your goals.”

The email above doesn’t really tell me anything about the services the company offers or their methodology. Without knowing what they do and how they do it, I can’t possibly assume that it fills a gap in our existing media plan.

And the vague responses aren’t isolated to emails. Recently, I was on a call with a potential vendor in which another call participant stopped the presenter to ask, “So what is it that you are proposing — which channels?” It hadn’t been mentioned. Be as specific as possible.

Take it easy on the clichés & buzzwords

This is something that I’ve really taken notice of in the past few weeks: buzzwords are like fillers for marketers. Instead of “um” or “like,” we fill uncomfortable silence with “innovative,” “hacks” and “data-driven.”

If you use buzzwords but still provide clear information about your offerings, then it can work. If you use buzzwords merely to sound impressive, without differentiating yourself from the competition, then it comes off as really spammy.

Re-read your emails as if you are a person who is entirely unfamiliar with your industry, and use your judgment to determine if there is enough steak to go with the sizzle.

Provide a business case

One of the most valuable assets you can share is content that provides insight into how your technology or services could be best leveraged within your prospect’s vertical. If you have experience in that industry, highlight it. If you don’t, that’s okay, but taking the time to connect the dots and putting together applicable ideas will go a long way. Otherwise, you risk providing examples that are entirely irrelevant — or worse, no examples at all.

An email is much more likely to catch my eye if the sender includes a note that is relevant to our business model, vertical or marketing challenges. Not only does this make the email more personalized, but it also reflects your willingness to go the extra mile and your ability to understand our goals.

Expansion opportunities are a big plus

Digital marketer to digital marketer, let’s be honest here: We all want to be on the cutting edge, and we all have a responsibility to our companies to seek out expansion opportunities where they make sense. So, if there’s an opportunity to expand into a channel that we haven’t previously considered, it’s pretty likely that my interest would be piqued.

Tell us which part of the buying cycle your proposal is meant to support and how it adds value. If we are already running in the channel that you are proposing to manage, tell us how you help to grow and mature campaigns. Efficiency opportunities never hurt either.

To be fair, your prospect might not always have the budget to act right away, but if you can present a unique targeting opportunity, they’d be highly likely to give the email more than a glance.

Show me the data

If the results aren’t there, nothing else matters. That’s just the way it is. When evaluating budget allocations for existing media, performance is always the deciding factor. So when it comes to identifying new expansion opportunities, we have to make some assumptions about what we expect the channel to deliver.

I know there is a bit of an eye-roll that comes with case studies, and I do take case studies and white papers with a grain of salt. However, beyond the data, your case studies will give me insight into the way you think about and measure success. If your case study is focused on lead growth or a decrease in cost per sale, then your focus is probably pretty low-funnel. If your case study is focused on brand recognition and impressions, then your focus is high-funnel. There are many different ways of viewing success, and it is important that partners and agencies align from the start.

Furthermore, case studies and white papers also usually give insight into your methodologies and strategies, which can help me determine if our long-term goals align with your proposed offering.

Last but not least, providing metrics shows a certain level of confidence and a willingness to stand behind your work. Of course, nobody makes a case study with data from their worst client, but this all ties back to differentiating yourself from the get-go. Providing details around metrics up front also indicates a level of transparency and preparedness in comparison to companies that are providing teasers in an effort to land a phone call.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Amy Bishop
Amy has built and implemented multichannel digital strategies for a variety of companies of all sizes from start-ups and small businesses to Fortune 500 and global organizations spanning several industry verticals. Her expertise includes ecommerce, lead generation, and localized site-to-store strategies. Amy recently launched Cultivative, a performance marketing agency. When not working, you can find her blogging, speaking at industry events and talking shop on Twitter @hoffman8.

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