Monday, February 23, 2009

9 New Rules for Pitching and Winning New Business

Winning new business has always been hard. Sometimes, you can do everything right and still not win the account. Anyone who has been involved in pursuing new business knows the feeling that your agency was perfect for the account and you just can’t imagine why you were not selected. Then there are those times that you think you blew it in some way yet still win the business.

It’s important to remember that those situations will still happen regardless of how well you plan or how well you execute your new business plan. But the one thing you can control is an understanding of your agency’s capabilities and the client’ needs. And in today’s digital world, the client’s needs have changed considerably. Hence the need to identify new rules for pitching and winning new business.

In a previous post and subsequent white paper, I identified the eight dumbest mistakes agencies make when planning and prospecting for new business. You can download a free copy of that white paper from my website at .

All of those mistakes can still ruin your chances of new business success, so they must be a part of your plan development process. But times have changed, and client attitudes and needs have changed. Here are nine new rules for new business success that take those changing attitudes and needs into account.

1. Project work is the name of the game. Most clients don’t want or feel they need an Agency of Record (AOR) relationship.
2. In today’s world of fragmented media and extreme audience segmentation, you must own a niche, or even a niche within a niche.
3. Creative expertise is yesterday’s discriminator. It’s still important, but ROI is the most desirable characteristic today.
4. Agencies need to build an ROI story into every case study.
5. Your website is the “front door to your brand”. Make sure it is tells a powerful brand story or prospects won’t even bother to knock.
6. Give them a new insight on their business that will grow their sales and profits.
7. Be very specific in building a prospect target list. You can’t afford to waste time, effort and dollars on long shots.
8. Look first at your current clients for new business opportunities and actively seek to build a more solid trust relationship.
9. The confusion and uncertainty of how to use social media and other digital marketing tools are a great opportunity for new business growth.

To say that the Internet has changed the way people interact and communicate with each other is only half of the story. It has profoundly influenced how brands go to market, and the effect can be overwhelming to marketers. As noted earlier, clients are looking for ideas and insights. An agency that can give information, understanding and guidance on how to use the new marketing tools presents a great opportunity for agency new business efforts.

The question for many advertisers is not just how to effectively use email, blogs, podcasts, mobile marketing, viral marketing, pay-per-click, user-generated content, Twitter, etc., but how to mix them with traditional media to create the most impact. The concept of “above the line” and “below the line” is no longer valid, if in fact it ever was. It’s all important. It’s all potentially valuable. And, most importantly, it’s a great opportunity for an agency to attract new customers. Or build a stronger relationship with your current clients.

In his best-selling book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott exposes the futility of continuing to embrace the old rules of marketing in an online world. The same conclusions can be drawn for agencies who want to survive and thrive in this new connected age we live in. Marketing has changed. Marketers have changed. Understand and adapting to these new rules can mean the difference between life and death for your new business efforts. And that can mean the difference in life and death for your agency!

Over the next nine days I will be posting an expanded discussion on each of these "new rules" and exploring how to use them most effectively. I hope you will join me for the ride.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Don’t underestimate the power of the customer when building your brand.

Last week, I attended a webinar titled “Brand Building in a Digital Age”. I was expecting a “how-to” seminar on incorporating social media and other new technology tools as part of the marketing mix. As it turned out, the webinar was more about the power of the customer and the importance of good customer service in an era of instant access to millions of potential customers via the Internet. But that’s okay, because the webinar did give me some new insights and appreciation for the importance of doing and saying the right things with customers.

I have always counseled my clients and trained my staff to be sensitive to the importance of balancing expectations with the reality of the brand experience. Creating the right expectation can cover a lot of areas, but the most important are these:
- Understand your customer’s needs and wants.
- Don’t over-promise what you can’t deliver.
- Be transparent about your policies and procedures.
- Make it easy for customers to alert you to problems.
- Listen to the customer and do your best to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
- Fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.

Okay, none of this is brain surgery, but I am still amazed at how many companies ignore one or all of the above. And the potential negative impact on your brand has never been scarier than now. As last week’s webinar pointed out, we are all doing business in a virtual bazaar where customers have the ability to positively or negatively influence thousands of potential customers.
Several years ago, a Yankelovich study concluded that a positive customer experience was generally shared with 2-3 people while a negative experience was shared with 15. With the power of the Internet, those numbers are now mind-boggling as witnessed by the MotrinMoms reaction to a Motrin commercial they found offensive and insensitive.

If you missed the brouhaha last November, here’s a quick recap. On a Saturday morning, Motrin launched an on-line ad via their website touting Motrin’s effectiveness in relieving back pain in mothers who carry their baby in a sling. While the basis for the ad was probably true, they chose to use sardonic humor and a flippant tonality to imply that “baby-wearing” mothers only use the sling to make a social comment to others that they are an “official mom”.

Online moms did not respond to the ad by racing out for Motrin. They were offended by the suggestion that they carry their babies just to be “fashionable”.

By Saturday evening the ad had created a firestorm in the Twitter community, was the most talked about subject, and led one Tweeter to comment: note to self … never piss off moms … especially twitter moms … they can be a nasty bunch ;)

By Sunday morning, a MotrinMom had posted a video response on YouTube and at last count has generated at least 61 additional YouTube responses that have been viewed by over 575,000 people. The negative response also dominated the blogging community for days, and will continue to be available to millions via the “Google penalty” as one blogger termed it.
Even though Motrin responded quickly by pulling the ad and issuing official apologies to the general community as well as to specific email protesters, there is no telling how much damage they have inadvertently done to their brand. And they didn’t over-promise, they just did something stupid.

So what does that say about retailers who loudly proclaim their “once-in-a-lifetime” sale that happens again next week? And again the following week? Are you listening department stores? Or what about the automobile dealers, mortgage companies and all the other advertisers who trumpet their incentives and hide behind the fine print. The old-fashioned notion of caveat emptor (buyer beware) has been replaced by seller beware that you don’t ruin your brand and your business in a blind quest for profit because your customers will tell the truth to the world.
The rapid growth of customer review sites like Yelp and Angies List and the emergence of customer feedback sites like Measuredup and Planetfeedback should be enough for marketers to wake up and smell that coffee.

The customer is not only in charge, they are in the driver's seat.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


John Mathes leads the Brand Strategy practice for The Mathes Group, a brand positioning company and also runs AMP, an advertising agency with a focus on retail and financial services. He’s an old friend and business colleague that knows a lot about how to do marketing right. I always enjoy his writing and ideas on marketing. I hope you do as well.

Brand Bytes: The Bridge Between Traditional and Digital Marketing

A little bit of Home Depot in my life
A little bit of Toyota by my side
A little bit of Starbucks is all I need
A little bit of Comcast is what I see
A little bit of Oakley in the sun
A little bit of Sealy all night long
A little bit of Wells Fargo here I am
A little bit of brand makes me your man

With apologies to Lou Bega, my Brandbytes No.5 won’t exactly set the music industry on fire with its latest cover, but I think the idea of “a little bit” sets the stage for a timely discussion of what’s hot in the marketing world today – what I’m dubbing brand byte communication.

CNN Headline News started it back in 1982. The Internet propelled it. And Facebook has humanized it. We live in a world of sound bites (bytes if you prefer, as I do) where we get a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.

As consumers, we’re on marketing overload. Thousands of messages a day compete for our attention as we navigate life. We can’t begin to absorb it all, especially when those messages are laden with brand attributes, benefits and promotion. It’s too much and we’re all suffering from the short-attention-span-theater effect.

As marketers, we have to be cognizant of competing for our customers’ limited attention. No longer do they set aside specific time for watching television, reading a newspaper, a magazine, or even surfing the Internet. The advent of Tivo-like DVR technology has allowed a concept referred to as time-shifting— watching television (and zipping through commercials) when convenient. And now, Sling-Box is revolutionizing place-shifting – watching television where you want via your laptop.

Time spent with all traditional advertising vehicles, a common media measurement, is tanking. Even time spent on specific websites is down due to the prolific run-up in choices, portals, and of course, social networks. In fact, Web 2.0, the trend toward real-time interactivity and collaboration via the Internet, and its plethora of conversations have led to a social phenomenon now known as ambient awareness, the omnipresent knowledge of up-to-the minute status. Clive Thompson, in a New York Times article back in September, wrote extensively about how status updates, which are the bedrock of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, et. al. are reducing our conversations (and attention) to snippets or, as I like to call them, bytes. Twitter is training its user base to communicate in 140 characters or less every time they have something to say. People must love the idea, as Twitter was the fastest growing social network in 2008, up a whopping 664% year-over-year growth. Facebook and LinkedIn were both up in the neighborhood of 150%. These social networks, and many like them, are pushing byte-sized messaging into overdrive and into the mainstream.

If you’ve mastered the art of texting, or if you have teenagers, you know very well how much is communicated in just a few short characters and abbreviations. Sentences are so passé.

A quick byte is all consumers have time for. And frankly, it’s all they want because there’s no time for anything else. They get it. The challenge for marketers is to communicate to consumers succinctly, relevantly and differentiated. Serve it up in easy-to-digest bytes. Just be sure to offer many serving stations. Let’s look at some.

Most creative types will tell you that outdoor (billboard advertising) is the hardest to develop and write. That’s because to be effective and readable, the message needs to be five to six words or less. That can be a difficult byte to write. But many other marketing vehicles follow the same guidelines. Point-of-sale, merchandising and digital signage all have the same brevity objectives. Internet marketing thrives on bytes (all types). Promotional freebies have little room for anything but a byte. Consumers rarely read past a headline in a newspaper or magazine ad. I guess CNN had it right starting back in 1982… just the headlines. Television is selling more and more ten second units, and there’s even a movement by a few renegade advertisers championing a cause to carve up both television and radio advertising segments into a second or two. Wow, try to communicate something meaningful in a couple of seconds. That’s daunting.

What makes a good brand byte? It starts with your brand positioning. If you don’t have one articulated, collaborate with a brand positioning firm that can help you map it out. If the resulting brand position is truly differentiating, then you are well on your way to a great byte. If the positioning speaks to your heritage and existing brand equity, then you are about to hit a home run. Make it clever, succinct, relevant and mix in a double entendre and you’re golden. Oh, and keep it five words or less. Preferably three or less. OK, two words. Whew. Easy, huh? Not! After you have one successfully crafted, try expanding your bytes into a full complement of succinct messages that work in all media.

You can do it. SunTrust Bank has. SunTrust, a southeast regional network, has the idea of solid firmly in its brand byte. Recent communication conveys the following: stand on solid ground; solid is timeless; solid is habit-forming; solid builds from the ground up; live solid; bank solid.

All of your brand bytes should aggregate into your full brand message. As customers grab a byte here and there they are becoming increasingly ambient-aware of your brand’s attributes, personality and ultimately the promise that your brand is making. If done successfully, each byte connects to each other and tells the story of how your brand is different from many brands you undoubtedly compete with for business across the street or down on the corner.

Are you biting on the idea of brand bytes? I hope so and I hope you try it. But I’ll warn you, it’s extremely hard to reduce your brand to a few words. My word count tool for this article tells me I have written 1,072 words. Now I’m going to try and get it down to five or six.

Want to know more about Brand Bytes? John can be contacted at 770-360-5710 or Connect with him on LinkedIn at: or follow him on Twitter at: Thanks, John. These are good thoughts to byte on!