I have the opportunity to meet with entrepreneurs, marketing executives and teams from companies of all sizes on a fairly regular basis. Many times these meetings come about for one of two reasons: they are either interested in putting a toe into the digital marketing pool, or they were burned badly by another agency and are coming to us hoping it will not be more of the same.
In both cases, prospects usually come in scared and unsure of what we do or how this “stuff” works; they just know they need to be doing it. They know this because the things they’ve been doing for years don’t work anymore, and they are hearing success stories of other companies experiencing massive growth from a single Facebook page or Instagram account.
These meetings call for good listening and understanding of what these companies are actually looking for. That way, we can try to uncover the real need being stated so we can prepare a solution and start a relationship. Most express that they are looking for sales, leads and positive ROI. Basically, we hear the same questions: Can you help grow my business? How are you going to do it? How much is it going to cost? But one question I rarely hear is: How long is this going to take?
A Shift In Perception On The Client Side
People often perceive that digital is something you do for your company when, in actuality, it’s something your company does for your customers. People often perceive that digital is a promotion or campaign that has a beginning and an end. This could not be further from the truth. Digital is not something that is purchased, promoted or sponsored. Digital is your company’s ability to not only share your story and values but to engage with those who share those values. Digital is not just a Facebook post, Google keyword or sponsored video. Digital is the way to engage in conversations and share information.
The new year is upon us, and I’d like to encourage a new train of thought as it pertains to digital and your business: Instead of looking at digital as a means to generate more business, look at digital as a means to engage with those who share your values. What do your customers care about most? One way to find out is to clearly understand the specific pain points your sales teams are addressing before engaging in digital marketing. Talk with your sales team. Ask them about the most frequently asked questions they get about your company, and answer those questions in your marketing collateral.
… And On The Agency Side
This is why I endorse digital agencies that charge for proposals, as well as clients willing to pay for them. How can you provide a valuable proposal without clearly understanding how your proposed efforts will impact the client’s bottom line or specific need?
Most of the time, the amount of work required to find these answers goes beyond a free proposal. This is why companies are getting burned, and it’s having a negative impact on the industry. Hubspot reports that 57% of agencies win less than 50% of the proposals being sent out. How many proposals are getting accepted that have no chance of being successful because they are being slapped together for free, resulting in not only wasted time but also diminishing confidence in digital marketing? Take part in paid engagements that include a discovery process to come up with the best proposal.
We have been practicing a process for a few years now that shifts the value of working with businesses — from delivering work to clients to delivering value to clients. This process includes, in many cases, a paid engagement at the beginning, where we sit down and uncover specific needs of their business.
If you decide to go this route, I can tell you from experience that some don’t like this approach, and think of it simply as you charging for a proposal, which isn’t necessarily true. This should be an opportunity for you and the client to clearly define what you both wish to achieve from paid marketing efforts and how to do it. This approach allows agencies to work with clients on a smaller project before singing them on for a long-term agreement. This also allows both parties to work together on a smaller scope to evaluate how you work together. This could also be an opportunity for you to help the client better understand digital.
Digital isn’t a campaign. Instead of starting the digital conversation around what mediums should be used and what type of content should be created or promoted, think about the specific pain points your customers have. Then, prove that you are the best solution. In my opinion, this should be started under a paid engagement; it’s too much work not to be. There is no value on a free proposal, even if it is accepted.