Pitching the perfect project to a client is about more than making money—it’s about solving problems.
BY: BRAD PRAY
To stay in business, you’ve got to earn business. That’s a given. You have to train your ears to listen to your clients and your eyes to identify gaps or shortcomings in their processes, content, or other areas—problems they may or may not recognize themselves. And, then, you have to pitch your solution. And not just a single solution: show them options.
Pitching requires a delicate balance: You have to be thorough but not long-winded, convincing but not pushy, well-rehearsed but not rigid, confident but not cocky. A word to the wise right off the bat: You’ll be waaaaay more effective if you truly believe in the product or service you’re selling. At iostudio, as idealistic as it may sound, pitching a client on a project is about more than making money—it’s about solving problems for businesses and organizations striving to do meaningful work. (Think the Army National Guard, U.S. Navy, and Second Harvest Food Bank.) Here are a few of our tips for successfully pitching ideas that meet the needs of both our agency and our clients:
1. Know your client.
This is easier if you’re pitching a new project to an existing client, but, even if you’re not, learn all you can. Research. Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. Research some more. Spend time with them in the field. The better you understand your client inside and out—their goals, audience, obstacles, successes, frustrations, personalities, approaches to problem-solving—the better your odds are of finding the right project. As obvious as it sounds, agencies often skip this all-important step because building (and maintaining) this type of relationship demands proactive thinking and LOTS of time. But if you skip it, there’s little chance you’ll be able to …
2. Tie your pitch directly to your client’s business goals.
They have a need you can satisfy or a problem you can solve. Maybe they know it; maybe they don’t. Make the connection clear, and make it often. When the iostudio team pitches ideas for content-gathering trips to our National Guard client, we always relate the concept to either a major content need for their website or a specific recruitment goal, like STEM. It’s a win-win; we boost our chances of scoring meaningful work, and they home in on the conversions they need most.
3. Inject a “wow” factor.
And, that doesn’t necessarily mean the scale of the project you’re pitching. After all, not every solution is a monumental, life-altering one. In fact, pitching the perfect project can be as simple as proposing a new button on a website. Or creating a week’s worth of targeted Instagram posts that moves the right dials for your client. For example, when we pitched the National Guard on a recent update to their home page, we wowed them with hard data and examples of business best practices. Educating them on user paths, user experience, and information architecture helped build a comprehensive case for the project. And, it worked. But, remember to …
4. Keep it simple.
In business, as in baseball, the faster the pitch, the better. Few people have the time or patience for a long dog-and-pony show. Edit yourself. Aim to be comprehensive yet concise. Addressing these questions is usually all it takes:
- What’s the need/problem?
- What’s the solution?
- How will you implement it?
- Why is your team better equipped to solve the problem than your competitor(s)?
- How will the client benefit?
- How much will it cost?
5. Consider providing options.
As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Sure, it’s a terrible saying, but its meaning rings true.) For nonprofit or startup clients, pitching the perfect project means having two or three levels of service to choose from with corresponding price tags. While you may have huge ideas in mind that showcase your team’s creativity and agility, it also reinforces to the client that you understand the importance of their bottom line and that you’re willing to partner with them to achieve it.
6. Play devil’s advocate.
Sure, you’re hoping for “Everything sounds awesome. Let’s do it!” But no matter whom you’re pitching to, they’re bound to have doubts or questions at first. Be prepared to address them and to do so confidently. Before your pitch, assemble your team and anticipate any objections the client might throw your way. Then, practice how you’d respond to each one. Not only will being prepared inspire confidence and trust in your work, it could very well result in new business.
7. Be passionate.
How you deliver your pitch is often just as important as the pitch itself. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, then you can’t expect the client to. At iostudio, we’ve found that the best way to stay excited about our work is to chase meaningful projects and clients committed to making positive impacts on our world.