The quality of your work is the best sales tool at your disposal. This has been my mantra since I started my public relations career nearly 40 years ago. Deliver more than what the client is looking for and the client will come back for more. The client will also spread the word, thus becoming an invaluable secondary sales resource.
This approach seems obvious, but it’s more difficult to execute than it might seem. Every client is different. Expectations can vary from minimal to unrealistic. Clients can be fickle, chasing the next shiny new thing rather than relying on what they know is reliable. Clients can change their minds for any reason or no reason.
Even with all of these variables, your north star should remain constant. Deliver more than is expected and you will ultimately succeed. Since launching KEF Media 32 years ago, I have developed some steps that can work for most anybody working in this business and I’ll share them:
- Tell the client something he or she doesn’t know. Before presenting your plan, drill down into the client’s business. You don’t have to become an expert, you just need to discover a trend or a study or a competitor the client didn’t know about. This requires research and a knack for identifying what’s notable, the more current, the better.
- Clients typically have specific ideas about what they are looking for; we want to build awareness among young male consumers, or we want influencers to know about our new product or service, or we want our CEO to be a thought leader on this issue. Take these into account, but also expand on the client’s brief. Take the client in unexpected directions that will extend the message to other relevant audiences. The client may not want to go that far but your thinking beyond the brief will be appreciated.
- Adequate is available anywhere. We’ll do X, Y and Z, check off the boxes, and wait for the client to call with new assignments. Good luck with that. This is why you need to instill in those who report to you the need to take their work beyond adequate. Coach them to excel. They need to astonish you before you can astonish your client.
- Have empathy for your client. You can safely assume he or she is under enormous pressure to deliver results that matter. Become the client’s friend and ally in that cause by feeling out his or her pain points and responding to them with the work you’re doing. It might be something as simple as pleasing a particular brand manager or marketing executive; tickets to the Cavaliers’ game or an interview with a well-known industry publication. Help the client help you.
- Market your outstanding work. Make sure your client has what he or she needs to demonstrate how great the project was to his or her management be it a PowerPoint presentation, a video sizzle reel, a compilation of digital coverage, or all of the above. And make sure your agency’s management see those results too!
- Even after you’ve done great work, the client may decide to invite other agencies to compete for the next assignment. The worst thing you can do is dog your competition, telling the client “we’re better than them,” for example. First, it sounds petty; second, it could get back to the competitor; third, it damages the client’s perception of you and your agency. A much better way to go is, “Hey, they’re pretty good! Thanks for the opportunity to bid on your project. We’ll wow you again!”
This approach has helped us survive and grow for three decades in a business that has seen more than a few of our competitors crash and burn because they performed only adequately or they tried to cut corners on service.