Propulsion tim-williams-50
August 11, 2011 | By Tim Williams

Agencies fret about how much time they should spend talking about agency capabilities in a new business presentation.  Answer: Not at all; or if you do, talk about capabilities dead last (that way if you run out of time, you’ll be cutting something that most clients don’t care to hear anyway).

Just as unproductive is telling prospects how well the agency understands their business.  Most agencies burn up big chunks of valuable time in new business situations demonstrating that they’ve done their “homework” by playing back information about the brand that the client already knows.

The main thing you should be talking about in a new business presentation is the consumer: the client’s customer.  Not only is this topic intensely interesting to clients, but it’s also the area in which agencies can actually be more expert than the client. 

The most valuable thing you do

Writing in the British trade magazine Admap, advertising professional John Woodward articulates the belief that “The ability to generate insights is the most valuable, scalable capability of agencies.”  In other words, insights about the consumer’s attitudes, habits, preferences, wants, needs, and motivations constitute your firm’s most valuable asset.  More valuable than anything else on your list of “agency capabilities.”

When you’re on the new business stage, you could actually spend most of your allotted time focused on what you know about the customer and you would have a much more compelling, differentiating presentation than taking the standard approach of making sure you “cover all the bases.” 

An area where you’re uniquely qualified

In new business situations, clients can challenge your strategy, your creative, and your media approach, but it’s much more difficult to challenge facts and observations about consumer awareness and behavior.  If you do your insights job well, you’ll be telling your prospective client things they have never heard or considered before. 

Clients may feel they can duplicate some of the creative, production, or media services you provide, but they rarely feel they can achieve the same level of objective consumer insights, especially if your firm employs unorthodox account planning-style techniques that produce truly unexpected consumer truths. 

Another benefit of focusing new business presentations on consumer insights is that it can help you get off the spec creative treadmill, because it gives you something else of substance to present besides (and in place of) speculative creative work. 

Less about us, more about … 

Consider that in commercial terms, value is ultimately the result of a change in consumer behavior.  Understanding, explaining, and shaping that behavior is the ultimate value an agency provides.  A big idea is dependent on a big insight, which makes insights quite literally the most valuable “deliverable” your agency can provide. 

So commit now to focus more of your new business presentation time, RPF responses, and leave-behinds to what is ultimately most important, valuable and interesting to the client.  The oft-quoted new business success formula of “Less about us, more about them” is only half-right.  It should really be “More about their customer.”

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