If you’re read any of my articles before here at the gonzoblog, you know that I’m a big proponent of effective, proactive client management. In my experience, too many creatives take for granted some essential principles that will help you both retain clients and build on to bigger and better accounts.
I also blog a lot about business development and sales topics for freelancers and creative professionals. Selling is a critical part of gaining new accounts. It’s painful, yet simple. If you can’t sell well you’ll never grow your business.
Not only should you always be looking for upselling and cross selling opportunities within your existing and past client base, but you must also finely hone your skills in another type of selling—presenting and selling your creative concepts.
Don’t leave clients to their own devices
Here’s the scenario: You all but kill yourself developing amazing, nerve-tingling creative. Whether it’s wordsmithery, design, illustration, photography or something else, you pour all of your available blood, sweat and even a tear or two, into creating something masterful. It even meets your high standards. Wow, you’ve done it!
Now what? Do you zap it over to the client via email or Dropbox and hope they love it? Let me tell you something I’ve learned about clients. Left to their own devices, they’ll settle into their own assumptions. They’ll naturally find things they don’t like and ask for knee jerk changes to be made. They will almost never love it.
So don’t leave them to their own devices!
See you birthed this baby. You brought it forth from your creative orifices. You cared for it and nurtured it until it was ready to go out into the (cruel and judgmental) world. But you can’t just send it out on its own just yet. There’s a good chance it won’t make it.
You have to escort your creation into that client’s office. You must explain to them your creative rationale. If you can’t present in person, but sure to do so via Skype or web meeting.
Important point: if you’re finding that your clients are “too busy” to meet with you to discuss your creative rationale and benefit from a proper presentation, I would urge caution. They’re going to be “too busy” or too otherwise occupied to give your work the attention it deserves. If they’re not interested in developing a relationship with you, they’re probably not going to be a long-term client. These aren’t the outfits that will help you built your business.
6 tips for “selling them”
I believe you must explain your concepts to your client in very clear terms. Here are my tips for both wowing them with your creative—and selling them on the concept. As we all know, the fewer review and revision cycles there are, the more productive you can be and the more quickly you can get the client’s deliverable to them (along with your invoice).
- Hone in on the strategy. If they’re a company looking to break into a new market with an edgy campaign, but sure and explain how you’ve done that. Explain how the campaign is edgy, but still targeted to the look and feel that this new market will respond to. Be sure to re-state the strategy and how you’ve addressed it. This is critical.
- Pepper the presentation with details about what you heard. If the president told you she likes symmetry, certain types of images or copy with a certain tone, be sure to explain how you’ve addressed those details. This shows them that you were listening.
- Reiterate budget. If you present concepts to them that are outside of their stated budget when print and development costs are taken into account, explain to them why that is. For example, they may have requested a cutting edge brochure with super cool treatments, all at a reduced rate. Explain that you heard them and how you arrived at your decisions.
- Show how your creative is consistent with their brand and other marketing activities, unless of course you’re wholly inventing a brand.
- Listen up, but don’t be too ready to succumb to their changes. When they suggest an edit, explain to them what your rationale was there. If they understand why you used a type treatment, based on the strategic rationale or preferences of the client, they may agree and withdraw their suggested edit. Of course, edits will happen and that’s ok, but you want to be prepared to stand behind your work.
- Believe in what you’ve done! When you explain your creative thought process and business strategy, be ready to instill that same energy, enthusiasm and belief on to the client. Make them believe in what you’ve done with as much passion as you have. That’s how you sell them on your concepts. It’s also how you build clients for life!
I practice what I preach. When I present copy to my clients, I ask to meet with them in person if they’re local, or via web meeting or Skype. I read through the most significant content at that time, particularly that which contains strategic messaging. I present it in such a way that stresses the strategic rationale, reinforces the creative elements and engenders the belief of the listeners.
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This has proven very successful. Whether I’m presenting to two people or 20, they’re nodding their heads in agreement, inspired at the tone they’re hearing their company take on. Their objectives are headed off as I work through the content and approval cycles are streamlined. I recommend you adopt something similar for your creative specialty.