What is the best way to pitch a client?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Agencies looking to build up their business cannot rely on dated approaches to attract new clients. Our experts explain how unconventional strategies can be put into play.

Tina Rudisill
President, Marketing Works
More than 25 years of experience in market­ing and advertising

In my experience, non-traditional approaches are the key to attracting new business. My agency's new oppor­tunities come from innovative busi­nesses serving niche markets, industries that have not traditionally had strong marketing programs and businesses whose traditional programs don't move the needle much anymore. With these clients, unconventional tactics are required just to land an initial meeting, let alone win an account.

For example, some prospects might find our approach with medical prac­tices slightly offensive. Our programs and pitches tell them bluntly that if they want to grow their practices, they must stop thinking like doctors.

In retail, we have a lot of experience with vendor co-op programs. Retailers and even their vendor reps often don't understand those. In no uncertain terms, we point out that all these addi­tional marketing dollars — and millions in potential new revenue — are right under their noses. We tell them they're leaving money on the table.

We literally express that concept with a package that includes an eye-catching prop — a dollhouse table with real, rolled-up dollar bills affixed. It gets an immediate, “What the heck?” response.

The beauty of these tactics is their inexpensive nature. They're our indus­try's “sweat equity.” Like do-it-yourself homeowners, we increase marketing value through creative horsepower, instead of spending gobs of money.

Daniel Weinbach
EVP & COO, The Weinbach Group Inc.
Sixteen years of marketing and advertising experience

In my firm's two-decade history, we have been approached by prospective clients seeking help on specific projects. Occasionally, we took on these projects to get our foot in the door. But experi­ence has taught me that this approach is a recipe for failed client relationships and to lose money.

Now, we approach client relationships with a longer view. We want to become our clients' marketing partners — not merely the guys who handle direct marketing projects. As a result, clients see us as counselors and advisors first, and as technicians second.

Conversely, if you pitch clients to win projects that get you in the door, they will measure your value based solely on deliverables. They're bound to see you as a manufacturer instead of their marketing partner. You also will not likely be able to do your best work. If you approach a client as its strategic direct marketing advisor, then you are obligated to research it, its industry, audiences and competition. You have to get under its skin to do the best job possible. However, if you're trying to get your foot in the door, can you really invest the time to do your homework?

I think the best way to get new business that values your marketing expertise is to insist on long-term relationships. That means you have to charge enough money to cover all your time, require extended term contracts, and be willing to let go of clients unable to make such a commitment.


Rudisill's enthusiasm for not mincing words with clients and using low-cost creative solutions are tactics companies should appreciate, especially in a sputtering economy. While Weinbach's recommendation to pursue long-term relationships is smart, he is right that, no matter how big or small a job is, marketers need to charge correctly for their services.

Have your say: E-mail your view to cara.wood@dmnews.com

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