What Clients Really Want—It’s Not the Best Price!
A few years back I was speaking at Fruit of the Loom’s national sales meeting, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a gentleman whose name escapes me, however, his message during our offstage conversations still resonates with me today.
I recall complaining about how difficult clients were, how they always were looking for the best price and shopping me all the time. He paused and said, “Cliff, what are you doing to make that change?” “What do you mean?” I responded. He said, “Isn’t it the buyer’s (our client’s) job to level the playing field? If I can buy what you have from 20 people, and each of them can get it to me in the same timeframe, same quality, what else is left other than price? What have you done to raise the bar so they can’t put you on that same field?”
An article in BtoB magazine listed the top 10 things clients are really looking for in a strategic marketing partner. Amazingly, price didn’t even make the list. Marketers, your clients, in many cases, are having their compensation packages dictated by their ability or inability as it were to show results, so there is the opportunity glaringly looking you in the eyes. So what are the 10 things?
1. A Strategic Thinker
To be an excellent strategic thinker, you must first know something. that knowing comes from gaining an understanding of the objectives, and that comes from asking questions. Distributors and suppliers alike, for the most part, ask far too few questions. We are so bent on getting the sale that we miss the big picture. We squabble over the scraps that fall from the table and we miss the feast. Find out what plans the client has for their business and be proactive.
One excellent idea is to create a media plan with your client. Place all of the events the client is having for that year in your database, have it “ping” you three months before the event and then call the client to set a meeting to discuss Remember they are extremely busy, and your proactive approach helps them in their planning.
2. A Clear Understanding of the Client’s Business
Several years ago, there was a TV commercial in which two men were discussing business over lunch. One said to the other, “You know, a guy came to my office today and tried to sell me a phone system?” “Yea, so?” the friend asked. “He tried to sell me a solution before he knew my problem,” the first man responded.
Do you have a “clear understanding” of what your clients really do? Do you ask? Do you research? It is imperative, in order to be different and raise the bar, that you know not only what your client does, but what are their objectives on moving forward. This knowledge enables you to be think strategically (remember No. 1?) and proactively.
3. Experience in the Client’s Industry
Having a knowledge base in the client’s industry sets you apart. Just think how much more marketable you would be to a prospective employer if you spoke three extra languages? Having a deep knowledge base in a respective field—manufacturing, hospitality or drilled down even more as human resources in the hospitality market—you become extremely valuable to that client.
4. Excellent Creative Work
Demonstrating your ability to design, create and build high-end marketing campaigns and utilizing all forms of our medium—promotional products, print collateral and packing—makes you unique. Trumpet your successes, no one else will—promise.
5. Ability to Think Outside the Box
Heck, melt the box! Approaching clients will the same old mundane stuff is not thinking outside the box. Thinking outside the box means taking risks. While it’s true risk begets failure, so what, it also produces huge potential profits, so it’s worth it.
6. Proven Success with Clients
As mentioned in point No. 4, your successes need to be trumpeted. As you move through your business and you experience successes, it is important to compile those successes, ask for referrals, get letters of recommendations and archive those in a presentation format for future clients.
7. Ability to Measure ROO and ROI
Promotional products campaigns that have a built-in form of measurement have a far greater appeal to the end-buyer. Marketers now are having their compensation packages affected by their ability or inability to show measurement. Drilling down deeper beyond ROI (return on investment) is getting to the core and ROO (return on objectives) is when your measurement can determine the total return on objectives met. Then your programs are perceived as much more valuable.
8. Clear Articulation of Your Vision
What is your company’s vision? Is it clear? What exactly do you do? Clients want to know so they can make a determination if you fit their culture and the way they think. Know your vision, be sure that your staff knows and that they can articulate that vision on their own.
9. Resources to Grow with the Company
Do you have substantial capital in order to grow your business effectively? Are you partnering with the very best suppliers that are fiscally responsible and have the resources to grow?
A friend of mine told me she lost $1 million client because the client wanted her to create a corporate store. When she said she hadn’t done that before but would research it, the client responded “we are not interested in someone who is going to walk through the door with us. We need a partner that has the resources and know-how to take us by the hand and lead us down the road.” Do you have the resources?
10. Ability to Execute an Integrated Strategy
Developing great ideas is not enough—you must be able to execute. Your promotional campaign should indeed have all of the elements in it that make it complete, creative and innovative. But without execution, it is useless. It’s like building a beautiful Lamborghini, without any wheels— looks good but is not very functional.
Working toward mastering these characteristics will solidly plant you as a strategic partner within most companies. Our business is changing; promotional products have made their mark in the advertising community. Raise the bar!
Now go out there and get your share of it.
As always, continued good selling.