I’m going to put this out there and say that I agree with the phrase ‘content is king’. It is.
Content owns the internet. Every viral video, every blog post, every infographic, every review, every tool you’ve ever used – is all content! There is some truly amazing stuff circulating round the internet at the moment, and amazing content can do wonders for a brand.
However, behind every great idea is a team of content marketers, creators and SEOs trying to encourage their client to take a leap of faith and be bolder with their marketing efforts. After all, when there’s competition like this to compete with, we need to be coming up with ideas that will sit above the background buzz of mediocre videos; ‘been there done that’ blog posts; and dull as dishwater infographics.
One of the challenges faced by the creative industry is pitching these creative (creative twice, maybe innovative/inventive, boundary-pushing ideas to clients. Four different types of clients to be exact; the sales gurus, the old timer, jargon-lovers, and the control freaks.
How to Pitch to… the Client Who Just Wants to Sell, Sell, Sell!
The Situation: As both a consumer, and creator, of content, I can safely say that the moment there’s even the slightest whiff of a sales pitch, you’re putting people off. Sometimes this is difficult to get across to your client. We live in a world where on-demand TV allows us to skip past advertisements, and exactly the same thing happens with sales-driven content.
How to Pitch: Don’t get me wrong, having someone who is passionate about sales is good. They’ll bring energy to the office environment and will always strive to keep things moving forward. However, they could also scare off a tonne of potential new customers with their pushy approach – and leave you with content only a client would love.
The best way to pitch to this kind of client is to fight fire with fire. Sell content to them on a business level rather than on a personal level! Explain that the way to attract more sales is by educating the masses. This client may struggle to get their head around the concept of giving information away, but remind them that ‘the web (and Google in particular) replicates real life more now. The big guys will find it easy to win, but that doesn’t mean that a smart and agile underdog can’t find a way to eat at their table’ (Thanks for the one, Wayne!)They are in competition with their competition for trust. If you build the company up as an authoritative voice then people will trust you, and this trust should naturally lead to more sales.
TOP TIP: Be prepared. This kind of client works on stats, facts and figures. Find examples of companies who were struggling to gain traction pre-content, and show them what content marketing did for them. Don’t be afraid to do case studies on existing, or past, clients as well. If you’ve made it work once, you can do it again!
How to Pitch to… the Client Who’s Stuck in the Past.
Who: Infographics, social media, and content marketing mean little to nothing with this client. They’re still stuck on keywords and want instant results – you know, the kind of results they got back when SEO was as easy as keyword stuffing and directory listings.
The Situation: This client just doesn’t understand that times are moving forward; Google now favours user experience and the sharing of knowledge rather than sites written for the search engines with no user value.
How to Pitch: I’m afraid that repetition is going to become your rock with this type of client, and patience will be your new best friend. You’re going to have to explain exactly what happened with links and Penguin, or design and Panda, and not once, not twice, but pretty much every time you want to suggest a new idea.
Don’t go in all guns-blazing with a fancy tool that does fifteen million things and is interactive and 3d and embeddable. Approach them gently with a nice idea that’s not as complex as some of the others you may have in your content plan. Take along examples of similar content that’s worked well for people in their niche and show them what it’s done for them; links? More traffic? Brand awareness? Bring it all, because you’re going to have to have answers for every possible question with this client for them to put their trust in you.
Don’t stop after the pitch, though. Keep this type of client informed every step of the way with what’s going on, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. It may seem like hard work, but you have to earn their trust, and show them that your content marketing strategy works before they’ll loosen the reins and give you more creative freedom.
TOP TIP: There may come a time when you have to put your foot down with this client. Know when this is, and tread lightly.
How to Pitch to… the Client Who Loves Jargon.
The Situation: This client is switched on, and has probably worked in their industry for years. They tend to think that anything that doesn’t include buzzwords, abbreviations or industry slang won’t target the kind of people they’re looking to attract. They’re right, but they’re also wrong.
How to Pitch: You need to explain, very gently, that all those phrases mean something to people already in their industry, such as competitors or current customers. These people won’t be purchasing your product/services because it’s likely that they’re already in the game. These people are not likely to link to you, share your information, read your content, or even engage in conversation with you.
What you want to do with your content is target people who are less well-informed, who are looking for clarification, advice and guidance. These people are looking for your services, but don’t know it yet. These are the people who will help to grow your business. They are more likely to share your site with others who are looking to help, and may even comment and ask questions that you can answer – this kind of engagement helps strengthen your brand, and encourage links, traffic and social shares.
If this initial explanation doesn’t quite hit the mark, then flip your game plan. Ask the client what kind of things they like to read when they’re exploring unfamiliar territory. Do they dive right in to the super-technical sites, or do they look for more easy-to-digest information? This should help drive your point home.
Still not getting the point? Use examples! Play dirty and show them what their competition is doing. The competitive streak will usually win out, after all haven’t we all been operating on the ‘I want what the other guy’s got’ since pre-school?
How to Pitch to… the Client Who Won’t Give Up Control
The Situation: Making any progress for this client is slow. Painfully slow. Even the smallest task has to be proof-read by three different people in the company and approved by the CEO before you even think about doing anything.
How to Pitch: Do your research, and let the clients get involved.
If you find that running ideas past this type of client takes much, MUCH longer than it should, then I can’t recommend using a programme like Trello enough. Trello allows you to upload all of your content ideas in one place, and then you can invite others to view the boards, comment and vote on ideas. Create a board with all of your ideas in it and invite your client to that board. Tell them to go ahead and ask questions, comment and vote on the ideas they like and dislike. You may have to prod them to do this, but once you’ve got the votes in, you know which ideas people like and you won’t waste your time trying to pitch ideas that go down like a lead balloon.
You then need to research like crazy. If any of your data is incorrect, this client will pick up on it, and they will never let you forget it! In the same way that you dealt with ‘the old timer’ you need to keep them up to date every step of the way. You’ve written the brief for your designer – send it to them. You’ve come up with a design for an infographic – send your pen and paper sketch to them. First draft back from the designer – send it to them… you get the idea.
You need to be firm and stand your ground with this kind of client. They may get defensive but if you reassure them, and let them get involved, you’ll be okay!
A Few Closing Thoughts…
Hopefully this has shed a little light on how to deal with some of the trickier clients that you may encounter. All it takes is confidence in what you can do, and a firm yet gentle hand and you shouldn’t come across any problems.
Just remember, you can’t steamroll your clients into doing what you want. At the end of the day, it’s their business and whilst they have hired you, the experts, to help out with their PPC/SEO/content, they still have the final call. There will be occasions when you have to put your foot down, and the clients will get defensive, but just remind them that you’re trying to help them and their business. If you get shot down, just pick yourself up and try again. After all, when one door closes, another opens!