17 Tips to Win New Marketing Business

Who's your target audience?

Last week I had the opportunity to hear marketing guru Chris Cavanaugh of Magellan Strategy Group in Asheville, North Carolina speak to our Northeast Tennessee Chapter of the AAF (Ad Club). Chris is a highly experienced marketer and the former Vice President of Marketing for the Biltmore Company who now finds himself in the role of helping clients with agency reviews.

Chris began his presentation with his definition of marketing and his trademark phrase: “Create a dissatisfaction with the status quo.” I love this!  As a professional communicator I have always considered myself a change agent. In addition to sharing some amusing stories about agencies that simply overwhelmed the client with  Too Much Information.  (“We stayed up all night drinking Red Bull to prepare for this presentation.” Really? You look like it!) Chris provided these tips to help you as a professional communicator stand out among equals when competing for work:

  1. Proofreading is fundamental. (Once a presentation for a major pitch contains typos you are sunk!)
  2. Do not pretend to be what/who you are not.
  3. If you need it back, don’t send it.
  4. If the client can’t read your presentation while sitting on the sofa, don’t send it.
  5. Awards are nice when sales are up. What are you going to do for the client?
  6. Anticipate objections. (He gave an example of an agency that met potential objections head-on and won the business.)
  7. Ask about how much of a factor price is.
  8. Know your audience. More and more you are targeting the “Purchasing/finance guy,” not the “cool” marketing guys. (Thanks Chris for the idea to use the skateboarder image!)
  9. Eight is too many to take to a presentation. You’ll overwhelm your potential client. Chris has even seen a team leader interrupt his presenters. (Cringe.)
  10. Be relevant. (His example: a firm that understood the importance of mobile marketing four years ago.)
  11. Demonstrate trust.
  12. Give people a reason to see you are different. (Reminds me of my previous post about Youngme Moon’s book, Different.)
  13. Use photos and stories of your people.
  14. Present case studies: State the problem, how you solved it and what the results were.
  15. Have insight into the target audience.

    It's never wise to burn bridges

  16. Don’t burn bridges. If you don’t win the business remember, don’t take it personally.
  17. And finally, my favorite: It’s always a people business!


  • Sarah Rowan says:

    I love #16, don’t burn bridges. You never know if a potential client will consider you for a project down the road or recommend you to someone else.

    I also like # 17, it’s always a people business. Likeability is a huge factor in an industry like this. One of the news giants recently said that the likeability of the presidential candidate’s is going to play a deciding factor in who will win. The same with marketing and pitching to potential clients!

    • maryellen says:

      Thanks Sarah! As to #16 you always want to remember it’s business (not personal). And you are correct, everything we do is ultimately a “people” business!

  • Jeff Brunson says:

    Your post reminded me of what I learned from Bobbie Lawrie about 12 years ago … my process for communicating anything to an audience:
    1) Know their WIIFM
    2) Discover your one main message point
    3) Provide vivid support

    These three steps were my way of summarizing what Bobbie taught me and the main thrust of what I read in your post; It’s not about me, it’s all about them.

    Thanks Mel!

    • maryellen says:

      Jeff, the “WIIFM” is an excellent summation of his talk. In this case, always keep your target audience in mind!

  • #13 and #14 are my favorites. If the audience can’t relate you lose them. Case studies help establish credibility and build trust, and this is the best way to demonstrate that you and your company are about more than paying lip service to “possible solutions.” Highlighting your team members makes it more than about YOU, YOU and YOU. The fact is: YOU may not be able to do everything yourself. If the client calls and you’re not available, they can feel comfortable with another team member assisting them—and you get a few more hours of beauty rest every night. What is the point of having a team if you’re not going to let them contribute and take the wheel from time to time? The more you showcase their talents, the more they will want to perform well for you and exceed your expectations.

    • maryellen says:

      Great point Aundrea. Actually Chris did elaborate on that saying that if the 22 year old whiz-kid is going to handle the account that’s fine but the presenting agency better have him there and let him speak. A relationship is building. Thanks for your comments.

  • Sue Painter says:

    Some of these make me chuckle as I recognize the wisdom and have had my own experiences with them. I like “if you need it back, don’t send it.” Great tips, thanks for sharing them, Mel.

  • Bill Painter says:

    I liked No. 9. As the “purchasing guy”, I have see a lot of presentations go down in flames when a big team could not pull of the presentation because they kept stepping on each others toes. It left us (the evaluation team) wondering how they could handle our project if they did this during the presentation which was the easy part.

    • maryellen says:

      Bill, that is interesting and amusing. In Chris’s presentation he had the skateboarder image and a kid with a bow-tie (purchasing) image to show the difference between the two schools of thought. He pointed out that more and more agencies need to convince the purchasing dept.

  • #6 is a really good point. The other day I was reviewing marketing materials for someone and came across some “factual” statements that were never proven in the rest of the text. It went something like: “Product A is the best product on the market, better than Competitor X,Y and Z.” The problem was they never said what actually made it better than X,Y and Z. The writer just assumed the reader would take whatever they said to be true. If you’re writing (or creating… a presentation), anticipating objections makes for a more well-founded, valid argument or proposal.

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