Strategy

How to Sell Your Big Idea

By Craig Ostrom, VP & Executive Creative Director

May 13, 2014

I used to believe that a great idea would sell itself. That all you had to do was plop it down in front of clients, sit back and watch them react–just like the consumer would.

When consumers are exposed to marketing messages, they don’t have teams of marketing experts leaning over their shoulders, explaining exactly why the piece was put together the way it was and how it should make them feel. So why should the client?

Three reasons:

  •  Because it’s the big ideas that push clients out of their comfort zones, and they need as much reassurance as you can give them.
  • Because the messaging is directed at their target audience, not them personally.
  • Because they need the tools to justify and sell the idea themselves, to other internal stakeholders on their end.

In the marketing world, your pitch is just as important as your idea.

Here are nine secrets to pitching that will help ensure that your big idea gets the consideration it deserves.

1) Start with a great creative brief

Your big idea needs to be tied tightly to a solid strategic plan and a well-defined target, and you need to be able to explain those elements in concise language.

Your goal is to write a mission that frames the opportunity as broadly as possible, in as few words as possible. Get specific about what you want the target audience to believe, remember, feel and do after being exposed to your message.

It shouldn’t take more than a sentence to communicate the single most important thing you want the audience to take away from your message. And if it does, chances are you haven’t spent enough time hammering out exactly what that one important thing is.

2) Get into the heads of the people you’re pitching to

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about the target audience–the client’s consumers–but we also have to understand the clients themselves. Know their culture, budget restrictions, terminology, intentions, desires and fears.

The trick is to connect with your clients in a personal way while also keeping them focused on the target audience. After all, the most successful marketing concepts are the ones that align with the consumers’ interests and needs–not the clients’.

3) Include decision-makers early and often

Getting buy-in from decision-makers early in the process makes them feel like part of the team. It also plants the seeds of support.

Decision-makers are much more likely to have your back on a project if they were involved in it from the beginning. Involvement breeds commitment.

4) Sweat the details

Many people in approval positions are afraid of rocking the boat. A big idea can require them to shift their thinking and risk change. If an idea makes them uncomfortable, regardless of how great it is, they may use small errors in detail to sink it.

Do your homework and don’t ignore the potential blips in your plan that seem insignificant from your big-picture perspective.

5) Be a believer

Before anyone else can get behind your idea, you need to be behind it yourself. Passion sells and it’s contagious.

When you’re sharing a big idea, you’re putting yourself out there, and that’s bound to come with some doubts and insecurities. Even if you walk in the door confident, it’s easy to get flustered in the face of skepticism. But the last thing you want is for your own doubt to be the thing that spooks the client.

The only way to sell a big idea is to go all in. Your clients should not be able to see anything in you but passion, enthusiasm and 100% commitment to the plan.

6) Choose your battles

Effective negotiation is a skill in itself. The best approach is to fight hard for the critical elements of your plan and back off on the others. That way, you’ll be viewed as flexible, and you can use your concessions to negotiate on the important issues.

Also, recognize the places where small changes can cause dramatically different results. You could have small decisions that are worth fighting for in a big way.

7) Avoid death by committee

Try to limit the size of your audience to just the 2-3 key decision makers.

The more people you have in the room, the more opportunities there are for turf wars, clashing egos and compromises to overthrow your vision.

Also, limit the creative options you show to three. Too many choices can lead to subjective reasoning and an unstrategic mix-and-match approach. Only bring your best work to the table.

8) Prepare for questions (ALL of them)

Spend some time brainstorming and listing out all possible objections and questions prior to your presentation. Consider the options and be ready to clearly articulate your defense so you won’t be caught off guard.

Not only will ample preparation help you field questions and concerns with confidence, but your immediate, thoughtful responses will give clients the impression that you’ve already thought of everything. (Which, of course, you have!)

9) Know when to stop

You’ve delivered your pitch and the clients are doing cartwheels over it.

Now it’s time to sit back and shut up.

I’ve been in too many presentations where people keep right on talking until they talk the client into reconsidering. Quit when you’re ahead and leave them wanting more.

What tips for selling big ideas would you add to this list?

Have you had a big idea get shot down? If so, was there anything you wished you’d done differently?


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