Making the difference:
Less selling, more doing
Ian Hambleton, June 2017

Having run my own agency for nearly 15 years (eek), things are slowly starting to become clearer. Certainly in terms of how we pitch the business to new clients, and even existing ones.

More and more I’m realising that while traditional sales & marketing tactics shouldn’t be completely disregarded, they’re mainly useful to keep you on people’s radar. Increasingly our approach to sales centres around three things:

1. Do the best work we can

2. Build good relationships with clients

3. Employ the best talent we can find

That’s why at Output Group we’ve been channeling more money into the creation of self-initiated and client investment projects and away from traditional sales & marketing functions.

These self-initiated projects have helped to push the quality of our work, while at the same time ensuring our team are creatively challenged. Effectively, it delivers on point 1 and 3 – and we often get to invite our clients to screenings and events, so it also helps build relationships.

It’s not been easy and at times has taken some nerve to do this. Last year we spent nearly £250,000 (in time and materials) on self-initiated projects, but we’re starting to see results already off the back of them. In 2017 we’re doubling down on this strategy, while reducing our marketing and pitching budgets for the year.

Projects like Mondegreen, The Dog and the Elephant, and the youth voting campaign #RizeUp have not just seen creative acclaim, but they’ve won us new work, often without a pitch. They’ve also ensured we have a happy team, built the profile of the agency and made Output a place where the best talent wants to work.

With our client investment projects the approach is slightly different. Here we’ll put aside a pot of time and use this to go above and beyond the brief. We’ll look for a business problem that we think we can help solve and then we’ll work with the clients to create new solutions. A sort of value add for clients.

Both approaches seem to be working. It probably means we’ll have to turn down some pitches this year, which in itself is another incentive. After all, that’s not how we tend to do our best work. We find the most effective and rewarding work happens when we’re working in collaboration with clients, not when we’re asked to go away and solve a business problem in isolation, without their insights.

I’m really interested to hear the client viewpoint on this approach and other agency views. Does the hard sell ever work? How do you best sell yourselves as an agency? Do clients always prefer to pitch a job out? What are you looking for in an agency?

For us, increasingly, the mantra is simple:

“Sell less and let the work speak for itself”

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Making the difference through design.

A series of short posts and ponderings on my learnings about running an agency and how this can improve the way we work with marketeers and brands.