Think about your most recent work project. Whether it was writing a sales report, redesigning the company blog, or developing a new invoicing system, you put your best effort into it. After all, your name was associated with the assignment. You owned it. You were determined to make the project work.
Now imagine that the project was bigger than a sales report. A lot bigger.
Starting a company is essentially the biggest work project anyone could tackle. And not only is that brave entrepreneur’s name all over their company, but that person’s livelihood is tied to it, too. With so much at stake, it’s imperative that business owners only work with people who care about the success of their companies as much as they do.
Entrepreneurs work hard to differentiate their companies from the competition, and they should expect agencies that want to work with them to do the same. The Internet makes it easy to find dozens of prospective business partners, so your agency risks receiving an abrupt farewell if you don’t understand a prospective client’s needs. The sooner a client feels understood, the sooner you’ll be on your way to a business collaboration.
The right presentation can help your company establish familiarity with potential clients and demonstrate authority in your area of business. As entrepreneur and best-selling writer Seth Godin points out on his blog, “The topic of the talk isn’t you, the topic of the talk is the audience, and specifically, how they can use your experience and knowledge to achieve their objectives.”
Knowing this, it’s easy to see why a standard, by-the-book presentation won’t help you win over new clients. So how do you make the pitch memorable? How do you show that your company is so knowledgeable that working with anyone else is simply out of the question? Like all good projects, it starts with doing some research.
Design in the Details
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” -Coco Chanel
We’ll assume you already know the basics of what your prospective client does, or you wouldn’t be trying to work with them in the first place. And you know the ins-and-outs of your company and why this collaboration makes sense. Now, you need to dig deeper to make a great impression.
One of the easiest ways to better understand a potential client is to visit their company website. But you’re not just there to read the “About” page and see what services they offer. Of course that information is important, but this mission is focused on the finer points. Studying a new client’s site design is a great strategy for understanding a company’s vibe.
Start by reading the copy. Does the writing feel formal, crisp, and direct? Or is the tone more conversational, as if you were talking to a well-informed and trusted friend? You don’t need to completely mimic the voice when putting together the pitch. Just let the writing style inform the direction you take in your own presentation notes.
Take a moment to notice the site’s colors, too. Are they neutral, or is there a distinct palette? Does the company love a vibrant splash of color? Or maybe they have a penchant for polka dots. Again, you’re not looking to create a copycat of what they’ve already got going, but depending on the project you’re pitching, this could be important to note.
Beyond the website, there’s another great way to get to know your client better. Scan the homepage for social media icons to see which platforms the company uses. Then you can see the kind of content they create and share for each platform. This can help you determine what kind of visuals to include in your presentation.
For example, if your prospective client is active on Instagram and Pinterest, your presentation should include high-quality photos. If they have a YouTube channel, go ahead and use a video in your pitch. Knowing how the company presents itself to the world can keep you a step ahead of the competition.
Setting the Tone
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” –Albert Einstein
You did the research and feel pretty good about the information you gathered. Now it’s time to create. You’ll want your company’s voice to have a chance to shine through—after all, you’re trying to sell your services, too—but ultimately, the presentation should be tailored to the prospective client. This is a perfect opportunity to show how this partnership can be a success.
Although every company is different, there can be similarities in tone within specific industries. Lucy Alexander at HubSpot points out that the type of information you’re including in your presentation can help to determine your design. Knowing this, there are certain design choices you can make to help get you started.
If you’re pitching to a finance company, be sure to feature easy-to-read charts, tables, and graphs. This will convey important information in a professional manner. Financial figures are important for all companies, but when your entire business revolves around getting the numbers right, the focus of the pitch doesn’t necessarily need to be flashy images. Clean fonts, neutral colors, and straight lines can help to clearly deliver your message.
With a data-driven client, recent studies and news items could be especially helpful in enhancing your presentation. Support your claims with evidence and list your resources. You could even create a sample workflow chart to demonstrate how you typically complete a project.
To keep things interesting, consider ways to make the presentation more interactive. Go beyond a standard Q&A by integrating important websites, documents, and other components to your pitch. A digital whiteboard with app integration makes this easy to do. (Vibe even lets you make notes directly on the presentation with the easy-to-use stylus.) Microsoft Powerpoint, Google Drive, and Asana could add a lot of interest here.
If the prospective client is in the creative field, you have different design options to consider. Bolder colors (one or two is fine; we’re still keeping it professional) and image-based messaging can show that you understand the work they do. A short video component is an excellent choice as well. Even a brief video conveys motion and energy, and an energetic presentation keeps people engaged. Use apps like YouTube, Canvas, and Adobe to put together a well-rounded creative presentation.
Clear the Way for Collaboration
“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” –Steve Jobs
Design is a key component of a great presentation, but how you frame the pitch matters, too. It’s expected that a business owner would be protective of their processes and they way they’ve always conducted business. Your goal, then, is not only to demonstrate your knowledge of the client, but how you can help them.
It would be easy to simply state what your company does and expect the client to follow along. But instead of letting them draw their own conclusion, illustrate how you can add value to their business. People tend to resist change, so it’s important to offer more than one solution. This gives clients the chance to make a choice and feel like their voice is being heard.
In his article on persuasion, Joe Hirsch notes, “It’s much easier to get others to shift their positions when they feel in charge of making their own moves.” A collaborative presentation can go a long way in creating a sense of partnership early on.
And give their team the opportunity to ask questions, either throughout the pitch or at the end. If you’re using a digital whiteboard, you can revise and make notes at various points in the presentation. Go back through the slides and easily review any unclear points with the client, making notes for clarity.
It would be easy to throw a couple of slides together and give a standard sales pitch to every prospective client out there. But going a few extra steps to customize your pitch shows a willingness to take initiative and make things happen.