What clients want to hear in a pitch
This is the third article about our August 2020 ‘What clients want’ survey.
To stop designers guessing what clients want, we wrote a list of questions and published a survey. Gotta say we were pleased with the response. We had clients respond from a wide variety of industries with budgets ranging from a once-off project fee of $3K to an annual marketing spend of $1m.
This week it’s all about the question: Just say you give a prospective design supplier 45 minutes to pitch their credentials. Which of the following presentations would be of most interest?
To make the survey process as time-efficient as possible for users, we offered clients five options for their pitch:
- to see a current folio of work
- no presentation, instead a ‘get to know you’ chat over lunch/coffee
- no folio, just a discussion specifically about your industry sector, trends and your clients/customers
- to see a case study: the best project they ever produced, regardless of industry sector
- a meet/greet to introduce their complete team
Nearly 60% of all respondents did not want to see a designer’s current folio.
- 22% of all clients wanted to spend 45 minutes discussing trends specific to their industry sector and hear about your clients. No folio, no presentation. Just a chat – most probably to test the relationship.
- 20% of all respondents were interested in hearing a case study: the best project a designer had ever produced, regardless of the relevance to their client sector, and
- 17% of clients were interested in a ‘get to know you’ chat over lunch or coffee, which is interesting in an era of busy-ness and time constraints.
How does this compare with the UK?
These responses correlate strongly with the 2019-20 UK What Clients think report based on face-to-face interviews with over 500 clients.
The top 3 factors UK clients wanted to know from a new business presentation were:
Can work with them?
All respondents thought human skills were of great importance. Are the designers interested and engaged? Are they enthusiastic and positive? Are they listening? Are they friendly and accommodating or more corporate?
Are they experts?
Is the agency consultative in approach or just an agency to be briefed? Do they have views and opinions? Do they show an understanding of my industry sector, brand and market? Do they instil confidence?
Have they addressed a similar challenge to mine?
Clients wanted evidence the designer had addressed a similar strategic challenge. Didn’t matter if the case study was from a totally different industry sector, the strategic challenge just needed to be relevant.
How does this compare with previous Australian research?
At our 2019 UNseminar ‘How to think like a client‘, Coca-Cola’s Natalie Cukerman, Bank Australia’s Fiona Nixon and Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand’s Elisabeth Tuckey gave valuable insights from a FMCG, corporate and not-for-profit perspective. Even though the three women worked in completely different areas, all agreed they wanted designers to demonstrate, early on, knowledge about their client sector. They all said the first contact from designers was often too general — like a generic pitch likely to be made for any client.
And it’s worth noting, all said they didn’t care about the size of an agency — what mattered was having confidence the designers had the ability deliver on brief. (This relates to a point below about the option to meet/greet the complete team.)
Our results in detail
When asked: Just say you give a prospective design supplier 45 minutes to pitch their credentials. Which of the following presentations would be of most interest? the results were:
- 38% of clients chose their current folio of work — which sounds like a majority but keep reading…
- 23% of clients chose no folio, just a discussion specifically about your industry sector, trends and your clients/customers
- 20% of clients chose a case study: the best project they ever produced, regardless of industry sector
- 17% of clients chose no presentation, instead a ‘get to know you’ chat over lunch/coffee
- 2% of clients chose a folio of industry-specific projects and a conversation demonstrating and understanding of my industry
- 0% of clients chose a meet/greet to introduce their complete team
So, at first glance, it looks like clients prefer to see a current folio of work but actually what they prefer is the opposite.
More clients preferred to meet and talk than be led through a folio of current work. And interestingly, not one was interested in meeting or greeting the staff of a studio.
So, what does this mean?
It means that clients do not choose designers randomly. It’s obvious they put a lot of time and effort into choosing a design supplier.
Perhaps designers should view that first client meeting much the same way you would a first date. Be prepared to be assessed for your relationship-worthiness. 😉
Rather than hone a perfect pitch deck, designers should concentrate on thinking through discussion points of interest to the client. Aim to instil confidence in your ability. Share industry insights, challenges you might have in common, or views and opinions on future trends. Be enthusiastic and positive. And like a first date – do as much listening as speaking.
It’s also interesting how these findings relates to previous insights:
- the value of networking — work and socially. Apart from replacing that awkward first date, networking is the perfect way to harvest industry insights and build rapport, away from the office.
- the dislike clients have for the cold-call. Most clients want to build a partnership with a design partner, and the first step to a partnership is to build a relationship. The first step to building a relationship is talking (and listening).
So perhaps we all need to put away the folio, hone our small talk and pick up the coffee cup.
Most of the designers I have worked with have been professional and do good work. However, I put a fair bit of effort into searching for good designers. Anonymous client response
Here’s three more articles about thinking like a client:
- A summary of our 2019 UNseminar – we invited three clients to be grilled by designers.
- One way to find loyal clients.
- How to help clients make decisions – we don’t all come to decisions the same way.
As always, happy to discuss, just email.
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After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, I pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. Now with the Design Business Council I use my experience, and research, as a design mentor and coach. I help designers build robust, sustainable businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.
The core of the DBC is the building a design community – over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means designers don’t have the same support network of other professionals. The DBC’s solution is supplement paid gigs with research, mentoring breakfast meet-ups, informative UNseminars and practical workshops in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.