Take us to the next level. But don’t do anything scary.

Twice recently prospects have challenged us to elevate their brand to a new level, but to do so without upsetting the apple cart.

chaaangeSo, in other words, they wanted to increase awareness, credibility and consideration but to do so without changing their basic positioning, messaging or tactics.

Talk about a fool’s errand.

We attempted to walk this tight wire all the while demonstrating our strategic thinking in the process. Bad move.

In both instances, the prospect called to tell me that, while we were clearly the more strategic and creative firm, they’d chosen a (ponderous, plodding) holding company instead. Why? Because the latter seemed better at the day-to-day blocking and tackling.

I responded by asking each prospect how they intended to achieve their business goals when it seemed like they’d be doing the same old thing albeit with a new agency. “Time will tell,” said one. “We’re just not ready yet to move the needle,” said the other.” So, why mislead the agencies in the first place?

Strategy consultant Robb High would place the blame on our shoulders.

In his highly informative “Agency Pitch Mistakes” e-mail series, High touches on any number of false assumptions firms make when pitching new accounts.

Our most recent experiences underscore High’s Agency Pitch Mistake #24: “Scaring the client with your great ideas.”

High says the prospect’s decision-making team almost always consists of several players. As a result, they seek a group consensus in making their decision. So, while they may ask for ideas that will take them to the next level, most feel threatened by truly strategic and creative ideas, and some even fear too much change might cost them their jobs.

So, what’s an agency team to do? I know what we’ll do. Since we’re not interested in representing clients who seek extra arms and legs to implement purely tactical programs, we’ll keep trying to push the envelope. And, if that means losing a chance to represent a brand that’s too timid to test new waters, so be it.

Life’s too short to be an order taker.


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