Monday, March 18, 2013

'I'm Not an Expert, but I Think...' The Challenge of Client Pitches.


In this brilliant one-minute clip (click here), "Mad Men" captures how Pitch Meetings can go tragically wrong. And this is true in any industry or area -- definitely including law and professional-services firms.

Here, helpful ad executive Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) has been persuaded to bring her significant talents to a middle-school dance flyer.  She pitches professional-quality creative work to the dance committee -- two classic church ladies.

... who suggest changes. De-provements, of course.

This hilariously painful excerpt shows precisely what happens when the client is not in a position to make a good decision.  (Peggy’s reaction shots are priceless.)

These old ladies (i.e. the event's "Marketing Committee") have no experience, are not the target audience, and don’t recognize how good her work is.  But of course, they have no compunction about insisting upon significant revisions.  And once the first one expresses a concern, the second one jumps on board, and the priest enables it. It's classic Marketing Committee behavior. 

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, which to them feel entirely valid -- regardless of their lack of expertise or foundation.

Here, Peggy wasn’t able to persuade her “clients,” the church ladies, that they should accept her opinion as the expert.  Clients won't simply "take your word for it."  I’ve never met a lawyer who would say, “I hate it, but you’re the expert, so we’ll do what you recommend.”  

In fact, they shouldn't -- it's our job as the subject-matter experts to provide them with the education necessary to make an informed decision.  It takes a lot longer, but I think it's one of the most-important steps in the process.

An educated client is the best kind.  That is, if we actually have the right answer, the solution to their problem, then someone who is sufficiently educated should recognize that and get on board.  So it's our job to teach them, to put them in a position to make a good decision. And once they're educated, only then should we show them what we’re recommending. 

Fortunately, lawyers learn fast.  My mantra is, “Lawyers get it the first time, they just haven’t had the class.”

That’s why when we pitch a new marketing campaign or creative platform for a new website, I insist on being able to give them a PPT presentation in which I give them the education they need before showing them anything we’ve developed. 

The education only takes ~20 minutes - but it’s often the most-important 20 minutes they’ll spend in their marketing committee that year. 

It’s what enables us to turn the website from an online brochure no one will read or care about, into something that helps them take over the world.  

From Season Two.

Copyright (c) 2007 AMC Entertainment Network. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff Ross. The best outcomes come when everyone is making informed contributions. A lawyer might not know marketing, web design, etc, but (hopefully) they know their audience, their own strengths and weaknesses in the market, etc. The job of the marketing team is to tease these out and guide the lawyer in effectively communicating their value and benefit to their clients.

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