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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Nov 25, 2020


In today’s episode we break down the process of selling creative services. How you not only make the initial sale, but sell the concepts as well. We share experiences with past clients, challenges we’ve met along the way, and strategies to overcome those challenges. Helping your client think practically and objectively about something that is potentially so tied to emotion is the key. And having a clear process on how you walk someone through this in a consistent way that is profitable is even more important!


Top 3  Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Your brand is NOT your logo or your name, but the values you build into those things. Foundational, should be obvious, but important to remember.
  2. The more you can remove subjectivity, the more you can bring clarity. When pitching strategy and concepts to your client, back every decision up with research. Let them know that you care about who their customer is and how their brand will bring value to those individuals.
  3. Create a process that consistently produces creative success. It must create results in a consistent way and ensure you’re profitable. Consider reverse engineering the process of a client, especially if they are not sure how they go to their success. This will reveal tactics you can use in the future, and help further define that client’s strategy for the future. 


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 


Show Notes:

[1:53] Brad introduces this week’s episode- we’re talking about selling creative to your clients. That’s creative services, not just sales. “I’m talking about selling the creative strategy to your clients- how do you get them to see the vision?” 

  • Communicating your creative strategy to clients can be challenging, because so much of creative is subjective and opinion-based. 

[3:15] Bob asks Brad for his insight into this topic, he’s the Brand Guy. 

[3:54] Brad reflects on the fact that his parent’s generation don’t care as much about the brand, and it’s an interesting difference. “There’s people in that age and demographic who don’t seem to care as much about the brand… they don’t see it almost. They don’t see the packaging of the product. They don’t see the way it’s positioned very well.” 

  • He talks about products (and brands) that don’t have a unique selling proposition, saying they don’t shine when compared to other products. There are even brands who aren’t that much better, product-wise, but shine due to their brand recognition. 

[5:00] Ken talks about how oftentimes, building your brand is the only competitive advantage you have. He asks Brad “How does the creative connect to brand, in your mind?”

[5:27] Brad responds. It depends on your customer. When you’re working with a client who’s brand has been established for many years and they’re protective of it- that’s when you know the guardrails and how to sell to them. But if you’re working with a younger client who’s brand isn’t as solid, you know there’s going to be more of an uphill battle. 

[6:25] Bob says that you’ve got to be the one that brings clarity to your client- “The sales process is to convince them that you can take it to the next level that will result in higher market shares and higher conversions and sales. 

  • He talks about other factors that can complicate the sale- if the brand is older but outdated and in need of a refresh, but the client is attached to the name or the vision and won’t budge on creative changes. That is an opportunity to speak with clarity to them about their brand and the vision for their future. 

[8:10] Brad: “Your brand isn’t your logo or your name, right? It’s the values you put into those, the name and the identity and how you communicate those values.”

  • Nike spent $30 for their logo, and their brand hasn’t diminished because of that- their success is built on the values they bring to the table and how they add value to the lives of their customers. 

[9:28] Ken calls out the aspiration factor, saying it’s encouraging to see things from Nike. “If you can help your customer see themselves where they want to be, then that’s powerful.” 

[10:00] Brad shares that sometimes startups have a great product but don’t think about who their customers are, which makes it difficult to position a brand to everyone. He talks about walking through that process with clients, saying they outline brand guardrails before even beginning the creative process. Including the client in that process and introducing them to the strategy is key to success in that process. 

[12:00] Ken reflects on this process, saying it’s a very analytical approach to selling creative. You’re not selling just one thing, but selling every step along the way. 

[12:50] Bob says that sharing data and research about your decisions with the clients along the way builds trust and buy-in from the clients. 

  • It’s as simple as taking 3-5 concepts and doing some qualitative analytics. 

[14:07] Brad “One of the more frustrating things about watching a creative pitch creative and there’s zero data and zero strategy in why they made the decisions they’ve made… They didn’t really understand the strategy going into it.” 

[17:31] Bob says that the more you can remove subjectivity, the more you can bring clarity. “I think our job as an agency is to continue to remove subjectivity. Not that you remove the best art and design, but you remove the subjectivity so that everyone at the table can say Why do I need to trust you.” 

[18:24] Ken reflects on sometimes being too connected with the creative you’re delivering. He talks about a recent experience with a client who moved a deadline forward a couple weeks and then weren’t appreciative when the team responded quickly and on time- 

  • “Somehow we need to protect ourselves from our source of energy coming from the person you’re giving it to- we need to get our source of energy from other places… there are tactics and guardrails that you have to avoid being too connected to what you’re delivering.” 

[20:42] Brad “I was taught early on that I had to provide a few different roads to the same destination. And so I never got too connected, I always could feel more objective.” 

[23:00] Brad says that he and his team work with mood boards to get as close to those creative guard rails as possible.

[24:58] Bob shares that developing a good process can help your team get on board and not become too attached to the creative they’re producing. 

[27:00] Brad says that sometimes the client CEO will take a bit of creative to an outsider for an opinion, and that outsider doesn’t know the strategy behind any of the decisions that have been made. And so it then becomes your job to wrangle that client back on board without the influence of outsiders who don’t know the brand the way that you do. 

[32:30] Ken “Rarely should the person that created the thing be the one that’s pitching it or selling it to the client, because I think it’s most like a different skill set.” He stresses the importance of bringing clarity to the client when presenting creative, of having someone in that role who’s skill set matches that clarity. 

[34:21] Bob reiterates “Try to remove subjectivity, have a clear process, and bring clarity to the client. So that your value is not another voice that says this is a good idea… Your job is to bring clarity and purpose and see how it fits into the overall strategy.” 

[34:59] Brad talks about working with clients who have multiple stakeholders who don’t see eye to eye. You have multiple decision-makers with the clients and they all have pull, so pitching creative relies even more on clarity and vision. 

[36:19] Ken switches topics to strategy. “How do you guys define strategy and how do you make sure that what you’re talking about is actually what someone is thinking? What is the thing you’re trying to do?” 

[38:24] Brad says that really, strategy is the path to be able to market a product or service. It starts with a lot of understanding of what makes their product or services unique, a lot of research to define guardrails.

[39:32] Bob says strategy for him is based on 3 things: What’s the plan? And how are you going to do it? How are you going to measure that success? 

  • Ken says it can also help to focus on the end result and work backwards from there. Then you begin to identify tactics that make up that path. 

[41:54] Bob “If you’re going to sell strategy to a client and get them to give you money to execute on it, you have to provide very clear documentation of what’s the idea, what’s the end result, what are the steps you’re going to do? And what are the expected results? If you don’t do all those things, it’s not a strategy, it’s just an idea.” 

  • Brad says that the measuring is a great addition- because even if things don’t work out as you predicted, you can show the client exactly what you can change and tweak to produce different results in the future. 

[45:00] Ken says that often in ecommerce, he sees companies that are having massive success but aren’t really sure why. They’re doing things that seem to be working, but there’s no real strategy around it. “More often than not we’re reverse engineering a strategy so that this success that someone found isn’t by accident in the future.” 

  • Brad shares the example of Adidas running a lot of ecommerce discounts and deals, which in the long term has diminished their brand. It’s important to keep strategy in mind when you’re trying something new! Even for big, established brands. 

[51:13] Bob talks about how nebulous words like “strategy” and “brand” can come to mean nothing over time. “It just gets back to bringing clarity, and removing subjectivity.”