Top ways to make agencies more effective in presenting their credentials

For the past 20 years, I have literally sat through more than a thousand agency credentials presentations. Some were part of a pitch or tender credentials presentation, and others were when I was engaged in providing feedback to help agencies improve their credentials deck and presentation. I can honestly say that initially, less than ten agency credentials examples stood out as memorable.

I remember when this first became apparent after we had spent a day of chemistry meetings with eight back-to-back credentials presentations, where the agencies were asked to provide a maximum 30-minute presentation on “why choose this agency”. In the end, the clients only remembered one of the agencies by name, and the rest were referred to by some other mnemonic, such as the one with the guy with the red spectacles, etc.

So, what is wrong with how many agencies present their credentials? Let me share some common mistakes and solutions to help you hopefully make your credentials presentations more effective.

1. Focus on the purpose of the credentials presentation

Yes, this is like taking a brief about who it is, what they think and feel now, and what we want them to think and feel after seeing the presentation. Usually, it is a new business prospect, and what you want them to think and feel is your agency must either be on their shortlist or appointed at the end of the presentation.

I am not kidding here. In one agency credentials example, the presentation was so powerful that the client was talking about appointing the agency immediately but took them through the process and appointed them in the end. Still, I am sure they had won it at that first meeting.

2. Forget the template and the formula

So many agency credentials appear like a checklist of information. Who we are, what we do, where we are located, how we work, etc, etc, etc. It is predictable and boring and not required. Whoever said there was a checklist, a formula or a format for a credentials presentation?

Remember, I am discussing a presentation here, not a credentials document. Certainly, you need to include the details about you and your company in the document, but the presentation is not simply reading from the document.

3. Make sure you turn features into benefits

This is straight out of Alistair Crompton’s The Craft of Copywriting but applies just as much to agency credentials as to great advertising.

By way of example, I had an agency banging on about their Agency University and how they were committed to the professional development of their employees. It went for about four slides and got into the details of the curriculum and everything – clearly, they were enamoured with it.

The client is sitting there saying that’s all very nice, but “What’s in it for me?” I will tell you, the employees at this agency are training in the latest on business and marketing to advise you on a day-to-day basis better. If the client wants to know more, it is all in the credentials document.

4. Don’t tell them what you do

Tell them what you deliver.

This is an extension of the previous point and one often overlooked. Too often, I find the agency spends too much of the credentials presentation talking about what they do. Have you ever been to a doctor for the first time and had them spend any time telling you what they do? Or an accountant? Or a lawyer? Let’s be honest: most marketers and advertisers broadly know what a media agency does, a creative agency, a public relations firm, or a digital agency. So, telling them what do is potentially the fastest way to commodities yourself because everyone in your category will be saying largely the same thing. Of course, if the audience has no experience or understanding of marketing, you may need to explain what an agency does. But do not waste more than a minute or two on this.

5. If it is too dull or detailed, put it in the ‘leave-behind.’

I am not sure why agencies think they need to answer all of the client’s questions in the presentation. Often, the client may send through a list of questions they want the agency to address in the credentials presentation. Or the agency may invite and elicit questions that the clients are interested in. This is a good strategy. Having been asked, the agency should address these queries, just not necessarily in the presentation.

My favourite is when a client (usually procurement) asks the agency to detail their process. I defy anyone to find a way to present the process in a way that is not sleep-inducing. Remember, the purpose is to build rapport and hopefully get one step closer to getting the business. If something is particularly complex, boring, or potentially confusing, put it in the document the client will take away with them. (Yes, there should always be a document or written follow-up to reference the meeting.) Then, you can reference the details in the leave-behind and move on to more business-winning discussions.

6. Don’t just say it, show it

There is usually a point in the credentials presentation where we get to either the client testimonials, you know, the bit “That’s enough about us, let’s hear what our clients think about us,” or the case studies, which is a chance to show off the work and tell the client prospect how successful you have been.

Unfortunately, these are usually towards the end of the presentation after you have spent the first half talking about how successful you are as an agency and how unique you are. Instead of having a testimonial and case study section, using case studies and testimonials to demonstrate what you are saying is always more powerful.

For example, instead of saying you work collaboratively with other agencies (sure you do), why not have other agencies and your clients talk about your collaboration skills? Or show a case study that could only be achieved through collaboration?

7. What is the outtake of the presentation?

What narrative or story are you telling, and is it memorable and distinctive? Ideally, you want the client to feel that they do not know how they survived to date without you working on their business.

But what makes a marketer think that will depend on his or her own particular needs and circumstances, which is next to impossible to know. But you want to leave them with a powerful impression and a desire to know more. (This is a good measure of a great credentials presentation as it spontaneously has the audience asking you for more information and starting a discussion about how you could or would work together).

But also, when they walk away, what will be their impression of the agency later that day, tomorrow or in a week’s time? And how will they describe you to someone not in the presentation? That is the story or narrative you need to craft.

These are just the top seven most common and perhaps most obvious mistakes I see repeatedly. In 2011, I got so sick of seeing the same formulaic credentials I put together this spoof video of an agency to demonstrate how not to do it. The trouble is I think some agencies have mistaken this as a training video and missed the point.

However, having seen so many agency credentials presentations and how they impact a client looking for a new agency, I am happy to help any agency improve by providing raw and honest feedback. If you are up for it, let us know. Until then, I hope this has helped help you present your agency credentials.

Learn more about how we can help your agency improve its Agency Credentials and Market Positioning here.