Five 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 process and others were when I have been engaged to provide feedback to help agencies improve their credentials presentation. I can honestly say that initially there are less than ten that stand out and are 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 where referred to by some other mnemonic such as the one with the guy with the red spectacles etc.

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

1. Focus on the purpose of the credentials presentation

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

I am not kidding here, in one case the credentials were so powerful the client was talking about appointing the agency straight away, but took them through the process and appointed them in the end, but 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 really required. Who ever said there was a checklist or a formula or a format for a credentials presentation?

Now remember I am talking about a presentation here and not a credentials document. Certainly there is a 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 it does 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 detail of the curriculum and everything – clearly they were enamoured with it.

The thing is 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 better advise you on a day-to-day basis. If the client wants to know more it is all in the credentials document.

4. 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, lets 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 it is always more powerful to use case studies and testimonials to demonstrate what you are saying.

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

5. What is the outtake of the presentation?

What is the narrative or story you are 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, or tomorrow or in a week’s time? And how will they describe you to someone that was not in the presentation? That is the story or narrative you need to craft.

These are just the top 5 most common and perhaps most obvious mistakes I see over and over again. In fact back 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.

But having seen so many agency credentials presentations and how they land on 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 been helpful in helping you present your agency credentials.

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