How many times have you wished you could read your client’s mind? Or even better, read the mind of the prospective client?
I remember pitching a cruise ship line several years ago. They called me because I had previously worked with another cruise ship company. After the preliminary niceties, it was decided that I would fly out to Seattle and present our initial public relations program. But first, I asked if they had a budget. Their response was the dreaded “zero-based budget”. Although they probably did have a budget, they refrained from telling us because they probably had the belief that we would ask for less, allowing them to “save money.” How foolish.
To remove the suspense, I didn’t get the piece of business. Why? Because when the client heard my proposed budget, he screamed, “On my goodness, this is much higher than our budget!” Now, if this potential client had only told me his budget, I would have been able to create the best public relations program suited to that number. But because I couldn’t read his mind, I came in too high and could never salvage the client.
So, what has this taught me? Here is some insight into what potential clients are thinking:
- Can I trust them? Remember, it’s the presenter, not the presentation that gets you hired. They want you to look them in the eye and make them believe that if they give you their business, that you can truly help to solve their problems, make them richer, and sell more products.
- Will they be there for me? Back in the day, I remember a notable PR firm mandated that their staff wear pagers even when they went to the bathroom. Today, with everyone’s mania about not going anywhere without their phones, the need for a mandate has been eliminated. Clients want to know that they can reach you anytime and anywhere. I know that can mean nights and weekends, but if your client has a sudden crises, like a cruise ship fire off the coast of Alaska, they want to make sure your team is there for them.
- Will they be the monitor of my money? So you developed a suggested budget, but things happen. During a public relations program you may need to spend additional monies. Never spend big money without getting client buy-in. I have never had a client tell me “no” to spending unanticipated money. I have only seen clients go ballistic when huge, unanticipated expenses come through.
- Will they make me look like a hero to my boss? Everyone has a boss. When you’re hired, it’s your job to make your boss look good. Make their superiors believe that hiring a PR firm was a meaningful corporate expenditure.