Authenticity in positioning and new business

Two inputs have inspired what you’ll be reading today (ways authenticity can be seen in positioning, prospecting and pitching). The first input came from a story from Derek Walker in Small Agency Diary. He writes about the need for agencies to clearly articulate their own brands.

Derek got my head nodding up and down. Yep. We, as agencies, should be able to say why we exist, what we do, why it’s valuable, and all that kind of stuff.

The second input comes from Leslie Ehm of Three Training. Another smartie. She and I were talking earlier in the week about our industry’s dreadful practice of spinning and pitching anything that comes in over the transom (when the phone rings). We simply aren’t selective enough. For instance…a retailer calls and wants us to pitch their business. We have no retail experience. Yet despite this, as an optimistic lot, we gladly agree for the opportunity to spend tons of time and money against an opportunity we really have very little chance of winning. (Insert your own phone call here – and the quick spinning you do inside your head to offer up rationale on why you’d be a good fit for that given pitch.)

So, where’s this all going? Well, how ’bout here: that we be a bit more authentic in what we pitch. Said in another way, that means saying “no” a bit more. It could even mean suggesting your competitor down the street might be a better fit.

Is this crazy talk?! Personal experience suggests that the really good agencies say “no” much more than others. And without getting too hippie dippy on you, there’s a confidence and power you feel when you turn down work or refer it to other. In a very real way, this builds trust. Which can be made billable!

Another way this idea of authenticity connects with agency positioning and the words you can use to describe yourself – use the words that are true to you and your firm. Odds are good they won’t include the favorites like ROI, solution-neutral, media agnostic, full service, etc. A good list from Michael Gass here. Some of what’s actually listed there is pretty damn smart. But then, it was a survey. One might not answer the question if they didn’t think they had a good answer.

Unfortunately, I think Derek and Leslie are right – there are too few of us that are eager to change the context or content to please the audience. Heck, I’ll be one of the first to suggest you gotta change up content and context to win. The point is to do it without bullshit. Either in the thinking itself or how it’s being delivered.

Your audience can tell.

And it won’t help.