Removing The Most Painful Question Potential Clients Always Ask

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"I’d like you to come into our offices and help us understand why we still need a website."

You can remove the word "website" and interchange it with practically anything from, Twitter and YouTube to Facebook or a mobile website. You can even swap that word out and exchange it with any of the more common industry terms you use. If you really want to translate that first line, what it really says is, "forget what you do for a living (and how well you do it), I don’t even think the industry you serve is important for us to be paying attention to, is it?"

It’s a bad place to be, but it’s the reality for most.

One of the biggest transitions we’ve had at Twist Image over the past few years is that we no longer field questions/comments like that anymore. In fact, we get the calls that go something like this: " we know that we could be doing a lot more in the Digital Marketing space, and we’d like to come over to your office, explain where we’re at and have you show us where we should be going."

How can you transition your business from dealing with questions about the merits of the industry you serve to becoming a recognized authority?

Here are 6 ways to remove the most painful question potential clients always ask:

  1. Join your industry association and groups. You can’t have a strong business without a strong community. One of the best ways to bring your industry into a more mainstream world view is to become a member of the associations, organizations and groups that serve your industry. In my instance, this included groups like the IAB – Interactive Advertising Bureau , but it also meant taking it a step further and getting involved in places like the CMA – Canadian Marketing Association as well. It’s important to have association with the industry that serves your company directly, but it’s equally important to get involved in the more general industry association that serves the larger umbrella of your vertical.
  2. Become a leader. If all you do is join and pay your dues, you’re missing a much bigger opportunity to affect change. Most of these associations and organizations are driven by volunteers, and they are constantly looking for fresh blood and succession for some of their present leadership. What an amazing opportunity to not only affect change, but to network, connect and really get your hands dirty in growing the industry that you serve. Who knows what this can do for your industry (and your career/business growth)? If that doesn’t suit your needs, look at unconferences (like BarCamp and PodCamp) and figure out a way to get something like that started for your industry.
  3. Be quotable. Mass media and the power of strong traditional public relations and media attention does move the needle. While Blogging and being on Twitter (see the next point) are a huge part of this transition, do not dismiss the reality that many of your potential clients still pick up the business section of your local (or national) newspaper and are still highly influenced by what they see on TV and listen to on radio. If you can be quotable, Journalists will call you for your perspective. Bonus points if you can score your own column or segment in traditional media where you’re frequently sharing the value of your industry and those who serve it.
  4. Blogs are not dead. People still like a good White Paper or article that they can pass around the company. Blogs are the new White Papers and articles. Now, you don’t need to spend months trying to get one piece of content produced, you can Blog for relatively cheap (even free) and start creating a constant and consistent stream of valuable content that establishes you (and your industry) as a recognized authority. The hard part is doing it well, doing it consistently, being highly relevant and not being pushy on the sale. If Blogging isn’t your thing consider any (or many) of the other online digital platforms that allow you to publish text, images, audio and video. Figure out what works for you, strategically, and start producing valuable content.
  5. Speak. A lot of people say that they like to speak in public, but few really do prepare, practice and hone this skill. This is a huge component of how you can shift the perceptions of your industry. Think about it in its simplest form: instead of going from meeting to meeting explaining to one company at a time the value of the industry you serve, suddenly you have a public platform where you can evangelize to hundreds (sometimes thousands) of individual and companies at a time.
  6. Be Authentic. This is the core principal for how to develop your Personal Brand. It’s also the core value in what makes some people so successful at Social Media while others can’t figure out why it’s not working for them. Being authentic is your ability to understand your true values, goals and beliefs and using all the channels/opportunities mentioned above to share them. I’ve often talked about how great Digital Marketing is because it’s about, "real interactions between real human beings."  That’s what is going to separate and elevate you and your industry from the rest: your ability to do things authentically for the overall betterment of your industry, and not with the sole purpose of lining your own pockets.

What would you add to this list?


  1. I would add: BE PATIENT
    Rome wasn’t built in a day. What I’ve learned over the past six months of blogging is that it takes time to build an e-network and a web presence. There’s a ton to learn and you need to advance steadily, but understanding that social media technology is changing rapidly.

  2. I would add to the “blogs are not dead” section: In addition to writing your own blog, contribute to other blogs, forums, LinkedIn questions, articles, etc… This responsibility can be distributed among employees based on their area of expertise – e.g. your sales engineers can contribute to technical forums, your marketing folks can each be assigned certain influential blogs/columns to read & comment on.

  3. Great post!! We’ve been struggling with this very issue for the last while. We’re a start up and small, so respect of what we do and our industry has been a rough ride.
    The Be Patient comment by Jim Taggart is valid as well. I am now having to come to terms with the length of the sales cycle in the industry. That’s a tough one to handle when you’re trying grow.
    I might also add be diligent. We often need to remind potential clients over and over again that they need our services.

  4. It’s extremely important that companies realize that in order to be positioned as the go-to in your industry, you must DO something. You cannot sit back and hope that joining an industry association or signing up for a Facebook page or blog will bring business to your doorstep. You must actively engage in your community, whether physical or online. Patience is a virtue and hard work will eventually pay off.
    Thanks for the reminder!
    Tessa Carroll
    VBP OutSourcing

  5. Excellent slap-in-the-face post to all of us watching this new era in business. My two cents would be: Be Memorable. For that you not only have to be authentic but also creative in how you present yourself to others. Leave that small bit (breadcrumb?) of yourself behind after every interaction for others to find and follow you. Until next time Mitch. –Paul

  6. Jacques,
    FutureNow did not close up shop. Jeffrey and I left FutureNow to pursue new opportunities because we worked so hard at over the last decade becoming authorities and having such wonderful fans like you. We can now spend our time focusing on speaking and writing and don’t work that many clients by our choice. FutureNow continues to run, just without our involvement.

  7. Always a good post, enjoy them every time. Especially liked the bit about blogs being the new “white papers” It makes me wonder though, how abbreviated our culture will get in it’s communication? Can we remove context from our language and relentlessly drive to the essential at all times? Are we trying? It worries me.

  8. Absolutely – great list.
    On 2 & 5, it’s so easy to think the leadership roles are hand picked and it’s just not you – in reality, the leaders decide to lead, not waiting for the approval that never comes.

  9. I would like to put emphasis on the number six. On be authentic, it is very well explained. I will take this as an excerpt, “That’s what is going to separate and elevate you and your industry from the rest: your ability to do things authentically for the overall betterment of your industry, and not with the sole purpose of lining your own pockets.”

  10. Wow, how laughable was this comment? I just went over to see this person’s website and they claim to be some kind of web analytics expert/guru? I thought folks like that were data and fact driven? So, either he has a bone to pick with the Eisenberg’s or he’s the worst analytics professional ever. LOL.
    Question for your Mr. Warren: if you don’t believe what’s being written in this post, why do you have a Blog, promote yourself on Twitter, offer yourself up as a Speaker, etc…? It seems like everything you’re questioning in this post is exactly what you’re doing to try to make a living?
    Regardless, talk about an unprofessional and off-base comment. I hope you’re clients see how unprofessionally you conduct yourself in public.

  11. Hi Bryan
    I’m glad you straighten the record! I was wrongly reading into the situation, interprating your and Jeffrey’s departure as the end of FN. Better to hera it from the horse’s mouth than rumors!! Good luck

  12. Hi Patrick
    Nope, no bone to pick with Bryan. I have been quite puzzled lately by the economics of free (Chris Anderson) and Mitch book. They seem to describe exceptional situations, not models that can be widely applied. I sure use blogging and twittering to make myself known. I, like Mitch, just published a book, though, knowing it’s still a great way to reach people.
    I don’t understand your tone, however, quite agressive. I am professional enough not to say “amen” to buzzwords, whoever utters them. I am sorry if my short comment (comments are better short I believe) came across as direspectful toward the Eisenberg Brothers whom I respect immensely, and whose work has had a profound impact in my career.

  13. Great post, Mitch. In the social space, I truly believe that the most important thing you can do as a business or an individual is be authentic. By shedding those outer layers that keep you from being your authentic self, you have the ability to discover your true “brand”.

  14. Good post Mitch. Spot on as well about joining industry associations and becoming a leader. Too much of what I see in these groups are people whinging about why client’s don’t get it and how come they aren’t spending more. The truth of the matter is, that most of them need to take a good hard look at themselves and ask if they are actually positioning themselves as experts in their field and working to build trust with their clients/prospects. Clients know that they need to do more in digital marketing, it’s whether they trust you enough to take what you have to say on board that matters.
    Mal Chia – Square Holes

  15. If you respected and admired them, you would not have posted something like… in that tone too. On top of that, you’re a self-proclaimed Web Analytics expert, don’t you check your data before publishing it?

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