So start by slowly introducing strategic thinking to what you’re already doing instead of calling yourself a brand consultant right away.
Positioning yourself as a brand consultant is the first step to selling brand strategy.
2. Ask business questions
Once you positioned yourself as a consultant, then next time a new client calls you — shift that conversation towards business objectives.
It’s very common when a client talks about branding, they usually focus on visuals.
They tend to tell you about what kind of logo they would like — what colors, typography, style and so on.
But the problem is that the more you talk about the visuals the less you can talk about strategy.
If you want to sell brand strategy, then you need to take control of that conversation and shift it towards business goals and objectives.
The 3 Questions to ask on the first call:
“Why this?”—Why do you have to do this? What’s your business objective?
“Why now?”—Why do you have to do it now? Can’t you wait? What’s at risk?
“Why me?”—Why do you want to work with me? Why not go for a cheaper option?
These questions will make your client prove to you why they need this project done instead of you having to prove yourself to them.
So by asking these questions you will uncover if this project is actually valuable to your client, because if not—then good luck charging a lot of money for strategy.
The more you talk about their business objectives, the quicker they will understand that you’re trying to help them succeed and this will make them want to hire you.
Keep the conversation high level, and avoid talking about visuals at this point.
3. Make them dream big
The previous step will put you on the right path to start talking about strategy.
Once they answer a few business related questions then you must make them dream big about what success would look like to them.
Here, you can start talking about their business goals in terms of growth, revenue, market share and so on.
This is very important because it will help them understand the importance of this project and how it will impact their future life and professional career.
A great way to get them to think about the future is by using the Dan Sullivan 3 year question:
“If we were having this discussion 3 years from today, and you were looking back over those 3 years, what has to have happened in your life both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”
Asking this question will help you build rapport with the client and have them understand that you genuinely want to help them succeed.
In this step it’s also important to repeat some of their key goals and aspirations back to them.
This will help them understand that you've listened to them and you're on the same page.
4. Help them realize they need it
The next step is to ask more specific questions to have them come to understanding of what they need.
Because if you tell someone what they need, you’re likely to get a bit of pushback.
However, if you can make the client come to the realization on their own that they actually need strategy services, then you don‘t have to convince anyone.
This step will help you sell brand strategy without you actually having to sell anything.
So by asking more specific questions, you will have them come to conclusion on their own that they need strategy (they will sell it to themselves).
One of the most effective questions to ask to help them have that epiphany is:
Do you know exactly who your target market is and the position you want to take in the market?
Most likely they will not have a very clear answer to that question and this will open them up to doing brand strategy.
And also a great a great way to have them realize they need strategy is by using metaphors and analogies, for example The Iceberg metaphor that goes like this:
“A brand is like an iceberg. Everything below the surface and what you can’t see is your internal brand (purpose, vision, values) and then the logo is just the top of the iceberg.”
Or you can use other analogies, for example:
“Branding is like building a house, you have to have that solid foundation first, before you even think about hanging pictures on the wall. You wouldn’t build a house on the sand, you need that solid foundation.”
The next step is to educate them about what’s the process of working with you and what that strategy actually entails and how much it costs.
Summarize the conversation at this point by saying something like:
“A lot of clients ask me to design a logo and I’m successful at designing logos because I have a proven framework that I use. So if you’re open to doing strategy, then I’d like to describe it to you to see if this is something you’d like to do as well.“
Next, explain what to expect during the brand strategy workshop.
“It’s a discovery session to learn more about you, your company and most importantly your customers.”
Continue by describing every branding exercise you’re going to run in a nutshell to give them an overview of the workshop.
Then sum it all up, for example:
“When we figure out all those brand strategy components, then we typically help our clients grow and succeed much faster”
Here you also have to clearly state that strategy is what’s driving all the aesthetic decisions we make.
Finally, talk about price:
“For developing the strategy we charge $5k, which is exclusive of any deliverables. I say it upfront because it might not be a good fit for you.”
Make it clear to the client that through that workshop you’re going to be able to define the scope of work accurately and set the budget for all the deliverables.
And if they ask how much those deliverables would cost, then just give them a price range:
“Based on the little information that we have right now, brand identity work can cost between $5k and $10k which includes elements such as logo artwork, style guides etc.”
If you hear clear “Yes, let’s do that”, then you simply say that you’ll follow up with a proposal and give them a call to go over that.
6. Prepare a proposal
After that initial call and based on your conversation, the last step is to put together a proposal.
But remember to not waste time on preparing proposals for clients who were not clearly interested.
You cannot sell brand strategy to a client who doesn’t want to buy it!
However if you get a verbal agreement, then proceed with a proposal.
A proposal should include the following components:
Start with the problem and then add some weight to the gravity of that problem, but without over dramatizing it.
For example, the problem could be that sales dropped over the last 3 years and they need a rebrand.
State the problem and define the challenge, for example:
“Brand X has been declining in sales over the last 3 years. The category has been evolving and competitors are gaining market share. Brand X is struggling to connect with new segments in the category.”
Disclaimer—You don‘t invent it, this needs to be based on the conversation you had with your client.
Next, you talk about your solutions, for example:
“Based on the repositioning of brand X we will create a distinctive brand experience that will change the perceived quality for consumers. Combined with extensive advertising we can grow market share and change perception of market X.”
Here, you need to describe your approach to solving that problem and it could contain elements like: researching the category, gaining consumer insights, developing clear brand strategy, designing distinctive brand identity and so on.
And finally you set the budget, but it should not be a surprise to your client since you already dropped the anchor in the first conversation.
Your goal is to end the conversation with them coming to realization that they actually need more that they thought they needed.
If you follow my process, your clients will understand they need brand strategy, not just a logo.
If you did this correctly, you will not have to sell brand strategy to them—they will be sold on their own.
Your clients will see you as an expert and you will destroy your competition (other designers).
They will remember you as someone who actually understands them and is able to help them build a successful brand.
Basically, it’s all about uncovering their goals and objectives and showing what results you’re going to give to your client.
So you need to know what questions to ask and listen carefully to understand what their goals are.
Ultimately, you need to make them feel that you take them from A to B.
Of course, in some cases you can’t just convince clients who don’t value strategy.
Selling strategy takes time and a certain mindset.
If you want to learn how to run brand strategy workshops with your clients? — Check out my new Brand Strategy Guide.
I would love to hear about your experience with selling brand strategy.
Do you have any experience?
Are you looking towards selling your first strategy session?
Does it sound like a great opportunity for you to charge for creative thinking?
Do you want to add brand strategy to your offering and level up as a creative?
Either way—I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Just ask any question and I'll do my best to answer all of them.
I'm a branding expert and graphic designer based in NY. I specialize in the development of brands: brand strategy, identity & web design. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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