How To Sell Brand Strategy Like A Pro

Learn how to sell brand strategy to your design clients, so that you can get paid for thinking apart from doing design work.  

I thought that learning how to run brand strategy workshops was going to be the hard.

I was so wrong, learning how to sell brand strategy to my clients ended up being even harder!

Running a brand strategy workshop online
Me running a brand strategy workshops online.

One thing is developing strategy, but a completely different thing is selling that strategy to your prospective clients.

That’s why I have put together a six step process on how to sell brand strategy.

Selling A Brand Strategy (6—Step Process)

  1. Position yourself as an expert
  2. Ask business questions
  3. Make them dream big
  4. Help them realize they need it
  5. Show them your process
  6. Prepare a proposal

This straight forward guide has proven effective in selling strategy to my clients without  being pushy or salesy.

If you prefer to watch instead of reading—check out my YouTube video of the same title:

If you use my process and do this correctly it will make them feel grateful that they’ve met you.

Offering brand strategy to design clients

When I learned how to run strategy workshops, among the first questions I asked myself was:

How am I going to sell brand strategy to my clients?

While I was already getting a lot of clients, their budgets for logos and identity designs were limited.

Client pondering about the cost.
Client pondering about the cost.

Sometimes clients would outright tell me, that they can get this done cheaper on sites like Fiverr, 99designs, or Upwork.

If you want to sell brand strategy for $5k or $10k how do you explain the value to your clients?

You have to learn how to sell these workshops in order to get them to pay 5x or 10x more.

Here are the most common questions designers ask me about strategy:

  • How to know if your clients want brand strategy?
  • How to know if they have a budget for it?
  • How to introduce strategy to the conversation?
  • How to show the value of strategic branding?
  • How to position yourself as a brand specialist?

In this article I will try to answer all of these questions.

I’ve tried many different approaches and through trial and error I finally came up with a process that works.

So in this article I will talk about my proven step-by-step process to selling brand strategy.

1. Position yourself as an expert

First, you need to take a look at your positioning.

If you’re perceived as someone that is just a graphic designer, then you need to change your positioning.

If you have clients come to you looking for design deliverables like a new logo or identity then they look at you as an order taker.

Don’t be just a graphic designer—an order taker.
Don’t be just a graphic designer—an order taker.

So the first step is to position yourself as a brand consultant, not a brand designer.

Start by changing the messaging on your website and social media to reflect that you’re more than just a designer.

Think about your touch-points, such as your website, to make sure they illustrate you’re a strategic designer.

Your clients need to see that you’re driven by business results, not just design.

But remember that it’s a slow process and you don’t become a strategist overnight.

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.

Talk to your clients about business goals.
Talk to your clients about business goals.

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:

  1. “Why this?”—Why do you have to do this? What’s your business objective?
  2. “Why now?”—Why do you have to do it now? Can’t you wait? What’s at risk?
  3. “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.

Make clients dream about success.
Make clients dream about success.

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.

Don’t convince—you’ll get a pushback.
Don’t convince—you’ll get a 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.”

In this step it’s your job to educate them on the importance of brand building, so that you can sell brand strategy without being pushy.

5. Show them your process

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.

Walk clients through your process.
Walk clients through your process.

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.

For example:

“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.

Send your client a proposal.
Send your client 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:

  • Problem
  • Challenge
  • Solutions
  • Process
  • Timeline
  • Budget

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.

Conclusions

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.

Make clients interested in doing strategy.
Make clients interested in buying strategy.

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.

The most practical brand strategy guide.
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.

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