The Insights Blog

Agencies: Please don’t lead with your tools

Agencies: Please don’t lead with your tools

Agencies: Please don’t lead with your tools

We review numerous agency presentations annually, and we consider it a great privilege to witness the expertise of talented individuals discussing the clients we hold dear. There are, however, occasional missteps that hinder the potential bond between the agency and the prospective client. 

One prevalent issue is when agencies devote an excessive amount of pitch time discussing their tools – a counterproductive approach.

Allow me to elaborate.

Consider this scenario: When you dine at a restaurant for the first time, do you inquire about the chef’s choice of knives? When hiring a landscaper, do you question their leaf blower preferences? Likely not. Similarly, when undergoing surgery, you don’t concern yourself with the surgeon’s preferred scalpel or vascular occluder.


Because individuals seeking services are primarily focused on their business opportunities and challenges. To choose a partner, they want assurance that you truly understand their needs.

Oh, and every agency has tools. Within agencies of comparable scale, these tools are generally similar in capabilities. The distinguishing factor lies in the people.

Please don’t get me wrong here: tools are important. But while they are undoubtedly important, they should not steal the spotlight in discussions with prospects. The focal point should be your team and their grasp of the client’s business, challenges and opportunities. You can certainly mention how tools support your strategic thinking but save detailed tool discussions for when the prospect expresses interest.

Effectively reference your tools by:

  1. Ensuring alignment on the business challenge or opportunity

  2. Sharing insights gained from analyzing the target audience, competition and brand – briefly mentioning specific tools used

  3. Recommending a strategy to address the client’s challenge or opportunity

  4. Illustrating how the strategy translates into tangible tactics

In a nutshell, let your thinking and understanding of the prospect’s situation shine, with tools playing a supporting role. If the prospect inquires about your tools, provide a concise explanation. If they desire an in-depth discussion, suggest a follow-up session specifically focused on tools.

All in, while tools are essential and play a crucial role in modern marketing, they should not dominate the conversation. Instead, let the spotlight shine on your team’s strategic thinking, deep insights, and recommendations. By aligning with the client’s goals, sharing valuable insights, and presenting a well-defined strategy, you showcase the true value your agency brings to the table. As discussions naturally progress, you can then seamlessly integrate brief references to the supporting tools that amplify your team’s expertise.

Just keep in mind, clients want a partner who really gets what they need and can come up with solid solutions. Let your team and their understanding of the client’s world be the main attraction. They’re the main course!

Robin Boehler is a co-founder of Mercer Island Group. Robin has managed hundreds of agency searches and relationships for businesses of all sizes and types, like Ahold Delhaize USA, Starbucks, American Century Investments, PEMCO Insurance, PetSmart, Seabourn, Avis Budget Group, Sargento, Ulta Beauty, and dozens of other blue-chip firms. She also has consulted with a wide array of agencies including Digitas, W&K, GS&P, Havas, Cactus, DNA, and many others. Robin is a frequent speaker, having presented and keynoted at events sponsored by the BMA, the 4As, AMI, and others.