Jody Sutter is the owner and founder of The Sutter Company, a NYC-based consulting company that helps agency leaders tap into their strengths, clarify their strategy, and close more business. Through decades of experience in sales and operations for creative firms, Jody uniquely understands how to help agencies overcome their struggles with business development. In today’s episode, we dig into Jody’s philosophy on creating deep value in your agency’s offerings and honing your value proposition. Stay tuned!
Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:
- Repetition is the key to mastery. And mastery is the key to success at anything. Leverage what you already know and apply that knowledge to other clients. Agencies love to reinvent the wheel. DONT! Hone the wheel instead. Rather than sinking hours of research into a new client that you don’t know much about, collect information about what you’ve done for similar clients already. You can make intelligent assumptions about their business based on this experience, and create a tailored pitch that saves hours of prep time.
- People connect with stories. Instead of thinking of yourself as a dispenser of information and expertise, think of yourself as a really great storyteller. What’s your story and how can you use that to connect with your audience?
- You NEED a unique value proposition and one of the best ways to get to that is defining your elevator pitch. The 4 elements of a great elevator pitch: What is your identifier? What is your differentiator? What are some valuable client insights? What are your client motivators?
About Our Guest:
Jody Sutter: Jody Sutter is a business development coach with 25 years’ experience working with ad agencies and marketing firms. As the owner and founder of The Sutter Company, a consulting company based in New York City, Jody helps agency leaders get the attention of new prospects and win the right kind of business for their agencies. Before running business development teams at large agencies like R/GA, OMD, and Havas, Jody spent over a decade in sales for a range of creative services firms, from branding design to digital advertising.
For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:
About The Guys:
Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000-2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob:
Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:
Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken:
[0:37] Bob welcomes us to today’s episode and today’s guest Jody Sutter.
[2:12] Bob gives a brief summary of Jody’s business. Her website is thesuttercompany.com, and he describes what Jody’s business is all about. Before running business development teams at large agencies like R/GA, OMD, & Havas, Jody spent over a decade in sales for a range of firms, generating leads and building relationships that led to new revenue.
[2:41] Jody is calling from East Hampton, NY and works from home primarily.
[3:57] Bob asks Jody for a brief rundown in her agency experience.
[4:09] Jody says that she worked for production companies in NYC, working in sales and carting film reels around the city. Eventually she decided to get a job for a small internet marketing company called iVillage. Eventually that sales role developed into more consultative selling, and iVillage went from a negative revenue to over $12M in revenue.
- In working for a larger organization called OMD (global media company), she learned the ins and outs of larger contracts and agreements instead of straight sales.
[7:35] Jody continues, saying that one of her goals was to be able to show agencies that what the client says isn’t always right. There is value in challenging what they think and what they’re trying to do, and she quotes her website: “controlling an agency’s business development destiny.”
- Over time she realized that she offered the best value to companies who are smaller (5-55 people) with founders who are integrally involved, who know they need to take more responsibility for their business’s future but aren’t sure where to start.
[8:45] Jody says that she works primarily with founders who want to grow their businesses and customize their growth for their agency in particular.
[9:10] Ken asks about her philosophy behind consultative selling, and some practical things that people can do to improve their numbers.
[9:55] Jody says that most agencies are viewed as expert providers. It is refreshing for clients to have agencies who come in to projects with fresh eyes, new questions and ideas for meeting their goals. Sometimes this may catch the client’s off-guard and be overwhelming, so there is an art to this. Clients may be interested in an RFP instead of talking directly to the agency, and in this case a 15-minute conversation can often cover what would be in a 150-page RFP.
[11:47] Jody continues, saying that having these difficult conversations is a matter of challenging their assumptions, offering how you’ve applied your experience to similar problems, and seeing if it culminates in a moment of the client saying, “Yes I want to talk about this right now.”
[12:01] Ken says that over the years there has been a shift to free consultation—and economics isn’t the problem. But when you offer information at no cost, you’re setting up the relationship for expectations that you can’t meet.
[12:39] Brad says that often there can be a mindset of doing what the client asks no matter what, and asks Jody what that pushback may look like for her in the way she deals with clients.
[13:12] Jody says that the line between pushing back and pushing away can be very fine. Often agencies will sink in hours of research into a client before ever reaching out.
[14:40] Jody talks about narrowing down her vision for the clients that she wants to pitch: she gathers information about other similar clients and makes intelligent assumptions about what may or may not work. This assumption is backed up by the projects that she has already worked on and improved—this is a tailored pitch that does not require a ton of research upfront.
[15:45] Ken talks about something we mention often here on Agency Exposed, the need to be repeatable. There is deep value in taking your learnings, leveraging them and figuring out how to repeat them in other situations.
[16:29] Brad asks Jody about getting a new client in an industry that you haven’t worked in before. How can you prove to potential clients that you can help them even if you don’t have direct experience?
[17:06] Jody says that you should aim to become a great storyteller. Maybe the product has the same target audience, and you can incorporate your deep knowledge of that customer base and let the client know that you already understand their customers well.
- She stresses that there is work in leading the client down the right path of thinking—you can’t just throw a study their way and assume they’ll read it cover to cover and know why you sent it.
[18:50] Jody talks about when your agency may be in the running against 50 other agencies in a giant RFP that is sent out; you know that you will likely not be the top choice, so it’s a great idea to leverage this situation in your favor even if you don’t get the client at the end.
[19:35] Ken asks Jody to dive into this more. He asks about strategies to strategically respond in a way that will market your agency for the future.
[19:55] Jody responds, saying to take 15 minutes with your leadership team to ask/answer questions like, “Why are we going after this? What is going to be most appealing about our capabilities? What does the client need? How do we marry these things together to get the message across to our client?”
[20:50] Jody adds another suggestion, saying it’s a bit bold but consider submitting a 3-page document where you tell the client that you know they most likely won’t pick you, but highlight the value props and ask for a time to connect after they’ve chosen someone for that particular RFP. You may not get that big project with them, but you are planting seeds for the future.
[21:20] Bob says that over the years, he’s experienced a lot working with various agencies. He talks about the growth model for many agencies, where they grow and grow but hit a ceiling at around $3-$4M in revenue.
[23:35] Jody says that it all rolls back to what you do, who you serve, and what difference you make for them. When you have clarity on this, the materials that you use to sell will become an integral part of your value proposition. This will help develop standards, and with those standards come the prospect of scalability.
[25:03] Brad refers back to a common discussion here at Agency Exposed: in business you can be the cheapest, the only or the best. He asks, “How do you become ‘the Only,’ where you have a silver bullet that no one else has?”
[26:31] Jody: “I think it comes down to a certain amount of confidence and courage to say that you’re going to make this commitment to this thing that you’re good at.” This also sends a signal to your team that it’s okay to do this, and then you can really begin to dig in and figure out what makes you different.
[27:39] Ken talks about how there is a theme of full-service offerings in agencies, and this is based on a scarcity mindset. If you let go of that scarcity mindset, you give yourself permission to truly specialize down and get specific—and then scale!
[29:03] Jody says that the pressure to perform definitely creates willingness for clients to hire agencies that are specialists. There is a gap that needs to be filled and agencies with that specialization are going to be worth taking a chance on.
[30:57] Ken talks about how Metacake decided to specialize in Ecommerce back in 2015, and when that happened their value proposition and scalability went through the roof.
- “It aligned everything completely, you’re able to start creating better value propositions, you really understand why you exist and what your superpower is, you can communicate with people and you are laser-focused on your customers… it’s easier to close and you’re more effective.”
[31:57] Bob says that by zooming in on the client side you can get that laser-focus as well. The point is to find something to differentiate yourself and find something to specialize in that allows you to niche-down.
[33:00] Ken says that it is very difficult to create a value proposition if you haven’t specialized in some way.
[33:56] Jody talks about a 2-day workshop that she does with a new agency client. On the first day they work on an elevator pitch, which is less conceptual and has certain components. She breaks down those components throughout the day so that when the time for the elevator pitch comes, the information and basics are already laid out.
[37:06] Ken asks Jody what some of those elements might be.
[37:10] Jody responds: “What is your Identifier? What is your Differentiator? What are some valuable client insights?”
[39:02] Jody continues, saying these elements that make up your elevator pitch are truly the underpinnings of your value. “What you understand about those clients is why they come to you, because it’s going to reduce the risk of hiring an agency that doesn't know those clients, it’s going to mean that they have less ramp-up time to teach you what their industry is all about.”
- The 4th key element of a good elevator pitch is what are your client motivators? These motivators should go beyond making money or building a business.
[41:15] Ken talks about the people behind the businesses—people with their own personal, psychological motivations that need to be fulfilled. And fulfilling these is truly the goal.
[42:13] Bob says that sales people often forget that they are selling psychological needs to other human beings; there is a need to be empathetic and vulnerable so that you can build human connection in an authentic way.
[44:00] Jody talks about techniques for outreach that develop that connection. Think of that person you’re calling as less of an almighty perfect client, but another human being and acquaintance instead of a complete stranger.
[46:00] Brad asks Jody about her predictions and perspective about what the industry will look like in the next five years.
[46:30] Jody says that the idea of an in-house agency will continue to be important. She predicts micro-specializations where agencies partner with other agencies and there is a sort of fragmentation.
[49:20] Bob asks Jody where listeners can learn more about her and connect.
[49:22] Jody responds: www.thesuttercompany.com “Start here” page for a 45-minute complimentary consultation.
- You can also find her on LinkedIn with her blog, as well as Twitter.