Lost in the Weeds
It’s a sad but true fact that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of time a marketing team invests in a sales pursuit to the likelihood that the pursuit will succeed. Through no fault of the marketing department, the sales team typically only brings them in to a pursuit when their relationship with the target is weak.
When the pursuit team can’t build a solid relationship with a target, they start to focus on all sorts of variables that they feel they can control.
50 Shades of Blue
The accountants I worked with liked to think there was a ‘right answer’ when it comes to design – particularly color. (I blame the oft-told story about Coke cans being red to increase sales for this obsession with color.) I worked with one team that stayed up until the wee hours of the morning arguing what shade of blue the cover to the proposal document should be.
What made this episode so absurd is that the target company had provided us with its design standards including its branded PMS colors, so in this case we actually did know what the ‘right answer’ was. Their primary colors were rose and grey but there was a blue in their palette for signage. My guys didn’t like the rose and grey because it was too feminine but they weren’t sure they loved the blue the client provided either.
In this case I’m happy to report that we won the work. But the partner in charge reported back to me that the client liked the proposal but they couldn’t understand why we chose a random shade of blue for the cover when their brand colors are rose and grey.
Bullet Point Bugs
Once I left a senior manager and my graphic artist at 2 am to print out a final version of a proposal. When I returned at 7 am I found the artist still at her desk. The senior manager thought it would be a good idea to change all the bullets in the bullet-pointed lists in the document to the bug from target’s logo. (The “bug” is a graphic element in a company’s logo like the in the Apple logo.) Not only did they run up overtime costs that exceeded the value of the work at stake, but the artist was not fit to work for the rest of the day.
In this case we won the work and the senior manager learned a lesson about double-overtime.
Another time we had brought in a selection of Gap button-down shirts in the client’s logo colors for the proposed client team to wear in an introductory video we were preparing for the client target. A tall and slim partner was outraged when the stylist suggested he don a medium shirt.
While I would have thought he would be outraged that there was actually a stylist involved in the sales pursuit, he was insulted that she thought he was not brawny enough to require an extra large shirt. He finally agreed to wear the shirt but looked at me earnestly and said “but I will never be able to throw a softball in this shirt.” I replied by promising we would not require him to throw a softball in the video.
In this case we lost due to the fact that it became known to the target that the partner leading our pursuit was making plans to leave the firm.
Desktop publishing has taught people that it is easy to make edits to a document on the fly. But that’s not the case once you go to press. I could devote a whole blog to improbable things I’ve done to repair typos discovered after a document went to press but one stands out. I was at the printer’s on New Year’s Eve doing a press check on yet another proposal. My marketing director kept phoning in small changes to the document. The printer could do them but at a cost.
The marketing director said he didn’t care about the cost; this was something the partner demanded. After a few go-rounds the partner called me directly with another minor edit. I told him that’s fine but at this point each edit is costing about $800. After a brief silence he said, “It’s fine the way it is.”
This one we won without the aid of any additional wordsmithing.