Anatomy of an RCS Pitch to C-Level Execs

In my recent Mozcon presentation, I spoke at length about the fact that learning to pitch is something we all have to get better at doing, so we can get to do RCS (real company stuff). While many of you agreed.

I think it is my responsibility well past "inspiring" us to get better but after the presentation share how we are doing it at SEER and the direction we are going, so I figured I'd do just that by sharing the current pitch process, so far it is getting us a meeting with the CMO of a client we have been working with for 2 years. Here goes, this works with the fortune 500, but I think the framework applies to all of us.


Step 1: Know your client

This client recently went through a large re-branding, the company from the CEO on down has invested a lot of time and money. Heck I'd say its cost them well into the millions to do. This re-branding was mentioned in the 10k report, so I knew that this was important to the CEO and the shareholders to be done well. This was a multi-team launch, it involved C-level, PR, Branding, Advertising, Marketing, Internet Marketing, Graphic Design, you name it there were probably hundreds of people involved in seeing this be successful. All of these people do RCS at the client, and we don't have visibility into many of their departments. We wanted to change that, and create a win for our POC, so we read their 10k. We want to pitch something that we KNOW matters. How do you know what matters to the C-Level? Here's 3 ways...

1 - READ - 10k, or have your interns read the 10k reports to better understand the vision of the company, goals for the future, etc 2 - STALK - Find out and know everything they talk about publicly, it will tell you what they value the CEO/CMO/COO make friends with her on LinkedIn, sign up for newsle, and every time she is mentioned in the press, you'll get an alert. Personally to save time on inbox bloat, push that over to IFTTT and you'll have it all sitting in evernote for you. If she is active on social media, drop her into, and look at her "Famous Words", export her tweets, and drop them into tagcrowd, you'll see what she tweets about the most. Note, I get permission from my main POC first.

3 - CALL - Hey I work with your marketing department, and I want to get a 15 minute brain dump for your vision, so you can get more from you investment in us (said never by a consultant). Try it. If they say they don't have time, ask them to call you on their ride home. Be pushy, they'll appreciate it, you are just trying to help them get more value from what they are paying you. Prepare 10 questions, don't talk, and if you do talk., please don't talk about rankings, canonicals, authorship, etc.

Step 2: Realizing your job is bigger than links and rankings

The minute you find clients who see your job as driving business outcomes over links or rankings, you are on the right path. Once we knew where they were investing time, the goal wasn't just to get more rankings, it was to help them get more from their investment in the re-branding as well as the other stuff like rankings. Our job is to make our POC look like a rock star, if that is links / rankings fine, but don't be fooled into thinking that is always the case. The same tools we use every day can have so many OTHER uses than traditional SEO, we've used keyword research to help e-commerce clients buy trending product lines. Realizing the clients time and money invested in this, we thought, how could we help them get more from this and in the process make our POC look like a rock star?

Step 3: Create an argument only a chimpanzee could disagree with

We understand this is a big deal to the client, we are thinking bigger than rankings and traffic, now we have to make a business case that attaches to what they care about. Simple.

We took search volume for their logo, search volume for their brand in image search and showed there was a market. We asked them, hey when you want to use a logo for a company in your day to day, how would you find it? They say "We'd type in XYZ" to which I do just that for their business. We show them when people look for their logo, in the same way they themselves would look for logos, 75% of the page is not the official logo or it is the old logo. This will infuriate every person who has spent the last 18 months and millions of dollars on the re-brand. Who wouldn't want to fix this problem? Pitch this well, we reminded them that every day that goes by that action is not being taken, the old logo proliferates across the web, as when people search for it, they are exposed to 75% of the logos in image search that are the wrong logos.

Remind - Remind your client about the time and money they have spent on addressing a problem Ensure - Once again, do your research to make sure this is actually a problem worth potentially addressing

Step 4: Make this easy on your POC (Point of Contact)

Be careful, your big bad RCS idea could be translated by your POC as just more work for them, which they will not fight for. So make it easy. SEER wants to get exposure to the other departments, not to grow our business, but because we know with friends everything is easier, we want to help build bridges between departments. Do you think the brand department cares much about rankings? Well yeah they do actually, just not in the typical sense. They have poured their blood sweat and tears into this thing for 18 months, meetings with department heads, C-level, etc and 75% of the people who search for this get exposed to the wrong brand message. We create the PowerPoint (This is the step we are in now), where we create the slide deck for our POC, so all she needs to do is add her take to this, as she'll know how to pitch this internally, and get us to the table.

Storytelling made easy - Build the powerpoint deck, don't walk your POC into a minefield, do your research so you know the organization should care about fixing this, they may not fix it, but they should care. Proof - Give real examples, for instance this Volkswagen image takeover I showed at Mozcon illustrates that a savvy search marketer can make an impact on image search, in other words, this is doable.

Step 5: How will I know?

Pour a little out for Whitney Houston, but I am talking about KPIs here. Establish a KPI that gets updated monthly. In this instance I might take the % of pixels in image search owned by the client. Benchmark that today and work on increasing it month over month over month. Remember in step 2, thinking about your job as bigger than links, rankings, traffic and conversions, in THIS instance the KPI will likely be owned pixels, or real estate of the new logo.

Easy reporting - in this works of 2 axis graphs, pivot charts, etc, we so often make reporting so convoluted for the c-level that they don't get it. We are challenging ourselves to develop a report that needs NO WORDS for this one. A one page monthly report that would show exactly what we need to get across, no flipping of pages, no explaining.

Step 6: Follow the consultants testing framework

This presentation is my favorite framework for testing ideas by Tim Wilson (who will be speaking at our upcoming event).

I am trying hard to incorporate the framework in my everyday thinking / pitching I believe.... If I am right.... To test this I will...

then after the project

We tested... As a result we... Resulting in...

Step 7: Trust & Track record

Warning, we have built a LOT of trust with this client over the years, when we made mistakes we owned it and fixed it, we've killed it for them. So if you have made it this far and are pumped to do this, if you haven't got a track record of success, this is going to be 100x harder.

Life isn't about what you pitch its about what you deliver.

So with a track record of delivering, time and time again, our POC is not worried that she'll pitch an idea, get visbility with the higest rnaking members of the company and that we will fail her, if it does fail she will have every piece of evidence she needs to articulate that we've done everything under the sun to win and we'll continue on it until we do win. It's like Lombardi said...we never lost a game, we just ran out of time on the way to winning. I LIVE BY THAT QUOTE!

If you haven't built trust and an established track record then you are going to have a hard time getting someone to believe in this and fund it.

SHOW - this is a great time to remind the C-level execs of other areas where your company has impacted her business. Remind them that you've done it before and you can do it again.

Wish us luck, I think we've created a strong case, we have also used keyword research to uncover how poorly a top ranked page for their company history is addressing what people are searching for, we want to help completely revamp their history page to address the needs of the searcher. Can't wait to get a crack at that project!

Are these ideas SEO? I dunno, but they solve problems our clients should see value in fixing, will it get links? Well probably, but funny enough that is likely the lowest priority for this campaign (and that is coming form a guy who loves link building). I guess I love fixing problems for clients more than building links, maybe its time to change my twitter bio :)

Let us know how your pitching is going with your clients, most of of have to get better and SEER wants to share these stories to help all of us in pitching, or we'll never get to do RCS.

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President