Kevin Adema
Kevin Adema 16 January 2017

Your clients see you as a digital vendor. And how to FIX it.

As 2016 was winding down, I had the chance to reflect on many conversations with digital marketers and how the majority of them continued to wrestle with the reality that their clients still see them as just vendors (and NOT strategic partners). This problem happens because marketers are still selling digital the wrong way.

Before we unpack the right way, you need to realize there are two VERY different approaches you will enter in the digital sales process. And, you also need to understand that you’ll face two VERY different realities.

Let’s start with the 2 dominant realities or, said differently, the 2 most common situations you’ll face when selling digital:

The first reality is what I call “cash work” – this is when the client indeed simply wants you to be a vendor. The “I need SEO, I need a website, I need an app, PPC campaign, etc. etc.” See this for what it is: a tactical monster client who thinks they’re strategic but what they really are is stuck in 100 year old thinking being shoved into digital media.

Simple advice: take it. Do it. Invoice it and…move on. Realize this: this type of client will NOT be loyal and is only hunting for the latest digital tactic of the day.

The second reality is what you must be hunting for. This is the long-term, program-based partnership work. This is where you’ll be respected as a partner but of course how do you do this? (we’ll get to this in a second…)

So as you seek to hunt out the right situations, you also need to understand the two approaches to digital sales so that you don’t make a mistake.

To understand the approach, you must grasp the reality of the growing power of marketing in the overall sales process. Historically, marketing was responsible for awareness and generating interest BUT, today, marketing is responsible for everything from awareness to interest to consideration to intent to evaluation and priming for purchase.

The point:

Marketing plays a HUGE role in terms of client attraction, engagement and loyalty. Marketing has BECOME a strategic driver and catalyst for profitable growth.

Based on this new and critical role of marketing, the two approaches to sales are as follows:

  1. Product / Brand centric (traditional business model)
  2. Consumer / Customer centric (Analytic 3.0 model)

The product / brand centric model works as follows:

  1. What are the overarching business objectives and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)
  2. What are the brands in place to satisfy those goals?
  3. What campaigns should we run to promote those brands?
  4. What are the target audience profiles best suited for those brands

The consumer / customer centric model works as follows:

  1. Who is the customer and what are their fundamental needs?
  2. Where are they engaging digitally / what topics do they find relevant (in context of their needs)
  3. How can we, as a brand, fit into those needs and provide messaging and content to sustain engagement to ultimately help the consumer and bring value?
  4. How to we shape ROI metrics to show brand growth and sales impact

In today’s digital-first, dialogue age marketing world, the fundamental, must-do approach for success is the consumer / customer-centric model.

"Not in the last 50+ years has the balance of business interaction and communication been so in favor of customer-centric, personal interaction" - Trust Agents

So do you do this?

3 things:


According to Forrester Research, almost 70% of senior executives believe that the sales person does NOT know enough about their buyer’s business to bring any value to a meeting. In fact, only 25% of sales people are prepared to take a second meeting.

Think about this: 3 out of 4 sales meetings are a waste of time and money – both for the seller and the buyer.


Again, most digital marketers aren’t ready and because most digital marketers are selling digital tactics and not digital strategy. (product centric vs. consumer centric)

To be ready, you must show that you understand the buyer’s perspective in their perspective on the brand. You need to understand and see the things the buyer does. What are they focused on? What are their drivers? Their objectives?

The NUMBER ONE issue facing brands today: digital consumer engagement.


Brand managers are after your brain. Show them you have one by giving them the “so what” factor. You have to inhabit their world, understand their pain, their challenges and fears.

According to SiriusDecisions research: “when a sales person proves that they can provide industry, market, business and consumer understanding, they are 4 times more valuable than other vendors who only have product (tactical) knowledge.

#3. Bring those insights INTO their business.

This is the biggie: you have to bring the brand’s consumer’s wants and desires (the insights) INTO the business.

The simplest way to do this when dealing with a client:

Sell the PROBLEM you solve and NOT the tactics you deploy.

Tied all together:

  1. When you prove that you are ready and know the brand’s business and,
  2. When you prove that you understand how to achieve digital consumer engagement because,
  3. You proved you have insights into their business and,
  4. You prove that you can help solve this by connecting consumer wants and brand goals…

You will indeed move your value position from tactical vendor to strategic partner, realize better digital results, drive more revenue and ultimately, be in control of the digital brand.

Brands are crying out for strategic marketers.

2017 represents unprecedented opportunity. Be ready and win!

"Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’re still nervous that your clients see you only as a vendor, perhaps take me up on my free digital strategy course or, consider our full program of strategy and selling digital courses where we cover off much more on how to actually do all this.

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