Five Reasons to Ditch Your Capabilities Deck

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Walk West

If I had a nickel for every hour I spent on agency capabilities decks I wouldn’t need to work at an agency or create capabilities decks.

It’s one of those things you just do without really even thinking about whether it’s helpful anymore (like banging your remote on the table to make the batteries magically have more juice).

Ditching the deck isn’t a new idea — agencies have struggled for years with how to capture the highlights of what sets them apart in a format that’s easy to communicate with clients. But while we’re promoting ourselves as cutting-edge digital shops, we’re leaning on a static format of communication to win new business.

Over the head with the Big Book of Everything.

Five Reasons to Ditch Capabilities Deck Freedom

In case you need some help pushing this change up the ranks, here are 5 reasons to be like Elsa and just let that sh*t go:

Reason 1: It limits how clients perceive you

Humans suffer the Curse of Knowledge. We know all the things we’re capable of as an agency, but prospective clients only know what we tell them. When people flip through the pages of a well-designed, printed document, they see it as the whole picture.

Don’t let the possibilities be limited to what you’ve done before.

Reason 2: It’s all about you

How would you feel if I walked up to you at a party, backed you into a corner, stood 6 inches from your face and started talking. What if I talked for 45 minutes straight without a break? You have to pee? Too bad, I’m not finished yet. Need a drink? Hang tight, I have a few more things to say.

You wouldn’t think I cared about you very much, would you?

Five Reasons Ditch Capabilities Deck Meme

That’s kinda what it feels like when you toss a 200-slide PowerPoint over the fence to a potential client. And the irony is, there’s no way even that many slides can capture your culture and the personality of your team.

Reason 3: It’s boring

When you only have a few slides to tell potential clients about each service your agency provides, what is the first thing you do? You start writing. Your short synopses become slide-by-slide novellas and before you know it your potential client is face down on her desk in a puddle of her own drool. Snooze. Fest.

Reason 4: It’s always out of date

Thirty seconds after you hit SEND on that email this morning, Marissa down in Conference room B had a groundbreaking idea that your team is executing in three short weeks. Your potential clients will never know what magic your team is capable of tomorrow, because all they know is what you did yesterday.

Five Reasons Ditch Capabilities Alan Bennett

Reason 5: It’s lazy

Emailing over the pre-baked, mass-produced blandness that is your capes deck isn’t just lazy, it’s irresponsible. If you want to stand out in a world of emails, texts and Slack, you gotta pick up the phone. Or better yet, arrange a lunch date and have a real conversation to get to know what your potential client really needs.

Ask questions. Mean it. And picking up the check always goes a long way.

THREE THINGS TO KEEP

(AND HOW TO USE THEM)

While the capabilities deck as a whole has to go, what’s in it isn’t all bad — here are a few things to keep and how to use them properly.

Keeper 1: Case Studies

Begin every project assuming it will become a case study. Take notes, shoot behind-the-scenes pictures — and be sure to do some benchmark measurements so you can see the success of the project at the end.

Case studies can be presented as slides, but also consider a more engaging format like video, animated infographic, or a featured page on your website.

Keeper 2: Culture Statement

This should be a living thing — put it on the About Us or Culture page of your site, and update it often. Make it authentic, and let it show who you are as an agency. Because that’s ultimately what sets you apart.

Keeper 3: Your Client List

It may not be the most important thing, but can we just all go ahead and admit that a good client list can add to our credibility? If you’ve worked with some big brands, you’ve earned the right to brag about it just a little.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

Be sure your website is up to date and features your best, most recent work. Also be sure your site includes details about your team and your culture. It’s the first place potential clients go to research your firm, so make a good impression.

Start an Innovation Lab

Curate examples of experimental content, like motion tests and style frames. Showing a sneak peek of a really cool work in progress can be a great teaser to what your agency is capable of.

If said work is for an existing client, you can protect your NDA by always showing work in person, where you can control how much is seen — never send comps of or link to in-progress client work.

Become a Content Creator

Everyone in your agency has something to say. Find a way to let them express it. Blogs are a solid option, but think about more innovative outlets — like videos, podcasts, or live streams. The bonus to these formats is that they can be executed quickly. Worry less about the quality of your production and more about the quality of your subject matter.

All this original content will show prospective clients your unique perspective on the work and on the world. Yet another way to set you apart from your competitors.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to pitch our capabilities in person to potential clients every single time. But that’s not always possible. So do your best to create a good mix of materials for them to engage with. And then do your best to engage with people offline.

And if you have to send out a deck, make sure it’s a small part of an ongoing conversation — not the conversation itself.

Shouldn’t a creative marketing agency have a better, more creative way to share its capabilities with clients?

What’s your approach? Feel free to reach out and share your thoughts with us.

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