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how PR agencies win clientsPR agencies always strive to find more clients. Acquiring new clients has become more challenging as different types of agencies, such SEO firms and social media firms, offer overlapping services. Yet business executives appreciate the power of earned media placements, the core competency of PR. The following recommendations can help PR firms deliver more convincing new client pitches, acquire more clients and become more profitable.

Specific metrics for success. The best PR proposals tout more than media coverage. They outline KPIs (key performance indicators) and specific metrics to track, such as organic and social traffic, awareness and ROI impact. Present an initial assessment of KPIs but work with the client to hone and refine, recommends Marijane Funess at Crenshaw Communications. “The most creative idea in the world is worth very little to a brand if it can’t be justified,” Funess says. Coupled to corporate goals, PR measurement shows when the creative strategies and earned media placements are achieving their objectives.

Offer referral incentives. Reward those who send you business, including existing clients, vendors and employees. Chances are, the people you enjoy working with are connected to others whom you would also enjoy working with, says fashion PR specialist Crosby Noricks for PR Couture. If you have such a referral policy, consider running a giveaway for most leads in a quarter.

Pitch the match rather than yourself. Arguing that your agency is better than others may be a difficult prospect. There is no “best” agency, says Jim Nichols, vice president of marketing at Apsalar, in an iMedia Connection article. Instead, position your agency as the best match for the client. Showing how you match well with the prospective client, that you bring something critical to them, something that they don’t get from other agencies, is more likely to win clients.

Show how you are unique. Most agencies provide essentially the same information to prospective clients. Set yourself apart from other agencies. Claims that you are “really good at everything” lack credibility. Instead, highlighting specific strengths is a more successful strategy.

Tell customer stories. The most convincing sales pitches focus on customer success stories, says Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners, a landing page optimization firm. The strategy entails demonstrating how clients have benefited from your services and how your work positively affected their businesses in terms of increased sales, better reputation, higher profit or other positive outcome.

Social media monitoring. Research shows that social media monitoring is a critical PR service. Business executives consider social media monitoring among the most important services PR agencies offer, after only earned media services, according to the PR Customer Experience Benchmark Report from Researchscape International. The Evolution of Public Relations report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) cited social media listening as one of the top public relations trends, along with digital storytelling and real-time marketing. Those top three trends are interlinked: “I heard something” (social listening), “I need to tell a story about it” (digital storytelling), and “I need to do it fast” (real-time marketing).

Social media monitoring tools have become more advanced and easier to use, with intuitive online dashboards that integrate data from all media sources. PR firms can now offer advanced media measurement services such as automated sentiment analysis.

Television news. Despite the recent acceptance of online news, television remains the most popular source for news. Almost all American households own at least one television, and about 50 percent of Americans obtain their news most frequently from television, compared to 43 percent who often get their news online, according to recent research. Winning favorable television media mentions can produce outsized publicity results, and monitoring of TV news has become a must-have service for agencies serving major corporations and not-for-profit organizations.

Pitch to current clients. Because current clients already trust your business and have purchased its services previously, they’re more likely to purchase other services. Don’t sell just one main service. Offer additional services they don’t already have to generate additional revenue, advises Mike Arce, founder/CEO of Agency GSD.

Bottom Line: It’s essential for PR agencies to promote themselves even while they keep busy promoting clients. Experts recommend touting earned media placements and social media monitoring capabilities as core competencies. Convincing potential clients that the agency is “the best match” is often the deciding factor in the selection process.