Today’s guest post is written by Peter Fleming.

Or – How to get clients to commit to the innovation they say they want.

A dream client (or your employer) comes to you and says “we need innovation, the sky’s the limit on creativity.”
You pour your heart and soul into crafting the perfect design/campaign/strategy that exudes an effortless balance of chic boldness and bombastic elegance.
You throw on your dressiest black t-shirt and your unbridled excitement, then skip over to the client’s office to do your little dance.
And then…
The client says “I don’t know, it’s kinda ‘out there’ don’t you think?” or the dreaded “Maybe we could dial it back a bit?”
Broken and diminished, you slink back to your office to sand off the sharp parts and beat down the bold.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’d like to share some tactics that are key to empowering clients to embrace innovation and welcome un-convention.

Designing the Rocket

Nail down that goalpost

Get a success statement upfront. What does the ideal outcome look like? What is this project supposed to accomplish or exemplify or embody or inspire? Then, when you present the finished product you can start with how your innovation passes cleanly through that predetermined goalpost.

Give them a taste

Show them the kind of innovation you plan on delivering and gauge their reaction. Does it scare them? Any signs of squeamishness revealed at this early stage will be amplified when the stakes are higher. This doesn’t mean you have to cut bait and give up. It simply means you have some more work to do in the persuasion and expectation management departments.

Check and re-check your trajectory

I like to tack up a token of inspiration nearby as a reminder of what I am aiming for. It might be a picture or a blurb of copy, or one huge word printed out at 120 point in the center of a florescent yellow piece of paper. Then, every once in a while, especially if I find myself on a tangent, I hold my work up to this token and see if it still fits.

Building The Rocket

Add a pinch of familiar

Along with your new, ground-breaking, game-changing, earth-shattering innovations, add a little bit of something that the client can relate to. If you’re pitching a hovercraft, point out that the accelerator is still on the right and the brake on the left.

Put something in their hand

Everyday good ideas wither because people can’t grasp them. Every day mediocre ideas flourish because people can at least “get” them. There’s no substitute for tangible. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype has got to be like 5,428 (give or take).

Find that guy/gal

Finding someone inside the company that has a propensity for early adoption and/or a predilection to the type of innovation that you are targeting is huge. Nurture that relationship. The value of having an inside-(wo)man that will champion on your behalf behind the closed doors simply cannot be overstated.

Launching the Rocket

Be excited

Obvious, for sure, but too often under-emphasized. Your energy, good or bad, is contagious. It’s hard to tell a girl whose doing backflips while yodeling that her idea sucks.

Be prepared to persuade…I mean really prepared…like it’s your job!

Be ready to point out flaws in the status quo and then paint a pretty picture of the future with your solution paving the way to riches and fulfillment. Of course you will never be able to predict every single curveball that ‘could’ be thrown your way, but you sure can give it your best shot.

Push hard, but not too hard, but hard

This tactic is the stickiest of wickets and only becomes well-honed through experience. You need to make the client realize that they hired you for your expertise and that you feel passionately about this solution. Have three angles ready for each point you want to make so that if one fails, you can hot-swap it for another.


Clients will forever ask for work that “pushes the envelope” or is “out of the box,” but when the creative starts flowing, the true colors start showing. So go out there and push that envelope all the way outside that box, but be prepared to deal with the back-peddling and cold feet. And when you do it right and it produces results, it’ll be that much easier to do the next time – not to mention it will feel GREAT!

May your rocket sales be plentiful.

Peter Fleming is the director of innovation & experience at allwebcafe, an agile, diverse team of big thinkers who like to help businesses thrive online. When he’s not strategizing or awesomizing he likes to create things. Learn more about him.