How to win big projects

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Making sales comes down to two things:

  1. convincing potential clients that you can give them the value they seek (or more), and
  2. convincing them that the prices you’re charging match that value.

So, that leaves you with a couple choices: Lower your prices, and try to win jobs based on that. Or, increase your value.

I’m all for option two. And that’s what this blog post is about: how to increase your value today so high-caliber clients realize you’re the obvious choice.

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Let’s dive in.

Quick disclaimer: My wife and I just finished binge-listening to “Serial,” the NPR podcast. So I apologize in advance for the more-than-usually-gruesome metaphors below. If you’ve listened to it, you know what I mean. Okay, onward…

1. Start including research

Crazy in-depth research.

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Research is one of the key things in marketing that separates the pros from the amateurs. After all, amateurs will march right into a project and just create what they think is best.

Pros scope things out first. They learn as much as they can about the market, the client, the competition…and they formulate a plan based on all three.

And it makes sense. Sure, a barn is a big target, so shooting it should be easy, right? But what if you have 10 barns lined up back to back, yet you’re only supposed to hit one.

And, let’s say, each was made of a specific material that took a specific bullet to pierce it.

But…you’re only allowed one shot. Everything rests on one bullet.

You’d spend some time researching those barns, right?

It’s the same thing with marketing.

  • Interview your clients extensively.
  • Interview their clients extensively to learn about the market’s true needs and wants.
  • Spend time analyzing the marketing of their biggest competitors (and ask them who those competitors are).

Add this to your arsenal, then communicate what you do and why it’s so important to every new prospect that comes your way.

2. Let them know your biggest goal is not to please them

At first, this will get a confused reaction. But then you’ll explain that your biggest goal is to help them grow. That means you have to create marketing that the market will like – not what they personally will like.

(There’s a good chance they’ll love what you create personally. But that’s just not your main focus.)

After all, the marketing is for their market. They literally put the “market” in “marketing.”

This is a big, bold statement. But it’s the honest truth if you want them to succeed, right?

3. Make bold promises

Imagine you’re wrongly accused of murder, and you need to hire a defense attorney.

(Here’s where Serial‘s influence is kicking in.)

Will you go with the guy or gal who says, “There is a chance that with a solid defense we might be able to exonerate you.”

Or will you go with the one who looks you square in the eyes and says, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the jury knows you’re innocent.”

Marketing is the same way. And, because your clients likely haven’t been wrongly (or rightly) accused of murder, growing their businesses is the most serious business in their lives.

They’re afraid. Even if they won’t admit it.

So look them in the eyes and tell them with confidence that you can help them.

That doesn’t mean you can’t also be transparent and tell them that at the end of the day, marketing is never a sure-fire thing…no matter how experienced or renowned you are…but tell them you’ll do everything in your power to put the odds in their favor.

This takes confidence. You have to really believe you can help them, and that you’re the best one for the job.

This might provoke one of two reactions:

  1. You secretly feel you are the best one for the job…but you’re afraid of saying it because, well, promises are scary, and what if you’re wrong? Then that person has trusted you and you let them down.
  2. You secretly feel you’re not the best one for the job.

If it’s #2, let the client go. Spend time honing your craft until you truly feel you are the right person.

If it’s #1, make the promise anyway, even though you’re scared. Because, the truth is, that fear will never go away. Why? Because you truly understand the gravity of such a promise, which means you really take it to heart. I’d trust you myself.

4. Fight your hardest to live up to those promises

Do the work you’re paid to do. Go beyond it. Perfect and perfect and perfect your projects until you’re amazed that it was you who created them.

You won’t win them all. Or, most likely you won’t. Not every piece of marketing you make will be a big success – and a lot of it is outside your control. Half of it is how your clients use what you create.

But the only way you’ll win some cases, or most, is by truly giving it your all.

Because when you do that – something about you just “feels” different to potential clients. And that intangible feeling sets you apart more than almost anything.

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About David Tendrich

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.


More about David’s business: David is co-founder of Reliable PSD – what happened when a group of designers got fed up with PSD to Code companies… and created their own. Check them out, and see why freelancers & agencies are head over heels for this amazing new service.

Leave a Comment



  1. future graphics says:

    This was great David. I especially relate to the fact that our biggest goal is not to “please” clients – but to help them grow. This concept, which is so important, all too often gets lost. And yes, I know it’s up to us to communicate how vital it is.

  2. Rosa Bennett says:

    I agree, point two is so important to explain to your client. So many have a hard time with this concept. Thanks for a great article David!

  3. Great article! The first part you mention about researching & scoping out the project, to me, is super important. I have found that some clients are so set on who they believe they are marketing to or what the exact tone their website should be, that we have landed ourselves into a marketing dead end. It is so valuable to do the research and lay out a plan, even if it means disagreeing with the client!

    • Couldn’t agree more. I’ve found that the research is 90% or more of the work, the rest is simple (not easy, but simple) when you have it in place. And when you do have it, and present it to clients, it’s a bit harder for them to stick to their guns about personal preferences / beliefs 🙂

  4. Cool article. Small typo, though: “[…] to make sure the jury knows your innocent.”; it should be “you’re”.

    Thanks for the post!


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