I recently returned to agency life after running integrated brand strategy for Lumens, a lighting and modern home furnishings retailer acquired by YDesign Group this year. This refreshed client-side experience reminded me of what matters most for agencies pitching new business. Here are eight decision-driving factors that agencies must account for as they make their case for curing clients’ marketing challenges:

1) Listen and ask “why”

Agencies are eager to talk about their successes, forgetting to listen to the client’s immediate and long-term needs. You’ll be selling your agency’s abilities soon enough. The first step is to understand the client’s challenges, their peers’ roles in agency selection, and their timeline for accomplishing pressing goals.

2) Why you?

Somehow, this is still left out of many agency pitches. It’s essential to communicate the strengths that make your agency the right one for the job. This is a conversation about differentiation, process, and sector relevance. Make sure that the client understands why your agency exists, and tout the relevant experience and successes that your agency has achieved in the client’s industry (and with similar customer targets). Make it clear that your agency exists to help brands like theirs.

3) Show what you know.

Demonstrate a command of your knowledge when it comes to the subject matter – and metric or brand goals – that is most important to the client. This includes knowing the target audiences, leading competitors, anticipated industry shifts, etc. Come to the meeting with a developed point of view as to where the client stands in their space and the direction in which that perception should be developed.

4) Help your client sell your firm to their bosses.

Your client’s belief in your agency’s capabilities is the first step. Provide the resources needed to make it as simple as possible for your contacts to show higher management that your agency is the best partner and extension of their internal teams. Getting the green light to do business with your agency is made much easier when you supply an effective and easily-grasped presentation delineating well-researched facts of all aspects of the project or proposal in question.

5) Supply KPIs.

KPIs are not an afterthought. While it may be tempting to present the big picture of what your agency will achieve and avoid being locked into specific expectations, it’s important to help shape what success will look like. The best presentation of KPIs often includes a holistic view of successful results; for example, a blended or attribution model for how SEO, PPC and social media KPIs combine to achieve an amplified effect on customer activation and conversion.

5) Define short-term and long-term goals.

It’s essential to communicate the time-to-value of proposed agency efforts. Near-term wins and a clear picture of when marathon projects are going to pay off will help to demonstrate early efficacy, long-range strategy, and serve to manage the client’s expectations between those more impactful achievements.

6) Ensure responsible budget communication.

When it comes to managing the client’s budget with the agency, be transparent about what the money goes towards accomplishing. Connect spending to a timeline to ensure budget is available for needs as they arrive and check in frequently. The ultimate failure would be to run out of funds with no warning and with projects still incomplete. The client must be assured this cannot happen. Provide open communication such that the client can make decisions and shift resources to navigate any budgetary challenges well in advance.

7) Show them the team.

Agency work is a people business, and every client wants to meet and know the individuals who are working on their brand. Be sure to introduce the account team and showcase what they each bring to the table.

On a related note, be aware that any changes to account management always cause some level of disruption. In these cases, the client needs to be reassured that their goals are understood and all efforts are being well tended to. Placing a senior agency representative in position to oversee any changes of this nature can go a long way in maintaining a positive and trusting relationship.

8) Have a backup plan.

Despite a client’s best knowledge and an agency’s best efforts, sometimes a plan under-delivers. As an agency, it’s important to show what’s been learned and how it will be leveraged for a future phase. Quarterly strategy sessions can help align all internal and agency stakeholders, and scenario planning can help identify possible pitfalls before they occur. This type of partnership activity helps to make efforts more resilient when challenges do occur – and they will.

An ongoing consultative mindset helps the client-agency partnership thrive. The ability to generate and present new ideas is valuable even when current efforts are performing. An agency seeking new projects and areas of responsibility will be rewarded for offering new initiatives for reaching customers and improving activation.

Demonstrating value as an agency means displaying communication and cooperation as much as it does talent and knowledge. Together, these are the keys to winning clients and retaining them in the long term.