How many ideas to present?

ideasbook-t1-460x460Most agencies usually take the approach of presenting three different ideas in response to a client’s brief. Actually, in many cases we’re contractually obligated to do just that.
The approach of presenting three ideas has both positive and negative points. First, some positives:

  • By presenting three ideas, you’re making sure you explore a range of solutions in order to find the right one for the job. Even though we try and explore as many ideas as possible, the fact that we have to put three different ones on the table can provide extra incentive. And we all know, that for every idea presented, there are usually numerous ones that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.
  • Having three ideas also gives you a nice way of showing the client the journey of where your thinking took you – and they like to be taken on that journey. In fact, there are many theories around the ‘rule of three‘.
  • Inherently, people love having a choice. If you provide only one solution to a client, they can feel like they’re painted into a corner.
  • Having three ideas can also allow you to convince the client to do something a little more daring or unexpected. By presenting a third ‘they’ll never buy that’ option, you’re broadening the client’s horizons. Sure, they probably won’t be as daring to buy that third option, but it will help them perceive the next one below it as ‘less risky’.

And now some negatives:

  • Sometimes you come to a great idea, but rather than spending all the time on it making it as brilliant as it can be, you end up wasting time on other ideas that will only serve as cannon fodder in a client presentation.
  • You consistently waste two thirds of your work. Ultimately, you want all three ideas to be the absolute best they can be because you never know which one the client will choose. But the two ideas not chosen rarely see the light of day ever again. Even if the exact same brief arrives on your desk the next year, the client rarely accepts an idea they’ve previously seen (even if they really liked it the first time they saw it). In their mind, they often perceive them as old or unoriginal (even though they’re the only person who has seen them).
  • I know of pitches lost because the client has been given too much choice. They’ve been presented with a myriad of ideas (to help illustrate  the capabilities and breadth of thinking that the agency offers). However, it has backfired when the client perceives it as indecision and a lack of conviction for a single idea.

So, how many do you present?

Image: courtesy of Poketo, where you can buy these books (but the ideas aren’t included)

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One response to “How many ideas to present?

  1. Pingback: Is your big idea a one-off? |

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