So we get this thrown at us at least a couple times each week, we usually give an answer that puts people off a bit so we figured, “You know what, you deserve a better explanation”.

Hi Bhanuka,

We’re SmartClay Inc. We’re a pottery-tech company from San Francisco that’s changing the game for clay enthusiasts that need tools for their stools. We’ve just finished our Kickstarter campaign and finished raising our “seed” round, no pun intend ;).

We now need some help molding our marketing automation workflows & glazing our social media presence. Would you be able to put together a proposal so we could potentially work together?


We understand, you have to take this information back to someone else, a team maybe a board. But here’s why we won’t just send over a proposal.

We need to study, a lot.

Yes, there’s a lot of research to be done before we can actually understand your business. It may seem natural and second nature to you, but that’s you. That’s what you’re good at, and before we can come and say

“We’re not into pottery, but this is how we’re going to help you own this space.”

We really need to understand the landscape a bit better, so you can see why we’re a bit hesitant, right?

What’s the underlying problem?

Is it really a marketing automation workflow you need? What if what you need is just more leads through ppc ads? Maybe you’ve made some bad assumptions. But not knowing exactly what you need as a business and jumping into a proposal will put us in a position to fail. We don’t want clients we work with to not smash it out of the park. We need to make sure that the problem we’re tackling is of substance, not noise.

We generally sort this out by having a few conversations with your team and understanding the problem in a meaningful way and spending some time brainstorming.

What we’ve seen happening a lot is that clients don’t know the problem either, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. At the end of the day, you’re still unsatisfied with the results even if we hit the numbers because your actual problems are still there.

Do you really want to get in bed with us?

We’ve done a lot of campaigns in our time. Some great, some okay and some just downright ugly. What we’ve seen from the truly great ones is that it happens when there’s synergy between the two teams.

“We don’t want to get in bed with you before going on a first date”

You need to know what it’s like working with us, yes we can have an agreement, contract or meeting. Working together in real life is a lot different from what’s written on a service agreement. We also need to make sure you’re fun to work with as well.

Our agency is as good as the people we have, and we don’t have infinite people to work with everyone so we date carefully. If it’s a good fit and the problem is intriguing, we want to solve it really badly. The results are always much better.

Does that mean you don’t want to work together?

Woah Sheryl, that’s not what we mean. We’ve built a process around how we can work together without getting into an overly complicated engagement.

We work together with you to build a “roadmap”.

Basically, a roadmap is a document that covers a few things. It goes over overall digital strategy, competitors, market trends, positioning & processes. This basically sets the stage and helps us know what the goals are and define them quite clearly.

We’re completely transparent and we love being that, which is why the roadmaps we do include an outline on how to execute all our ideas without us. This way, if it makes more sense for you to work on these things in-house you should.

We want to see you succeed, really.

Well, it’s quite simple. If you like what we do, and don’t come onboard for a full engagement, you’re still going to demonstrate our work to the world and perhaps tell a few friends. If we just try to work with you for the sake of generating more revenue and half-ass our work, that puts us in a really bad position.

Roadmaps take time, we put in a good month before there’s anything to show for it, and yes it comes at a cost. A much smaller cost compared to an engagement and an even smaller cost compared to our collective sanity.

So Sheryl,

Please understand us when we say we’d love to work with you, but we’re not sending you a proposal.