What makes a good agency pitch process?

Over the years we’ve been involved in hundreds of pitches and I’m happy to say we have a fairly good record…winning about one in two on average.

Nick Gill - Head of New Business & Client Services

Nick Gill26.06.2019

Before we agree to a pitch, there’s a number of questions we ask ourselves to establish whether a client or opportunity is right for us. It’s always important to remind yourself as an agency that a pitch is a two-way process.

Is the brief a good fit based on our experience?

Having demonstrable experience and a track record will be something most clients look for and pre-requisite in some cases. Major pitches require a significant investment of time so weighing up how likely you are to be successful based on the above question is important.

Do we have a conflict of interest?

As an agency specialising in the construction industry, client conflict is something we’re regularly faced with. Sometimes if there’s only a degree of overlap or the briefs are very different in focus then it’s not a problem but we always try to be open and transparent in highlighting a potential conflict.

Who’s calling the shots - procurement or marketing?

It shouldn’t make a difference but experience tells us it does. As a client you’re hiring people, their expertise, contacts and experience not components on a production line. Will they see the value in what we do or will it come down to the lowest common denominator?

Does the timeframe outlined give us the ability to do the pitch justice?

This is no doubt a significant decision for the business concerned so giving each agency time to provide a fully considered proposal with input from the right people is surely essential. The pitch timeframe outlined also provides an insight into how organised a client is and potentially what they might be like to work with should you be successful.

Do we genuinely believe we’re in the running or simply there to make up the numbers?

This is always a tough one to call but through our contacts in the media and wider industry we often hear a whisper e.g. ‘you do know one of the agency’s pitching is run by his/her brother-in-law’. It happens more often than you might think!

The majority of agencies will also have experienced pitches where you suspect the marketing contact has been under pressure from the wider business to review agencies and benchmark but there’s no real desire from them to move from their incumbent.

How willing is the client to engage with us before, during and after the pitch?

Most briefs stress the importance of having a collaborative client/agency relationship - is our experience of the pitch process reflective of this aspiration? Even the most thorough briefs should throw up a few questions from the agency so is the client willing to invest a few minutes answering them? Their willingness to invest a small amount of time with you to ensure your understanding of the brief is also an indication as to where you stand in the pecking order.

Are they willing to meet you?

Pitches tend to follow a two-part process – written submissions first with agencies then whittled down for the face-to-face presentations. That’s fine. The ones to watch out for are the ones where the client doesn’t want to meet you at any point. Ultimately if someone isn’t willing to invest an hour of their time talking to you for what the brief claims is the largest product launch in the company’s history, alarm bells should be ringing.

Does the chemistry feel right?

People groan when hearing the term ‘chemistry meeting’ but feeling confident these are people you can work with is so important from both sides. Do you get the impression there’s a real desire to work with a partner as opposed to just a supplier?

How are you treated post pitch?

It might seem a strange question given you’ve either been successful or you haven’t at this point. That said, you probably learn more about an organisation when you haven’t been successful. Common courtesy is at least letting each agency who participated know the outcome and to provide a small amount of feedback. There’s nothing worse than complete radio silence and then finding out through the grapevine. Again, you might be surprised but it does happen. No one is too busy to make a two minute phone call or failing that a short email given the time invested by each agency.

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