15th February 2016

Pitch Wars Episode II: The Client Strikes Back*

Extracted from the original post on LinkedIn by Steve Price, Chief Creative Officer

I had a great response to my last post. The importance of trying to get some value out of the pain of losing pitches clearly resonated with people – from both sides of the agency/client divide.

The upshot of the commentary, and thanks to all who inputted, is that pitching is a two-way street. I totally agree with that.

There should be clear ground rules around any pitch process, no matter how large or small. Then due diligence should be applied from both the client side and pitching agencies to ensure the process is run fairly and efficiently. Of course, only one agency can win, in most cases, which means most pitching agencies have to lose - which emotionally charges the situation, from an agency perspective.

Here’s my take. From that agency perspective, obviously.

1. Is it real?

Anyone who has had anything to do with advertising agency new business will know the numbers. It can, on average, take up to three years to convert a cold lead into a competitive pitch situation of any value. That’s why it’s so painful to lose. But 'beware false prophets at the door’. Whether the lead is the result of a lengthy gestation process or just seemingly fell out of the sky, we first need to throughly cross-examine the opportunity to see if we think it is worthy of our efforts – or whether we’re just making up the numbers.

2. Who’s on the list?

Sometimes difficult to ascertain but, by whatever means you employ to do it, always try and find out who you are pitching against. It can do your ego, as a small business owner, the world of good to see your name on a pitch list against a network agency. If that’s the case, you need to ask yourself, if the client wants ‘Enormocorp’, why are they knocking at my door? And vice-versa of course. Apples and onions and all that.

3. Make friends with the client.

If the opportunity is real, a prospective client will talk to you, and will answer your questions when they arise. Don’t be a pain in the backside, but keep yourself front of mind. Advertising agencies should be inquisitive by nature, particularly at pitch time. Send them a weekly update. Have some fun with that. It shows you care and will make your pitch keenly anticipated.

4. Establish the ground rules.

Here’s the rub from the earlier post. Make sure the client knows you are expecting constructive, detailed feedback as a bare minimum outcome from the process. They will be fine with that. You may have to chase, you may have to chase a few times. As was pointed out, sometimes, some agencies are not good at asking for the feedback they need. Don’t be shy.

5. Don’t get offended.

When you lose, it really hurts. You take it personally. It’s a dagger in the heart. If you’ve done what you set out to do, your pitch team will have sweated blood, poured heart and soul into the work submitted. It’s only natural that you should be pissed off but don’t show it. Calm down, take your medicine, thank the client for the opportunity and accept that maybe you were that great batsman beaten by a rip-snorter. Be gracious, listen to the feedback, stay on the client’s radar. Clients move around a lot. It’s wise to stay in their cool book.

*I’m not likening clients to the Galactic Empire, by the way. No, really.

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