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  • deborahboyland

Rethinking the pitch process during recession

Pitches are expensive and time consuming. And for those of us in the creative services industry they’re also the only way to win new business.

But should we change our approach to pitching in response to the changes in business all around us. In times gone by competitive pitches would only be for a narrowed down list of serious contenders. Well, bye-bye then and hello now. Agencies are increasingly being invited to pitch as one of about a dozen agencies. While it’s OK to reply to RFIs and RFPs sent out to this many agencies, when it comes to pitching surely that’s a whole other story.


If you are going to pitch, here are some good rules to follow:


Shout about all your advantages

You may have put together the most amazing concept and your proposal might be the best written document that ever existed but are you sure you’ve shouted about everything that you have in your favour? Often, things that are taken for granted by agencies are a massive selling point to their clients. So, if you have great budgeting software, a wonderful employee engagement process or a unique approach to procurement, make sure it’s in there. This stuff doesn’t take any work and is often a key differentiator.


Don’t do the job

In a time with fewer pitches and more people pitching it’s easy to lose confidence and over deliver on a pitch. Remember that the main point of a pitch is show that you can do the job, not that you have done it. Of course, we’d like it to be otherwise, but the sad truth is that a lot of clients simply use ideas from pitches without hiring the agency. Remember your brief: make them want to work with you.


Choose carefully

Are you sure this is the right pitch to go for? We’ve already mentioned cases in which too many people are invited to pitch, that’s obvious. More to the point, has the client got a great relationship with the incumbent? Perhaps they’re going through the motions of procurement, but their minds are already made up. Also, is the client right for your agency portfolio? Will the work be right for your people? Nothing can demoralise staff and therefore result in less productivity than a horrible client. All these things matter just as much (if not more) to the long-term well-being of your business as winning an account.


Create a pitch budget and stick to it

Create a rule that you’re comfortable with for pitches and don’t go over it. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than around 5% of the value of the account on pitching for it. This is a great way to ensure you're protected from spending more than business is worth. Setting that budget in your system is also important, it forces whoever is leading the pitch to request more funds if they’re committing too much time or spending too much money on winning the account. As a manager, this is where you should step in.


Remember who your friends are

Often weighing up your options will show that growing your existing business is a far easier way to increase turnover. Monitor your budgets carefully, make sure that you’re aware of opportunities in the pipeline and capitalise on them.


Do you have any other suggestions or tips for people in the creative services industry? Are you a client? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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