Pitching. The word alone conjures up many emotions. The thrill, the chase, the challenge, and with any luck, a back of the net WIN!
But do clients ever truly understand what an agency goes through to reach that point? And can a pitch ever offer a realistic scenario for a new relationship to form?
As a Director from agencies large and small, here are the harsh realities I’ve experienced first hand.
You never see the agency as they truly are – everyone is on their best behaviour, desperate to win your business. What you need to know is if the agency will hit deadlines during a live project, are they trustworthy with costs and will they keep great ideas flowing. None of what really matters can be tested during a pitch.
Teams CANNOT be pulled together over night – Any agency that tells you they have a team solely waiting to work on your business is lying. Agencies inevitably need to resource up once appointed. So meeting the whole team who you will work with is rarely realistic.
You begin a relationship with an agency at a loss financially – rarely are all costs recovered from a pitch. Agencies can be left thousands of £’s out of pocket. Your account may initially run at a loss, just when you are expecting the best possible impression from them. Not the most motivating way to kick start things.
Losing a pitch can kill off creativity… Creativity comes from a place deep inside. Losing a pitch takes its toll. Teams are drained, then the cold reality of walking back into the studio, holding their head high and ‘turning on’ the creativity yet again, can be beyond challenging. It can take a while for a creative to get back on ‘their game’, costing the agency and their existing clients time and money.
Pitches absolutely affect paying client’s work. With the greatest will in the world, loyal, paying clients suffer during a pitch. Work can be pushed back, rushed through, or given to a team who aren’t usually on the account. This has to be the worst of all the realities when it comes to pitching.
So what’s the answer? How can a client ensure they appoint the ideal agency? There is no silver bullet, but here’s some best practices to help level the playing field…
- Buy an agency based on conversations with their existing clients.
- Appoint a new agency based on their existing work and a number of chemistry meetings.
- If a pitch is a must, no more than 2 to 3 agencies to take part.
- Clients to guarantee the budget before the pitch.
- Minimal pitch fees offered to help with some costs for all involved.
So whilst pitching can be a thrill, a chase, a challenge, for me pitches conjure up a feeling of utter frustration; knowing they suck the life out of agencies and rarely offer the ideal test for a client. Lose, lose.