Posts tagged ‘new business’
We’ve all been there at one time or another. The client pitch brief that asserts their ambition for the brand to be seen as the country’s leading X or most aspirational Y. When you know full well that the brand has more baggage than Terminal 5 on a BA strike day, is right up there with Peter Mandelson in the public’s affections and that the actual product doesn’t perform well against the competition. Oh, and they have a budget approximately a quarter of the size required to affect meaningful results.
So what do you do? Pitch promising to give them exactly what they want but knowing you can’t deliver? Pitch giving them a reality check but knowing you’ll lose? Or decline to pitch on the basis that the client has clearly lost all touch with reality?
I wish I could say that the latter is always the case. But we know it isn’t. Perhaps it’s the role of pitch intermediaries like the AAR and Haystack to challenge pitch briefs and give a severe reality check.
Ben over at IFIABTWC has been writing about his Fantasy Agency (which he says would be called Pavement). I’m definitely with him on:
The office shuts at 6. You can work afterwards if you really want to, but that’s up to you. No one wants to stop you working hard but Pavement does not want you to feel compelled to endure a life of pointless presenteeism.
Ben’s writing from a creative point of view, so I thought I’d throw in my own Fantasy Agency List:
Agency policies to include:
- open plan is fine; packing desks in so tightly that you can’t walk between them is not
- helpfulness and tidiness are next to godliness – and more importantly, form part of your appraisal
- go to the pub after work if you like, but its not compulsory and you won’t be penalised for failing to turn up
- as Ben wrote, ‘If you need help, help will be provided’; equally if you are perfectly capable of cracking on with something you will be left alone to do so
Specifically regarding pitching:
- only for clients where the chief decision maker resides in the UK
- whose company is solvent
- and whose head office is less than four hours travelling time from the agency (three if driving)
- and have a more than adequate and confirmed marketing budget for the next 12 months
- where four or less agencies are pitching creative and/or strategy
- and a date for a final pitch decision is set in stone
- no sub-prime finance, gambling, fags or really boring b2b clients
A very cynical view of both sides of the pitch process (written by someone who probably needs a holiday)
- I’m sure they hid the brief somewhere in this 82 page document
- Did you know that pizza is a major food group?
- Find what we did last time and change the client logo
- There is a Hell and it’s name is Powerpoint
- Yes, they do run trains at 5am
- Time waits for no pitch
- Hurry Up and Wait…and wait…and wait
- Behold, I am an all-powerful beauty content judge. You may bow.
- If I make the wrong decision, I may lose my job, so I’ll go for a tram smash of all three pitches to cover my back.
- You’re on the roster! No, I don’t actually want you to do any work for me right now…
- Why can’t I use your Big Idea but get my cheaper agencies to execute it?
- We already had that idea, honest, and were just about to run it…
New Business is turning into a bit of a farce at the moment.
A client I pitched for in November (who announced within 24 hours that we were down to the final two agencies) let us know today that they’d finally made the decision to appoint the other lot. That’s three months it took them to chose between agencies A and B. How hard can it be?
Then there’s the never ending PQQs, ITTs and other tendering related, time vampire red tape, the client who took so long to decide on which agency to appoint that they went bust in the meantime and the clients who are seemingly incapable of returning calls or emails politely enquiring if a long overdue pitch decision is imminent.
Pitching is an incredibly expensive way of doing business and most clients don’t seem to realise that the agency ‘overflow’ resources which have to be redirected towards time consuming pitches are becoming increasingly scarce in businesses that are running a tight ship in order to stay afloat in this stormy economy.
Fortunately my place is winning new business as well as being messed about a lot (otherwise I’d be worrying about my job), but in the meantime, may I present the New Rules For Clients Upon Calling A Pitch:
- Underestimate the budget you have allocated as it will almost certainly have reduced by the time you get round to appointing an agency.
- If you think your company is about to go bust, now is not a good time to hold a pitch.
- Pitching is very, very expensive from the agency’s point of view. And it takes up a lot of your time and resources too. There may be agencies hungry for work and desperate to get on the pitch list, but limit creative pitches to as many agencies as you can count on one hand. And tell them how many they’re up against so they can make an informed decision on whether to proceed or not.
- Keep in touch. Honestly, we understand that your company’s circumstances might unexpectedly shift and you’ll need to re-evaluate. But only if you actually talk to us.
you can run, but you can’t hide, Mr Client
Two or three Agency Tours make their way past my desk every day. New clients, new business prospects and interviewees are all escorted round the agency because look!, some desks! and people! and we have computers and recycling bins and everything! Um, I’m not quite sure what that person does but come and meet someone else who is in the middle of something important and didn’t really want disturbing!
Being shown round an agency can be a good way of getting a feel for it’s size and culture and its very hard to otherwise demonstrate the ‘buzz’ of an agency going full tilt, but in some cases I fear Agency Tours can leave the person being shown round with the impression that the business is rather rubbish at filing, washing up and throwing things away rather than a lean, keen agency machine.
I’d love to know what any Clients reading this think about Agency Tours or if you are an agency bod - how, when and if your agency does them?
I’ve got an in-tray full of Pending Pitch Outcomes. There’s everything in there, from £M+ integrated bonanzas to consultancy projects and startups.
But none of them have been signed off. In every instance we’re the agency of choice, or are down to the final two, but the client has delayed their actual decision to appoint – in some cases for several months now.
It’s a bit disheartening when you (and a large chunk of agency resource) throw yourself into a full blown pitch, confident that the client has promised to make their decision within a few days of your presentation, only to be kept waiting…and waiting…
I’m doing all the usual keeping-front-of-mind proactive measures but it seems that the dire economic conditions are making senior management extremely reluctant to sign off any new marketing spend or to commit themselves to anything that doesn’t have an immediate and totally measurable ROI (hello, online media chaps).
Pitching in itself isn’t exactly a cheap way of winning business. But the Tender Queens tell me they’re experiencing similar problems and it’s not just my agency, it seems to be pretty much across the board. So I guess we’ll all just have to keep keeping our fingers crossed.
At the Northern Planning Summit last Thursday night in Sheffield we ended up discussing what would you chose not to pitch for as an agency?, which encompassed wider issues like are they flogging booze/sub-prime finance/fags/politics (delete according to where you draw the line) and are they likely to turn into the client from hell?
Which made me think alot about Pitching on the drive home. I must easily spend half my time at work on New Business and it seems to me that agencies are increasingly dancing to the client’s tune and agreeing to pitch for accounts or even short-term projects where the odds are what bookmakers would euphemistically refer to as “a long shot”.
It would take a very brave agency MD to make a stand and refuse to pitch for anything, but perhaps if we were all a bit more bolshy and treated the pitch process as more of a two-way interview, we might end up only actually full-blown pitching for those accounts which we were sure that client and agency were a good match – and therefore more likely to produce a successful pitch outcome.
I’ve finally got my hands on Jon Steel’s new book Perfect Pitch
(the new business guys had been hogging the agency copy). I’ve only had chance to get through the first couple of chapters so far, but I’m so fired up.
Jon also wrote the modern Planner’s bible Truth, Lies and Advertising, which I’ve gone back to so often I can quote huge chunks verbatim.
Jon will be talking through some of the key points from Perfect Pitch at an Account Planning Group event on Tuesday 16th January – is anyone else going?
I just checked the APG’s website and the venue for Jon’s talk has moved.