Been party to a pitch on the agency side and wondered why you lost some clients? What differentiates the best agencies from the also-rans?
I have worked on the agency side – so I do know what it takes to pitch and retain a client. After interacting with scores of agencies – public relations, advertising, brand, marketing, event, social among others during the course of my career there are certain basic expectations that often get in the way of winning and sustaining business.
In this blog post I wanted to share a few pointers and hear your perspectives.
Don’t beat around the bush: You are not expected to know everything that a client asks you. If you are unaware, just say you don’t know. Promise to look it up and come back. Avoid trying to cook up excuses or worse make up a poor response. However articulate you maybe sooner or later you will get exposed.
Have a point of view: If you are pitching for a new business it is an expectation that you have broadly read, learnt or experienced parts of the client’s work before you step in for a conversation. Therefore, have a point of view. There is a difference between an opinion and a point of view. A point of view needs to be backed by strong reasoning and that is what clients look for. Clients need strong partners not paper pushers. Do your research. Ask around. Get it right.
Understand the business and client: This should be a no-brainer. However, time after time from my experience I have seen agencies come in with limited understanding or visibility on the scope, skills, competition, expectations, current positioning and challenges the organization they plan to service face. This is a deal breaker. Look up earlier work done, read up or ask around if there were crises which the organization has faced or tackled.
It isn’t about who you are: Most agencies begin with who they are and what they do. Start with your understanding of who the client is and how the partnership between the two will be stronger. Address how you plan to add value and what it will take to deliver the goods. The client has probably already read up about you on the web or elsewhere. Leave your credentials packet behind if you still want the client to know more.
Demonstrate thought leadership: Agencies often come in and advice the client to showcase thought leadership. First begin with your own thought leadership. How often have you been articulating new ideas and perspectives? Do a speculative campaign or share research and articles that have moved the needle on industry thinking, approaches or models. I have seen agencies pitch for social media business when they haven’t got their own act together. How will a client be convinced to blog and have a social media strategy when your own Facebook page or Twitter handle isn’t sharing anything of value?
Show you care: Turn up early or inform if you can’t make it on time. Look the part. Be cognizant of what it takes to address the client’s most pressing needs. Respond promptly and use the right brand standards. Review your content before you present. Tell stories that will explain the point. It isn’t about the amount of content on your slides but the intent and impact. Tell the client why you need the business and why must you be considered. Ask questions and seek feedback.
When the rubber meets the road: This is where most agencies fall by the wayside. How do you execute to your plan and what does it take to consistently deliver to your promise? Not sure why but many agencies that I have interacted with bring a large group for the initial meeting and when the engagement begins the servicing team dwindles. While I am aware of internal challenges in retaining bright talent, developing capabilities and motivating staff the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Why not offer a trial run to prove your worth and reduce teething issues?
Invest in your own people and growth: Many agencies fumble when I probe more on how they invest in their own colleagues in terms of learning and growth. It isn’t about having regular meetings and knowledge sharing sessions. If you aren’t investing to improve your team’s thinking, up skilling them to tackle the future and leveraging best practices your agency will soon be extinct.
Take feedback in your stride: How you react to feedback can be a strong determinant of your chances to win the business. Understand the context for the feedback, seek clarifications, revisit your approach and make amendments. Don’t forget to inform the client that you are working on the feedback.
What do you think?