As predicted, 2009 was not a year in which many reviews took place. Recessions never see much new business activity. Clients tend to become frozen with indecision and bad performance is easily blamed on the economy and not the agency or marketing.
2010 is likely to be different. As the U.S. is pulling out of the recession more agency reviews will pop up. Now is a good time for a quick refresher course in the “do’s” and “don’ts” of pitching.
- An account kept is an account won. Treat all of your existing accounts as new business opportunities. The cost of replacement, in dollars and morale, is significant. A good agency doesn’t just win business, it keeps them.
- Do your due diligence. Saying “yes” to every call and RFP that comes in is not a new business program. It’s being irresponsible and desperate. Good agencies decline at least 50% of the time if the prospect does not fit their culture.
- What is your brand? Do you stand out for providing a service better than other agencies or are you commoditized to the point of having to compete on price alone? Agency branding requires differentiation and delivering that differentiation convincingly and consistently through the line.
- Buy yourself new shoes. Agencies are the ultimate shoeless cobblers. We market our clients’ products effectively but neglect marketing ourselves. You need to develop and implement an outreach strategy – prospects mailing, attending conferences, speechmaking, social media outreach and using your website as an ad for your agency, not just an information dispenser.
- Pay attention to facial mathematics. Two ears and one mouth means that in a pitch listen a lot more than you talk. Talk very little about yourself and more about how you can help the client solve their problem. Show humility and don’t overdo the chest thumping.
- Relevancy is the name of the game. Case studies are important because they demonstrate how you work. But make sure that they are relevant to the client’s problem. Present two, and no more than three case studies and explain overtly why they are they relevant and meaningful.
- Pull the plug. Power Point is a boring and often abused application. It actually erects a wall between the presenter and listeners, and the slides are hard to track. So put the lights up and have a conversation rather than a presentation. You are much more interesting and engaging than any device.
- Don’t overload the room. Never have more than 6 people in a pitch, preferably less. And never let people walk in and out to present. This will just confuse the client and will prevent intimacy.
- Bring the team. It’s OK to showcase senior people if they are going to be involved in the business, but the client wants to see the day-to-day team. select confident and passionate people and make sure that they become friends with the client even before the pitch.
- Watch out for ball hogging. This is true especially of CEOs and creative directors who tend to talk too much at the expense of everybody else and answer all the questions themselves. This kind of behavior simply conveys a lack of confidence in other team members and is plainly rude. Senior people should encourage others to talk or the agency will come across as a one-man bend.
- Don’t blend in. If they don’t remember you after the pitch, you are done. Studies have shown that 75% of content is forgotten within 3 days of the presentation but visual impression lasts longer. Break through the clutter of sameness without being silly. Have the team tell a personal story related to the product. Or have a killer leave behind. Make sure that a week later, when they have to recall half a dozen presentations, they still have a strong “visual” of whom you are.
- Do your homework. Don’t just mail in your pitch. And don’t just use an off the shelf pitch. Embrace the client and the business by getting familiar with the product, do primary and secondary research, visit their stores, talk to their executive, customers, financial analysts. Look at what the blogs and Twitter are saying. The more familiar you are, the better your chance to win.
At the end, after all is said and done, the golden rule of new business is, “It’s the chemistry, stupid”. Clients can sniff bad teams like dogs sniff fear. Don’t let dissenting members on your team no matter how well meaning they are. They will upset other team members and will be disruptive. Pitch teams need to be friends and respectful of each other. Clients know that bad teams will be bad partners. Make sure that you don’t lose the pitch that way in the parking lot before the meeting even begins.