Better agency pitch practices for better client / agency relationships

I feel like I am constantly seeing reports and articles about the flaws of the advertising agency pitching process.  A common theme of these articles is the fact clients often select agencies based on their creative potential but usually fire them for relationship and service related issues.

Agency pitch practices

So how can you ensure your pitch process builds the foundations for a solid long-term relationship?

TrinityP3’s top 5 tips on pitching for the long term

1. Have a clear understanding of what you want

What may seem the most obvious is often the most overlooked in the rush to get the pitch progressing.  It is worth really defining what you are asking the agencies to solve now and what briefs you may have after the pitch is over.

2. Plan it more like a test drive than a date or beauty parade

Whilst pitches have roughly had the same format over the years, it is important to determine the level of input you require from your agency after the pitch and build this into the pitch process.  If you require regular strategic input and insights from key staff at the agency including creative teams, we suggest a day long workshop with each of the short listed agencies to ascertain the chemistry not only in personality but in the solving of marketing problems.

3. Who is paying, you or them, because no one wants to split the bill

Regardless how great the creative solutions and how well the chemistry is going, if you don’t ensure you negotiate a framework that allows you to get the service you need at sustainable rates for both your business and the agency, the relationship is likely to fail over discussions that detract from the core business objectives.  It is also important to keep the performance criteria simple enough to be measured.

4. Be clear and up front in what you want and expect

Be clear in how you plan to run the pitch and how you plan to work after the pitch is over.  In any relationship that fails, it’s usually confusion over expectations that are the cause.

5. Be prepared to spend the time to really get to know each other

The average pitch can require 600 – 800 internal head hours.  As you are selecting a partner to help achieve key business goals it is worth allocating the time upfront.  It is also important key decision makers have the time to consider the agencies properly and not get caught up in the administration of the pitch.

These are mine.

What do you suggest?

Leave me your suggestions as a comment here and lets see if we can expand the list to ten!

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com
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2 Responses to Better agency pitch practices for better client / agency relationships

  1. Darren

    I particularly like your option 2. If the client is prepared to invest in a 'test drive' then you both get the opportunity to work on a real (maybe small) project together before jumping into bed for the long term. Lots of learnings to be had.

    We're writing a series of blog posts about the Creative Agency of the Future – could we interview you for it? #FutureAgency http://creativeagencysecrets.com/category/creativ

    • TrinityP3 says:

      That is our preferred option too Rebecca. We have had huge success with this approach as it allows the marketer and the agency to assess their working chemistry beyond just the outputs of the process. The biggest hurdle is that it requires an investment of time from the marketers to work with each agency that initially they are hesitant to invest. But after the process every one has appreciated the process and the results beyond the usual beauty parade created by the traditional pitch process. Happy to discuss this further.

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