Why not all agency pitch processes are equal

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.

Agency Pitch Process

I recently had a conversation with a CMO who had just completed an agency pitch with a pitch consultant. Not a TrinityP3 pitch consultant, but one of our many and growing competitors. It was interesting because he was not completely satisfied with the process or more importantly the outcome.

So what was the issue?

He asked me to describe the process that TrinityP3 usually recommended. I shared our fully managed process and 30 minutes later, when I had described it in detail, he shared the process that the pitch consultant they had used had taken them through.

All I can say is it proves you get what you pay for, but I will let you judge that for yourself.

One of the things we have always tried to do is develop methodologies that bring an increased level of rigour, process and measurement to the industry. Perhaps it is my scientific training, but it has always seemed natural to develop and build processes that provide rigour and accountability, especially the agency selection or pitch process.

After 15 years of working in agencies and pitching for new business on the agency side, it was clear that the process as it was practiced could be improved and over more than a decade since we managed our first pitch we have developed what we have been told is one of the most rigorous and professional processes around. But don’t take my word for it, read what many of our clients have said and also the agencies involved.

So lets compare the processes and I am interested in knowing if this is typical or not.

TrinityP3 Agency Search & Selection Process

Another Pitch Consultant’s Process

Market Search Brief

The first step is to make sure there is an agreed definition of success. Beyond the selection of the agency, what is the reason for the pitch and what other options are available to the marketer to achieve the same outcome.

We have developed a comprehensive and structured briefing format that takes the conversation through all of the important considerations before undertaking the disruptive and time-consuming process.

It also defines the requirements of the process and an agreed successful outcome as a reference point as the process progresses.

And finally it will define the participants in the selection process and the agreed process and timeline.

 

Apparently on appointment the consultant met with the CMO and his Marketing Manager and they discussed the need to review their creative agency.

In the conversation they discussed some of the capabilities they required and how long the process would take.

Market Search Report

The Market Search Brief is used to define the Search Terms used on the TrinityP3 Agency Register. With more than 3,000 agencies of various types on the database it provides a comprehensive list of suitable agencies.

But we also check with the TrinityP3 consultants to make sure there is no agency option overlooked.

We then confidentially have the agencies clarify and provide further specific information. The report provides detailed information on the recommended agencies, but also those agencies with conflicts and the rejected agencies and the reason they were not recommended.

Depending on the category and the number of suitable agencies the recommendation list will be between 6 – 12 possibilities of which the marketers will be encouraged to select six to either maximum for any particular discipline.

 

Later in the same meeting the consultant offered the names of six agencies that the CMO should consider as the consultant’s recommendation based on the conversation.

Credentials Brief

Rather than having the agencies providing generic credentials we develop a credentials brief requesting very specific information aligned to the requirements detailed in the Market Search Brief.

This will be case studies, examples and very specific information to assist the marketers assess the suitability of each of the agencies.

We can also review the credentials when presented and provide the marketer with a summary of each of the agency credentials to ensure that the details are suitably considered if the marketing team do not have the time to read all of the credentials.

This will be used to assess which agencies the marketing team will meet with for Chemistry Meetings.

There is a scorecard process to ensure the marketing team are able to fully consider all aspects of the credentials response.

 

On agreement with the CMO on their recommendation list the consultant contacted the six agencies and asked for copies of their standard credentials documents, which were supplied to the consultant, who shared these with the CMO and his team.

Chemistry Meeting

Chemistry Meetings are designed to allow the agencies to present the reason they are the ideal agency partner and for the marketers to be able to question the agency on the details of their credentials document and develop an understanding of the agency strengths.

It is also an opportunity for the agencies to ask questions of the marketing team. This is often an area where the agency can be found wanting.

Again, scorecards are used to ensure that the marketing team has considered all aspects of the chemistry process to shortlist the agencies to a list of three for strategic workshops.

 

All six agencies where invited to attend a chemistry meeting with the CMO and his senior marketing team. The meetings were one hour long and basically a one-hour conversation.

Strategic Workshop

This is an innovation we bought to the process following a global review of best practice in 2007.

The strategic workshops provide the shortlisted agencies with the opportunity to work with the marketing team on a specific strategic problem.

The workshops can be between a half day and a full day with the marketing team and the agency working through a problem together.

The benefits of this process have been shared previously here and our clients who have used this approach find it incredibly helpful in test-driving each agency.

A scorecard is used to ensure the client fully assesses all aspects of the workshop and the agency’s performance as well as the outcomes.

Often the marketers will complete this process and have a clear preferred agency at this stage.

 

No strategic workshop.

Creative Presentation (Optional)

This step is only included for two reasons: either the marketer is still unable to separate two agencies for final selection or they require some tangible output for internal presentation of the preferred agency.

Either way the process is carefully limited to preparing creative work directly form the strategic workshop and then only a limited number of creative expressions to minimise the level of time the agency is to invest.

Because the brief is from the workshops, much of the strategic work has been developed and agreed with the marketers input and therefore the creative process is faster and more focused.

The scorecard is used to focus the marketer not just on the preferred creative output but also the agency approach and the creative process.

 

Four of the six agencies were progressed to the creative pitch stage. All six were provided with a creative brief and asked to come back and present their speculative creative work four weeks later on which they were judged.

Agency Remuneration

This process commences usually at the time of the Chemistry Meetings with the marketer asked to provide the proposed Scope of Work that they would expect the agency to deliver in the first year of appointment.

Using the TrinityP3 Scope Monitor we then calculate the level of resourcing and the cost, from the Ad Cost Checker system, based on the category benchmarks and the quality of the agencies. This provides the marketers with an indication of the value of the Scope of Work.

A remuneration template is prepared for each of the three shortlisted agencies to complete to allow like for like comparison.

The completed agency templates are analysed and assessed to determine value and the results provided to the marketers once they have completed their selection of their preferred agency.

This is to ensure that the final selection is not based on cost but value. It also provides the basis for any negotiation against the fee and resource mix calculated by the Scope Monitor and the Ad Cost Checker benchmarks.

 

Once the preferred agency was selected the consultant requested a remuneration proposal, which the consultant reviewed and provided feedback on based on their experience.

Negotiation & Contracting

While often the marketers or their procurement team will want to manage the negotiation process, we prefer to support this to ensure the optimal and sustainable outcome.

TrinityP3 is never incentivised with a percentage of savings and therefore we are able to ensure the negotiation is undertaken in a way that ensures the outcome is fair to all parties and represents value for the marketer and is sustainable for the agency.

At the end of the negotiation process we record the outcome of the negotiation and make sure the agreed details are captured in the contract.

Also at the end of the process we prepare a report that documents the process and outcomes at each step of the process we have managed to provide the due diligence and governance required of a major procurement decision.

At each step when any agency is removed from the process we provide a detailed feedback session to ensure the agency understands where and why they were unsuccessful.

 

It did not appear there was much required in way of negotiation as the agency provided their ‘standard’ agreement for the client to sign.

As for the cost of these two approaches, lets just say that the TrinityP3 management approach was three times more expensive than the consultant they had used.

Did this represent value for money?

Only the buyer can make this decision, but we, and our clients, indicate that there is value in a more rigorous and professional approach.

TrinityP3’s comprehensive Search & Selection process provides extensive market knowledge, tightly defined process and detailed evaluation and assessment, to help you find the right agency supplier.

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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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