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To pitch or not to pitch takes on a whole new context during the Covid-19 pandemic

Pitch covid 19

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder and Global CEO 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 optimising marketing productivity and performance across marketing agency and supplier rosters.

What a time to be what the industry calls a “pitch consultant”. While we do a lot more than run pitches, the trade media headlines would suggest it is not a great time to run pitches. “The rule book has been ripped up” and “How to pitch for new business with Zoom” reduce the decision to a yes or a no.

The fact is that taking agencies to pitch is never a decision taken lightly, but during a pandemic, any responsible marketer would need to question significantly that course of action. Except of course if the need to pitch was a necessity.

At the start of the year, which feels like a lifetime ago, we had a number of pitches under management. As the implications of the Covid-19 disease became evident, decisions were made about what to do next. Here is what we have discovered so far.

Conventional Wisdom

With the need for social distancing and the health risk to all involved, including the marketing team, agencies and the like, the safest and lowest risk option was to put the whole process on hold. While any reasonable person understands this decision, depending on how advanced the pitch process, there is a sense of disappointment – to go through the process and get so close to the end, only to have it placed on hold indefinitely.

This may sound dramatic – ‘indefinitely’. But the fact is that returning to ‘normal’ may take much longer than many realise. Especially for global and regional pitches, where multiple markets are involved. Some estimates put the return of international air travel off until the end of 2020 or even mid the following year. Beyond poor timing, you wonder: if you can postpone a pitch for months or perhaps a year, should you have commenced it in the first place?

In the meantime, it is fair to say that the momentum of those pitches on hold is lost. To hope that in two, three or six months or more, to be able to simply pick up where you left off, would be short sighted at best. It could be you will need to consider unrolling the process and getting it started again.

Getting the job done

Of course, the option to finish what has already been started is the alternative. But it requires a complete rethink of the process. Some industry pundits would have it that you simply continue with the process using Zoom instead of meeting face to face. It would certainly meet the needs of social distancing. But does it meet the needs of the pitch process?

Part of the conventional wisdom has it that video conferencing does not allow the marketer to assess chemistry with the agencies and that agencies have trouble communicating across the virtual room. But the saying that necessity is the mother of all invention has never been more relevant than here. Rather than simply continuing the process, replacing face-to-face meetings, you need to revisit the purpose of the pitch and rethink the process to adapt to the new way of communicating.

The four big Cs of the pitch in most cases are Capability, Chemistry, Creativity and Commercials. Simply focusing on each of these and understanding the strengths and limitations of the current preferred mode means you can quickly adapt to the current circumstances without compromising the effectiveness of the outcome.

Putting it off until tomorrow

Beyond those marketers working through the issues the pandemic bought to their pitch are those wondering when they can start their pitch. I know because of the number of enquiries we have had in the past month from advertisers and procurement teams wondering when they can start the process.

The answer is – it depends.

It first depends on why you are going to tender. If it is simply a scheduled process to review the incumbent, then the best advice is ‘ditch the pitch’ and opt for a comprehensive commercial and performance review. Not just a relationship review, but a process that gets into the quantifiable nitty-gritty beyond opinion and perception.

If you need a new agency, then the next consideration is how time sensitive is this. Because as much as we all want to go back to ‘normal’ it could take much longer than we all thought normal might take. We need to plan like some, or all, of this could become the new normal when it comes to pitching and pitch management. Not least because some, or all, of this could also become the new normal for working together as well.

The fact is that the lessons learnt on remote pitching are invaluable for managing pitching in a more efficient and comprehensive way. So, if time is a consideration, and you cannot wait indefinitely, then from our experience the alternative is not lesser, it is simply different. Structured correctly, the remote pitch process allows all parties to spend more time interacting and assessing each other, but over a shorter period. This is especially true for multimarket pitches where travel consumes so much time and money.

So, once you have decided to pitch, the questions you need to consider now, thanks to COVID-19, are simply these: when, where and how.

TrinityP3’s comprehensive Search & Selection process provides extensive market knowledge, tightly defined process and detailed evaluation and assessment. Find out more here

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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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