This post is by Julian Barrans, Business Director, Asia for TrinityP3. Julian has worked as a business, marketing and branding professional for over 30 years, with more than half of that time in the APAC region, working both client-side and agency side.
This is the first of two, around the topic of ‘What are the 5 biggest mistakes made when Pitching’. The first one focuses on Clients, the second will focus on Agencies.
Now on to Clients and what big mistakes we see taking place, especially in Asia.
1. Lack of a clear brief and desired outcome
It’s often said….’Start with the end in mind’, so a clear brief with the desired outcomes set out would, you think, be a good start point before even declaring a Pitch is desired.
For example, do you actually need a Pitch? If you are happy with the performance of your agency overall, then what’s driving the desire to conduct a Pitch? If it’s driven by the upcoming expiration of the contract, but you’re mostly happy with the current relationship, then you might want to carry out what we call, an agency commercial performance assessment instead.
This, simply put, would provide all the data you need to improve the working relationship, highlighting opportunities to work more productively together as well as set KPI’s for a new contract going forward to build on success.
If you believe it’s beneficial to look around via a Pitch, as you’re not in the above situation, then given the sheer amount of work and disruption to the marketing team and brand activities, it would make a lot of sense to develop a clear brief and desired outcome.
You need to state what your needs and wants are from an Agency, have a clear view of what has not been working with the incumbent agency and what your budget, the scope of work, etc, will look like going forward. Also, how you plan to remunerate, for example, commission-based, SOW/output based or a rate card/value-based, model?
2. Clients rarely have thought through what process will deliver the desired outcomes
The important question to be answered is, does the Pitch process you’ve decided on deliver the desired outcomes you’ve set out in your brief?
For example, we see time and time again a dizzying number of agencies being asked to pitch for a client’s business, coming in with creative ideas, often, too. When an agency is faced with a ‘lottery’ situation are they going to give it 100%? Also, is a creative, or media buying, a task even the correct major decision-making component in your Pitch process, especially given the ideas are actually so seldom used?
In your Pitch process have you nailed understanding the marketing team/’potential agency team chemistry, agency team make-up, agency skill sets, seniority/mid/junior level blend, realistic and sustainable pricing/fees? If it does this, then you could be ready to go, or have you missed something, as let’s face it, aren’t marketing already stretched to 110%?
Fortunately, we are here to help you, whether as an advisor or full manager of your Pitch process, so you can always phone a friend!
3. The skill sets, experience and influence required by the team to complete the Pitch process
Organisations often think that as they have marketers (maybe ex-creative/ex-media agency team members too), that they can develop and run a Pitch process as well as a professional consultancy firm.
You have to consider the role of your marketing team and why they are there….to deliver the organisation’s growth agenda via its brand strategy and activity plan, I presume? Not have their focus diverted from this A1 critical delivery!
Just as an organisation’s marketing team outsource creative development, media planning and buying, via agencies, for example, that should also happen with such an important task as the Pitch process and its delivery……of your new agency partner!
When you consider some of the challenges of the Pitch process, you can see the skills are extensive and the focus needed is critical for the successful delivery of the desired outcome.
Whether working with a Pitch consultant or not, the importance of the organisation’s internal Pitch team and who/when/how they are involved in key milestones of the process need to be considered carefully and managed carefully. That may sound obvious but managing local, regional and global stakeholders with their different perspectives and agendas can be very complex to manage.
Setting up the right briefing and reporting to keep the broader team on the same page, with the same outcome and deliverables should be a major consideration in the pitch process itself. Who has a vote at the table? Who has the power of veto? Who do you need to keep ‘sweet’? Who do you need to keep informed? Who can you add to the team that can help you influence within the organisation to support decisions made and navigate toward your desired outcome?
4. There is a lack of data to enable the Pitch to be successfully completed
As much as possible it’s important to have hard data and quantify qualitative aspects of the Pitch process. Too many clients end up making relatively subjective decisions which can lead to criticism and confusion down the line in the process. For example, chemistry sessions need to include scorecards to enable the team members to make clear decisions around an agency’s performance across different criteria.
Sometimes you see a clear difference between senior and junior members of a Pitch team. It’s important to be able to analyse why this is the case, as chemistry in a relationship needs to work across all interactions not just senior to senior, or junior to junior, for example.
A common mistake clients make is around understanding whether an agency is offering good value in their proposal versus pricing/fees that are just not achievable, given the team structure and market pricing.
Do you have a strong handle on how an agency should structure the team on your account and the fee structure that could apply to deliver your needs? It is not enough to compare each agency with each other in a Pitch, as you don’t know if one or any are ‘correct’!
Third-party data here is a must to help in this area so you can see if, where and how ‘value’ is being offered, or indeed if your fee/pricing expectations are too ambitious for the work you’re asking for too.
5. A lack of clarity around what drives the actual final decision
We’ve seen clients lose their sense of judgement in the face of what looks like an amazing deal from an agency during a Pitch. It has then ended in tears six months down the line when the realisation has dawned that the agency over-promised and couldn’t deliver.
You just don’t want that to happen to you…..a marriage based on false promises and an uneasy ‘separation phase’, while you wait for the contract to run down or go for the quick, costly divorce, as you look for the kind of relationship you should have focused on in the first place!
To avoid any dangerous traps, you need to visualise what a successful outcome looks like and set some realistic financial expectations around those.
If there’s going to be a lot of financial pressure to bring costs down then be realistic, don’t go in assuming it’s all going to come from the agencies cutting their prices. You need to make an adjustment to what work you are asking for as well.
A few last thoughts….
Whatever situation you are facing I hope this has given you some food for thought, as you consider how to avoid some pretty big mistakes in your approach to your next Pitch?
You may feel some mistakes are obvious, but when you’re so busy doing everything else that you are already being overstretched…..mistakes are easy to make in the Pitch process. It’s an infrequent activity, but a complex one that you need to be able to get as right as possible for the next three years or so.
Just remember….help is at hand if you need it!
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