5 myths about pitch management, agency remuneration and relationship management

When it comes to pitching there are lots of rumours, gossip and a huge amount of bull. So I thought it was time to myth bust a few untruths about a pitch and give my perspective, having worked over the last 2 years at TrinityP3 on numerous pitches and client projects.

That is after quite a few years on the agency side.

The fact is that while it has been really positive, there are many agencies (and even some advertisers) who really struggle with the pitch process. TrinityP3 has been running pitches for over 10 years without the “creative beauty parade” so one could say we are pretty tried and tested.

Nine times out of 10 we have really fantastic feedback from not only the client, but also the agencies involved. The tenth was the one who decided not to engage us to do the negotiating and discovered how much fun that was! Not.

But back to the myths about pitching.

Myths are built out of the rumours, misinformation and gossip that surround the process. By understanding the myths and addressing the reality we can move forward and embrace a better way to manage the agency selection process.

Myth 1 – “You just recommend your favourites, right?”

I hear this myth a lot. The way it goes is that as a consultant we walk in to the client and trot out the dozen agencies we know in each category. It is a dozen because that is about the most one person could remember.

Of course, over time, the memory starts to fade and you could end up only remembering half a dozen agencies in any category. But that is okay for some advertisers, because they struggle to remember three: the incumbent, the last one they fired and the one they read about in the B&T Awards.

And yes we have heard of some consultants who do have their favourite agencies that get trotted out on the pitch list for each and every client. Funnily it is often the same agencies that pay the consultant for some ‘consulting’ work on a regular basis.

The irony of this myth is that many people who hang a shingle as a pitch consultant think this is all there is to it and so perpetuate the myth with clients who do not know any better.

But I think one of the biggest areas of value we offer is our depth and breadth of knowledge on the agencies in the market – big and small, specialist and generalist.

TrinityP3 has around 30 consultants and more than 20 Marketing FIRST Forum affiliates globally, we are brought in to cover various specialist areas of marketing – technology, media, client side marketers, production and direct marketing, public relations and more.

Mostly we have all been actively working within that specific environment for more than 10 years, so we have a strong sense of what is going on in today’s business environment and the challenges our clients are facing in today’s marketing world.

Our process starts with the search report, derived from amongst other things the TrinityP3 Agency Register. The Agency Register holds years of data collected from around 3,000 agency partners so we can wash this against a client’s brief specifications. It is split into different areas of marketing services and also consists of small specialists that may be overlooked.

Clients do not always have the budget or need for one of the top tier players and we have the ability to match them with an agency more suited to those needs. We also don’t have to run a pitch; clients can choose to use the Perfect Match service as an alternative.

The need might be only project based and they want to look for suitable candidates without a retained service model. Perfect Match can do just that and consists of just the market search.

So no, we do not just recommend the agencies we can remember. But we do recommend the agencies on the Agency Register. So if you are an agency, the question you need to ask is, are you on the TrinityP3 Agency Register? It’s free.

Myth 2 – “We need to wine and dine you to get on the pitch list”

I am certainly not adverse to a fine lunch. But the days of the consultant lunches are gone, unless of course you wear the mantle of Sir Lunch-a-lot as some industry consultants do. You know the ones. You see them at the Rockpool, Est, Icebergs in Sydney and Il Bacaro, Flower Drum and Roberto’s in Melbourne.

There are other consultants we hear about that refuse to meet with any agencies at all. Not for lunch, or drinks or anything. Unless of course the agency is paying them to visit, in which case the consultant is happy to see them, usually to pick up the cheque.

But as well as the Agency Register, TrinityP3 consultants are meeting with agencies every week, not for lunch. Part of our job is that we are actively all out and about weekly, meeting new agencies or reacquainting ourselves with existing agency contacts.

The industry is a moving feast, pardon the pun, so it is impossible to stay up to date with changes in service models or won or lost client business for potential clashes unless you are constantly out meeting with people. We also get a feel for the agency culture which is probably one of the top attributes we see clients requesting in their brief to us.

It is also a bit farcical in my opinion to be putting forward an agency you have no idea yourself about with confidence, unless you know what you are talking about from experience. Unless you are out there on a regular basis there is no way to stay current with change. This is again why TrinityP3 consultants are actively conducting agency visits.

We don’t work for agencies and we don’t ask for agencies to pay us as that would corrupt the system. Even though there are models out there that charge agencies for a win we believe this doesn’t support the ethical approach of our process and would create a biased result.

So thanks for the lunch offer, but we prefer to get to know the agency, not the agency CEO’s expense account.

Myth 3 – “When it comes to agency remuneration you just want to screw down the costs”

There are definitely consultants out there that get paid a percentage of savings. We know because when we are tendering for pitches we often get asked if we are willing to be paid on savings. We are not by the way. But certainly many consultants are happy to do this.

I know Darren always says that if he got paid a percentage of savings he would have retired by now. But in actual fact we work very hard to ensure the financial arrangements are fair and more importantly, sustainable. If you don’t believe me here it here from Hamish McLennan when he was Chairman and CEO of Y&R Brands. 

We have developed robust methodologies and collected data from across the globe that we use to analyse and calculate a fair and sustainable remuneration model. It’s not opinion based it’s based on factual data. That is the alternative.

There are consultants that simply offer an opinion on what the agency should be paid and when you combine opinion with a financial incentive to deliver savings it is a disaster for the agency and in the long run for the advertiser too.

Myth 4 –“All care, no responsibility, because post pitch you walk away”

To agencies it may look like we are there for a good time and not a long time, but in actual fact for us, a measure of success if how long the relationship between the advertiser and the new agency lasts. We have a promise we make to our clients that if it doesn’t last six months then we will come back and help fix it.

In ten years and a couple of hundred pitches this has happened twice.

On the other hand there are also many client agency relationships that have lasted more than eight or ten years and they are still going strong. So to think that we are only here for the pitch is definitely a myth.

The funny thing is most advertisers and agencies often think that once the pitch is over it is simply a matter of getting on with business. But the critical part after a pitch is ensuring you know how to engage with the new agency. There are bound to be some hiccups until you take the time to fully engage in each others businesses.

That is why we provide a check in process and also encourage our clients to use measurement tools such as Evalu8ing to keep on top of KPI”s and relationship goals.

There is a level of responsibility we expect the client to take to ensure they welcome their new house guests at check in, however we are happy to join the party when invited and show some of our party tricks!

Myth 5 – “Let me buy you a coffee and tell me how I can win more pitches”

As consultants, we are always being asked “can I buy you a coffee?”, especially by agencies, but also by procurement professionals and some marketers. As much as we love to chat we have a job to do.

Quite frankly anyway, the cost of a coffee isn’t going to cover our hourly rate. And it is almost impossible for me to share what I have learned through years in the industry and even the last two years at TrintyP3 in an hour.

It reminds me of this story from 1099.com about Pablo Picasso

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

“It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

The business purpose of TrinityP3 is to lead the way in improving our client’s marketing and business. Let’s cut to the chase, to stay in business we need to make money and therefore we consult for a fee.

Here is some free advice, which contradicts everything I just said in my last sentence! If you want to find good advice free then read the blog posts here and follow us on social media. I can promise you there will be a blog to read on a topic you want to find out about.

Hopefully this busts a few myths and gives some insight into how we manage the pitch. If anything it might save you a couple of bucks for that coffee!

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