100 consideration for marketers to avoid poor pitch performance

Anyone can run a pitch to select a new advertising agency. Or a new media agency. Or a new digital agency. But are you prepared to run a pitch well enough to get the result you expect? And without risking the process falling over halfway through or becoming the talk of the industry for poor performance?

You may not have noticed, but agencies are getting fed up with poorly managed pitches, and they are speaking up. The pitch process is broken, the trade media proclaim, because too many marketers are running too many pitches badly.

The problem with pitches

The three biggest issues with pitches that really annoy agencies are:

  1. Pitches that require the agency to respond quickly but then drag on for days, weeks or even months when the marketers respond back to the agencies. This is particularly annoying for agencies when it comes to needing further information or answers to their questions. But it is also when the final decision is dragged out by the client with no updates along the way.
  2. When agencies are asked to meet particularly onerous requirements or are asked to provide massive strategic and commercial responses with too little time or no commercial financial compensation, then, to find out when they are successful, the cost of the agency inputs into the process is significantly excessive when it comes to the size of the contract fee.
  3. When there is little or no adequate communication or engagement during the process, the agencies have to guess the requirements, leading to wasted time and effort or creating an environment of suspicion about the process due to a lack of perceived transparency.

Of course, these are only the major complaints about poorly managed pitch processes. There are many often overlooked considerations that can make a pitch process appear to be run by amateurs instead of professionals.

Sure, there will always be agencies wanting to pitch for your business – at least those agencies desperate to win any new business. But the good agencies are increasingly being more selective in the accounts they pitch for – or not. If you are not pitch-prepared, you will risk ending up selecting from the shallow end of the agency talent pool.

Pitching requires time and knowledge.

Pitching is just not as simple as it may appear. Not anymore. There was a time when it was just a matter of inviting a few agencies to respond to a brief and then choosing the agency and the answer you liked. But today, there are so many extra levels of complexity regarding agency capabilities, deployment of technology, risk minimisation, fee types, competitive conflict, contractual compliance, and so much more.

Overlay this with the increased governance and due diligence requirements most organisations rightly place on new commercial relationships, and you can see how managing a pitch process is becoming more like navigating a minefield.

Yet often, there is a continued expectation within the business community that selecting an advertising agency, a media agency, a public relations firm or any other specialist marketing supplier is so simple and easy that any marketer should be able to manage this in their spare time, or worse, hand the responsibility for such a strategically important procurement to the procurement department.

One hundred pitch considerations

Recently, the TrinityP3 team gathered to identify and list all the most common considerations in any pitch. Together, we uncovered more than one hundred different considerations to be addressed in some way during a typical pitch process. That number escalated for composite agency pitches with multiple agency types or markets.

We broke the considerations into nine broad stages, including:

  1. Defining the purpose and successful outcome – clearly articulating the why of the process and defining what the outcome should deliver as an improvement on the current state.
  2. Preparing for the process ahead – there are multiple ways to manage a pitch process based on the desired success factors, the timing, the capabilities required and a dozen other factors that need to be considered.
  3. Planning the logistics of the pitch process – Before engaging with any agency, you need to plan out who is involved, how you will execute the process, when and where the meetings will take place, and more to ensure it runs effectively.
  4. Pitch implementation – for all the planning, there are logistical and political issues that can and will arise along the way, and you need to consider contingency plans for the more common issues that are likely to occur.
  5. Deciding the financial and contractual requirements – hoping that the financials will sort themselves out is a recipe for disaster, so having a clear view of the current financial and contractual arrangements and the preferred future position is essential.
  6. Assessment methodology and scorecards – the fastest and easiest way to align the selection team to the desired outcome is to plan and agree on the assessment process before you even commence.
  7. Negotiation process – these can drag on and slow the appointment process down or rush and overlook some important considerations that will set the relationship up for success.
  8. Decision-making responsibility and appointment – ensuring that all of the relevant stakeholders, including legal, procurement and finance, are across the process and ready to support the process is important to guarantee you do not fall at the final hurdle.
  9. The process of transitioning to the new agency, should the need arise – needs to be planned, including the impact of introducing a new agency into the current roster or village of agencies you already work with.

Of course, some of these stages are more obvious than others to get right – the shortlisting of agencies or the requirement for an open or closed tender, for example. But others, while less obvious, are nonetheless vital to consider and plan upfront rather than have them potentially derail the process halfway through.

Be pitch-prepared before you start.

With the average marketer managing a pitch process perhaps once every two to three years, it is a constant challenge simply to keep up with the increasing demands of the search and selection process, let alone develop and master the skills required.

But if you want to know if you are prepared for the pitch you plan to undertake, we can take you through all our one hundred-plus considerations so you can perform outstandingly, avoid the traps, and deliver the desired outcome.

We may be called TrinityP3, but in this case, we believe the British Army had it right with the 7Ps – Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. And no one wants to be on the end of a piss poor pitch – client or agency.

If you want to ensure you are pitch-prepared across all aspects of your upcoming agency selection process, contact us now for a confidential conversation.