Hiring a creative agency is one of the most critical and challenging tasks for companies and brands. The problem is that the pitch process hasn’t changed for what seems like forever. Most stakeholders, executives and business owners don’t come to the table with the information needed for agencies to prepare, leaving the agency to provide a muddy view of what a project with entail, and a client who doesn’t have a clear understanding of deliverables.
Anatomy of A Pitch Process
In the most simple terms, there are two kinds of pitch processes. Those that are thoughtful, well-planned, and considered; and those that are down and dirty, get the job done types. These usually vary depending on the scope of work – whether a focused activity like a logo redesign or a sweeping project like a website or product launch. Because the pitch process is a vastly different experience for many people it is essential to know what is needed upfront to see the project runway and finish line.
Perhaps the most important thing that is needed from a client is….time. Unfortunately, this can be one of the most valuable, and least available, resources for an agency to get during a pitch process. The question is why are some clients so unwilling, and some so eager to provide necessary information – and how does an agency go about gathering it if it’s not provided in a clear format. If an RFP or brief aren’t provided, which is becoming more and more common – the agency should engage in a discovery process where either the client can be briefed in-person via or phone or video conference.
Agency stakeholders should enter the process with a high-level knowledge of the brand or company, their strengths, and weaknesses as well as a working grasp of the relevant industry. Entering the phase of the meeting, aim for conversation rather than a stand-up, presentation approach. Engaging in a free-flowing dialog will garner more insight into the inner workings and goals of an organization rather than getting an elevator pitch approach to introductions. By investing this time at the get-go, both agencies and clients build rapport and have a better understanding of whether the partnership could ultimately work.
An Integrated Approach
Project proposals and pitches are infinitely more strategic today than in the past. With a focus on conversion, data, content strategy, the user is top of mind and company goals are critically considered. While agencies used to vie for the top-performing pitch for a tagline or commercial spot – today companies are looking for a creative partner that not only understands their brand but who can also deliver an integrated plan for their user, overall brand, and customer experience.
Understanding the client is key to alignment and learning what their unique needs are – even if they don’t have a clear view. Establishing information on the agency, what their capabilities are and any supporting links are helpful but it’s essential to avoid talking about the agency too much. The presentation, proposal and ultimate strategy should be all about the client and solving their problem. By offering process, timeline and a high-level overview on how these objectives will be achieved is sufficient. If done effectively, the carrot will dangle enough for further conversation and ultimate closing of the project.
Though some follow the old adage of ‘taking every interview’, the opposite is true with agency pitch and proposal requests. Whether it’s workload or scope of services, being realistic about what capabilities are is paramount to sustainable business on both sides. If necessary, the presenting agency can collaborate with freelancers or other agencies to job out the work and create a network of productivity. Ultimately, viewing the process as a path to a long-lasting partnership is key to winning the work.