Receiving an invitation to pitch for a potential client’s business invariably creates an air of optimism and excitement throughout an agency. A new marketing challenge, possibly a new market to understand and incisive and effective communications to start preparing; it’s the lifeblood of the agency.
It’s no different here at Factor 3 except recently we’ve had to turn down a few of these opportunities. Not because we’re too busy or budgets aren’t meaningful (we rarely find out the sums involved at this stage anyway).
No, the reason is more to do with the re-emergence of a practice that we’ll call ‘fishing’.
The practice itself involves potential clients issuing a pitch brief, of sorts, that alludes to their marketing challenges. The brief tends to be ‘slight’ with no formal Q&A session built in. There’s no opportunity to meet prior and there’s always the feeling that twenty other agencies have received the same email. The presentation timescale is predetermined and pretty tight. But being the positive souls that we are at Factor 3, we look on the bright side and literally decide to pitch in. Unfortunately, post pitch, all goes a bit quiet; goal posts move and agendas change. Meanwhile the client has the collected thoughts of goodness knows how many agencies’ input.
So what’s new? True, ‘fishing’ has been around for ages but perhaps in these ‘challenging economic times’ as the phrase goes, it’s more important than ever that the hard-stretched resources of agencies are used professionally and considerately. Meanwhile potential clients should see the pitch process as a means of choosing a strategic partner rather than a means of having their strategic direction defined for them, for free.
Ultimately, agencies can just politely decline to participate, although it’s not about the heat in the kitchen it’s more about not getting your fingers burned.
Being charitable, some companies’ marketing executives may not have direct experience of organising a pitch. Or the process itself may look a bit overpowering. But the best organised pitches we’ve participated in tend to be held by those clients that have now been working with us the longest. In retrospect, these very same pitches usually started with a chemistry meeting; quick to organise, no obligation on either side and an ideal way of assessing each other. It’s a sort of commercial speed dating. If all goes well at this stage, then various IPA papers and downloads will help clients on the pitch process itself. It doesn’t even have to be a classic pitch. The IPA site covers the alternatives from project work to workshops to assess compatibility.
Whichever route a client thinks is most appropriate, the guiding principle is one of mutual respect. I can’t think of a better place to start.
Read another blog article on this topic: The brief – is yours worth the paper it’s written on?