How advertising and marketing agencies can avoid the pitch death spiral!

June 11, 2009

woman_posterWhat other industry do you know of where upwards of 8 competing companies will willingly and enthusiastically:

Invest hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own time and money into a speculative pitch for new business, with no guarantee of reward?

Apply their best talent and years of experience to developing the most innovative ideas/concepts and voluntarily sign away their rights to them, even if they do not win the business?

Just accept the fact that the budgeted spend is now $1 million and not $3million when you win it – Even though you invested pitch resources based on the larger opportunity?

Roll over even when the agency has already spent the time and effort pitching the business, and the client decides not to make a change for undisclosed reasons?

The pitch spiral can be an ugly place to be for even the most successful agencies. You never win them all so you have to fund the losses out of the wins, and of course, the lower your win ratio the higher your new business strain. In my opinion, the formal agency pitch environment is the last place you want your agency to be in.

Consider an alternative approach:

What if you invested a similar amount of money against a highly targeted strategic new business prospect on a pro-active basis? Invested the same amount of money, or even less, doing your homework on the category, the competition, and the company’s brands?

Then used that homework and the actionable insights to secure an initial presentation focused on what you discovered and how your agency can leverage those insights to help them succeed.

At the meeting, share with them your brilliant pro-active thinking and ideas on how to solve some of their most pressing challenges. Giving them concrete proposals to react to, versus academic thinking.

And do all this in an environment where you are not pitching in a head to head face off against 7 other agencies with the outcome being decided by a sudden death decision.

Seems to make more sense, does it not? I can tell you that it has worked for me over and over again. Be cognizant of the fact that you may not hit a home run every time. If you do strike out, the likelihood is that there is a competitor that you can repurpose the content for, and go after them.

Sometimes you do not get an immediate hit. That does not mean that you give up there and then. Keep the doors open. Continue to keep in contact without being a nuisance. Forward on any information you come across that may be of interest to the client.

There have been times where it took me nearly two years and multiple contacts to finally get in the door of a target client. Perseverance and follow up will ultimately lead you success.