New business pitches are a fact of life and I’d be concerned if we weren’t involved in them on a regular basis. All I ask is that clients play fair. Here are some things that annoy me most about pitching.
Inviting everyone to the party
Clients have a responsibility to do a little bit of work themselves to determine what they need and who could potentially do their work, rather than just putting open tenders out there or inviting lots of agencies. If they genuinely don’t know who’s available, and can’t get recommendations from others, then they should put a simple and quick EOI (expression of interest) out there. Use the responses to shortlist a handful and invite only those to pitch. Worse than a big invite list is a huge list of requirements. Often it means answering fifty plus questions to get to round two, only to have further requirements to complete, followed by a presentation. Many pitches take thirty-plus hours to prepare, some more than double that. Ask us for what you really need, not everything you can possibly think of.
Asking for free stuff
Our general rule is that we’ll never pitch for anything that requires us to present work. It’s just rude to ask a specialist to do work and not expect to pay for it. We’re happy to demonstrate our capability with some general thinking or direction but we draw the line at being asked to present a specific strategy or creative concept. If you want to test us, give us a small brief and pay us to deliver the work. If you like it then it’s win/win. And if don’t want to keep working with us, then don't, but the work is yours to keep.
A lack of transparency
Just recently we did a pitch where we went through a number of stages only to be told they had a small fixed budget. It would have been good to have been told the budget upfront as we may have not gone for it. More likely we would have presented two quotes. The first based on their requirements. The second, showing what they’d get for the money they have. Worse still is where there is an agency the client wants to work with but they’re required to do a competitive pitch. I’ve been on both sides and having to pitch for work you’ve already won is just as frustrating as pitching for work you’re never going to win. Always tell us honestly what the evaluation criteria are and if you have specific requirements about where we are located, the type of agency we need to be or the level of sexual or ethnic diversity we must display to win the pitch.
Avoiding the money issue
Earlier this year we pitched for an account and apparently outscored in all areas other than price. The prospective client rang us and was upfront about their dilemma. They wanted to work with us but were struggling to get it over the line with their board. After some discussion, we agreed on a new approach to pricing that was palatable to all. So, if the price is the only issue that’s stopping you from picking us, let’s have a conversation. But don’t do it just to screw our price down. In the long-term, we’ll find a way to get the value we need. Generally, it’s by having no flexibility with scope and charging you for absolutely everything.
Not giving feedback
Providing open, honest and constructive feedback to all parties at the end of a pitch process is mandatory. I often ask up front if feedback will be available and this helps me decide whether to go for a pitch or not. No feedback tells me something about the one-way relationship we'd be in for. We have criteria for what we pitch for and how much we’ll invest to get it. We only go for stuff we genuinely want to do and know we can do well. In return, we ask for a similar level of respect from anyone who invites us to pitch for their work.