The new business pitch

In my time I’ve been involved with many “beauty parades” vs other agencies and I can safely say that they are incredibly time consuming and can tie an agency up in knots as well as drain resources. So, if you’re asked to pitch for some business, the only acceptable outcome is winning. There really is no point in coming “a close second.”

In a pitch situation, I would expect that you’ve gone past the selling a meeting stage with your sales and marketing activity and now you’re most likely one of four or five companies in the running to work with this prospect in some sort of formal and professional way.

In contrast to an initial meeting or a creds presentation, which are usually a fixed format with the content decided by you, the competitive pitch is led by the client. Of course, not all pitches are the same, but the principles of making a successful one remain the same.

Firstly, clarify and maybe even challenge the brief. Ideally, the prospect should’ve written down the brief so that the playing field is level for parties involved. If you see something you disagree with, now is the time to ask for clarification or to question it. The same applies if the timescales or the budget are not realistic.

From experience, always research the attendees, their roles, the environment you are pitching in and the resources available on the day. I say this from experience, as many years ago I took a team to pitch Group 4 (as it was called then) and we arrived with 3 people in our team and were confronted with about 25 people from Group 4 and felt very under-gunned. We also were not given the correct information about what tech was available and ended up having to power up a projector using a kettle lead from the kitchen. We did, however, win the account!

Plan your team and appoint a pitch leader who can draw up a timetable and manage things. Do not add the title of pitch leader to their day job as an account director if they are already incredibly busy. Existing and paying clients should, and most likely will, take priority which will impact on the timetable.

I always used to try and ascertain who we were “up against” so I could make comparisons…in our favour! And finally, don’t get separated from your pitch material. Once a colleague of mine turned up to the pitch having left the presentation in his hotel room. We didn’t win that one.

But……..before you tie up your resources, step back and think very hard as to whether the end justifies the means. Is this prospect likely to just want lots of free ideas or are they serious and “in the market.” At Bath Marketing Consultancy, we charge people for our time if asked to pitch. There are other elements to look at such as how far you are prepared to go both geographically and with any ideas you want to present. In the marketing industry, too many agencies turn up at beauty parades armed with fully designed and rolled out marketing campaigns. This, to me, shrieks of desperation where the old adage of throwing mud in the hope that some sticks works. The prospect could then be forced to make a decision on whether they like the creative and hence, judge you purely on design. A subjective element to say the least.

I could go on and on about the negative side of the beauty parade, but you have to decide whether to speculate to accumulate and if so, how much speculation is required!

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