We often say that “good clients get good work”. A related truth is that “better clients run better pitches”. This is hugely important because selection of the right agency can make or break a business and marketing plan. Great agencies can deliver inspired strategy and creativity that is a true business multiplier. Better pitches deliver a better result and increase the client’s odds of enjoying that multiplier on their business success.
Of course, pitches are a common topic these days. The “ditch the pitch” theme gets a great deal of attention. Yet, marketers know that choosing the right agency can be a career defining move.
How can marketers run better pitches, attracting the best agencies?
Follow these principles to get started.
The Better Clients Run Better Pitches Principles
- Clarity: Be clear about how the agency is expected to contribute, including what KPIs they are expected to impact. This means having:
- clear goals and strategy for the business
- clear vision for the brand
- expectations regarding the customer impact the agency’s work will deliver (what will the customer Think, Feel and/or Do?)
It’s also important to be clear about how you expect to make a decision. Since agencies will be investing time, energy and resources to win your business, it’s only fair to be clear about what the key decision factors are for the review.
- Brief Well: Well-run reviews kick off with a clear RFP, thorough sharing of information and an in-depth Q&A.
- Reasonable Expectations: Better clients understand the proper balance needed between their needs and those of the agencies. It’s reasonable for clients to expect agencies to have a POV on the client’s business challenge and suggest solutions. It’s unreasonable to require agencies to invest mighty sums in a pitch and deliver and produce finished work. There needs to be a happy medium that is realistic to both parties.
- Client Proxies: Decision makers can’t be in every meeting, but consistent feedback and guidance is essential to an agency’s success. The key client executives leading a review need to be good proxies for more senior level decision makers.
- Respect for Agency Profitability: The best agencies get paid the most, just like the best performers in most industries. Smart clients – the ones that run better reviews – negotiate to find a win/win partnership, not to destroy the agency’s margin.
- Feedback: The best reviews include timely, consolidated and thorough feedback to the participating agencies. The client principle should be to help every agency show their absolute best so that the client can choose from the best.
- Responsiveness: The agencies are “on the clock” from the moment a pitch kicks off. When they ask questions, they need quick answers if they are to be able to show their best selves. Better clients provide timely and thorough responses to agency questions.
- Time Sensitivity: Agencies have a business to run and clients to serve. Better clients manage their reviews to find a practical balance that is not either too fast or too long.
- Debrief: Only one agency will win. The agencies that did not win deserve clear and thorough feedback on what went well and what did not.
- Kindness: Kindness is a super-power that delivers timeless results. It will elevate the appeal of the client’s business.
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.