Written by Robin Boehler & Lindsay O’Neil
One thing we frequently see is an agency finally getting a chance to be in front of a prospect only for it to turn into an overload of slides all about the agency. To make matters worse, these presentations are oftentimes incoherent and lack a clear story because, when the agency put it together, they did so without considering how much of it is actually interesting to the client. The result: a pitch starting with 15 or more minutes dedicated to the agency’s boasting before turning the attention to the prospect, which is where the attention should have been all along.
Yes, you need to sell your agency, but not nearly as much as you are probably doing.
You also shouldn’t talk about yourself first. It’s important to engage the potential client by showcasing how much you understand about their company and their objectives. There’s a time to remind the prospect of why you are the best agency for the partnership, but it fits better in the arc of your pitch to do so after you’ve presented your strategy and before you reveal your creative vision.
Our experience has taught us that five slides is the ideal number to highlight an agency’s strengths, experience, and expertise. Only five. The rest of the presentation is dedicated to describing how you would solve the prospect’s business challenges.
The Five Slides
These are the five windows into everything about your agency. If someone is interested, they will ask a question. If they’re not interested, you’ve talked about yourself just enough to inform anyone in the room who might not know who you are.
The first three are built from your agency positioning statement:
Slide 1: Philosophy
The philosophy slide describes how you talk about what’s important to your agency, how you approach your segment of the industry, and it guides how clients should think about you. This slide should be clean without a lot of pictures in order to highlight your philosophy, whatever that looks like.
Slide 2: Strategic Process
Next, you show the step-by-step process that you use every time to solve a client’s problem. It tells the client that you have a procedure in place for discovering insight that leads to actionable success and that prior solutions didn’t happen on a whim with a lucky creative revelation coming to you in the shower one morning. It shows that you have a repeatable method for problem solving that will be applied to their business needs.
Slide 3: Interaction Process
The final part of your position statement that gets its own slide explains what it is like to work with you. Here, you talk about how important your clients are so they know why it’s so special to work with you, versus the other agencies that might also be pitching this business.
Slide 4: Capabilities
It may seem unimportant to include a slide about your capabilities because the assumption could be made that the prospect is already aware of your skills as it’s part of the reason you got in the room. This isn’t about reminding them of what they already know, and it can be a quick slide to get through. The reason to include it is that we have repeatedly seen clients come back to it later and say, “Oh, we didn’t know you also did these other things.”
Slide 5: Logos
The last slide shows logos of current or past clients that are relevant to the prospect. If you’re pitching retail, you would include other retail clients. Perhaps you don’t have client experience that is clearly similar, but you’ve addressed the same business need for a different client. Let’s say our retail example is opening a new location and you worked with a credit union expanding into a new market. That would be a relevant logo to include. Just be sure that you can explain exactly why any logo is included in the pitch for this particular prospect and clarify any that might not be obvious. This slides goal is to work as a risk reducer, allowing the prospect to think, “If those guys hired this agency, maybe we should, too.”
That’s it. You don’t need a slide dedicated to your awards, and you don’t need to set up the history of your agency. On the day of the pitch, a prospect doesn’t care that you’re a 20–person independent agency founded in 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. They only care that you understand them and can help them address a challenge.
Together, these five slides paint a complete picture of your agency as it is relevant to the prospect’s needs and it’s helpful to have them ready to go at any moment. Once you get into preparing a pitch deck for a prospect, you want to be maniacally focused on their company, needs, and challenges. You don’t want to also be building these slides from scratch as well, and many of slides are easy to reuse:
- The Philosophy, Strategic Process, and Interaction Process slides won’t change.
- The Capabilities might be customized to highlight the specific needs of the prospect but will mostly be unchanged.
- The Logo slide will likely have the most customization in order to be most relevant to a potential client.
Minimizing the amount of time you spend talking about your agency maximizes your potential to impress the client. It indicates that you are comfortable enough and confident enough to let your work, insight, and empathy for the prospect’s business needs speak for itself.
Overall, it’s short and sweet and then you get right back to talking about the prospect.
Robin Boehler is a co-founder of Mercer Island Group. Robin has managed hundreds of agency searches and relationships for businesses of all sizes and types, like Ahold Delhaize, Starbucks, American Century Investments, PEMCO Insurance, PetSmart, Seabourn, Avis Budget Group, Sargento, Ulta Beauty and dozens of other blue-chip firms. She also has consulted to a wide array of agencies including Digitas, Periscope, DaviesMoore, W&K, GS&P, Havas, Cactus, DNA and many others. Robin’s unique ability to work with teams and help improve organizational productivity is the direct result of an eclectic background including her degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University. Robin is a frequent speaker, having presented and keynoted at events sponsored by the BMA, the 4As, AMI and others.
Lindsay O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has participated in extensive research across all marketing practices including Media, Digital, PR, Advertising, and Social. She has led and participated in numerous agency searches for clients like Envestnet, Zillow, Barre3, TrueCar, Brooks Running and Hitachi Vantara. One of her key strengths as a consultant is her deep understanding of marketing strategy and agency new business development practices.