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A consultant’s guide to pitching your agency

It is fair to say that in the past two decades of being a consultant I have seen hundreds, if not a thousand or more agency credentials pitches, from presenting credentials to chemistry sessions to the full-blown agency pitch to win that multimillion-dollar account. I was also for many years on the agency side of the table pitching my work as a creative to clients and potential clients.

I know the hours of time and the money that goes into the agency credentials presentation and it is a cliche to say that I wish I knew then what I know now, which is why I am sharing this with you. Most agency credentials pitches fall flat and fail to hit the mark. The reason being that most fail at the very thing a credentials pitch should achieve – getting the client to trust you enough to consider giving you their business.

The first mistake many agencies make when pitching their agency is identifying the objective of the pitch. Why are you pitching? The circumstances may vary from a chance opportunity to meet a potential new client to the first meeting with the client at the start of a formal tender process. But no matter what the circumstances the purpose is for the client to give you their business. It is not about a forensic explanation of your business, or an opportunity to tell your detailed journey as a business. The purpose or objective is simply to get chosen.

So what are some of the mistakes agencies typically make when pitching credentials and what can you learn from them?

Not researching your audience 

This does not mean stalking, but it does mean knowing your audience and what they are thinking, feeling and especially what they desire. After all, and contrary to conventional wisdom, a great pitch is not about you, it is about them. They are the ones you need to persuade. So get to know them by researching the organisation and individuals. Talk to the people that have either worked with them or for them. Use all the time available, even if it is five minutes, to get to know your audience.

Make sure that you answer the most important question

Most people are too focused and too busy explaining what it is they are pitching in microscopic detail as they think this is what the potential buyers are interested in. The fact is the most important question the buyers are asking themselves, sitting there, is what is in this for me - and I do not mean just financially. In fact that is often a secondary consideration after more emotional considerations like opportunities for success and fame and minimising risk and loss.

Prepare, prepare and prepare and then prepare again

Some people say rehearse, rehearse rehearse. But it is more important to know your material inside and out, back the front and upside down. Too often you can tell the agency has pulled the material together at the last minute and they fumble through the materials and presentation. Rather than having the most whiz-bang tech presentation it is much more effective to come across as confident, enthusiastic and in command of the pitch, the message, the audience and the outcome.

The secret of good pitching is timing

The opening few minutes of your pitch are everything so don’t waste time building to a reveal, get straight to the pitch. If you do not get them in the first minute the rest of the pitch is usually wasted. Likewise if you have an hour, then make the whole pitch in less than 30 minutes. If you have 30 minutes pitch in under 15 minutes. You want to engage the audience as quickly as possible and give them plenty of time to follow their curiosity. The reason is when the audiences is engaged with a genuine interest in what you are offering you are sliding into home base.

Present the benefits and not the features

This is an old copywriting technique and yet it is surprising how often agencies forget it. Don’t go into the details, but rather spend the time selling the big benefits to the advertiser and the business. This is not a rational decision. It is like all human decisions - an instinctual or emotional one that is then justified rationally. Certainly, know your numbers in detail, but don’t get caught up in an analysis of these details in the pitch because no one makes decision-based on the details alone. Make sure all of those details are in the documentation you will leave behind or send through after you have to go agreement to proceed.

Case studies are proof points

Too many agency pitch teams spend the first half telling you how good the agency is and then boring you with case studies for clients and categories that are unrelated to the buyer’s needs. Use case studies to prove your benefits. If you are great at working collaboratively don’t just say it, prove it by sharing a case study as an example of how well you collaborate. The only thing more compelling than saying how good you are is proving how good you are, with a great case study/story/ example. And the only thing more compelling than that is your client telling them for you. But more on testimonials another time.

Of course, if you want to refine your credentials pitch, test it out on people who know. I am sure you know a few.

Darren Woolley is founder and global chief executive of TrinityP3.

The Drum and an industry leader will deconstruct the pitch process and lay out the good and the bad at the upcoming Agency Acceleration Day APAC.

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