Most of us do pitches, good or bad they are an integral part of the marketing business.

For as long as I can remember we have had to ‘prove” our ability through some pitching process, some process where we take an issue and show how we would solve it.

Now, its not really like Mad Men any more, the days of the agencies holding the power and complete authority are long gone, but still in almost every pitch we still have to prove our ability.

Now, there are good pitches and bad pitches, and annoying pitches, and I am sure that from the clients perspective they get loads of annoying pitches from agencies (I’m sure I have done them myself).

Still, generally it is with the Agency that the main cost lies, it’s they who have to research, analyse and produce the work so in the end, I believe, the responsibility to make the pitch positive rests with the client.

So, here are some of the things that should really be avoided if you are organising a pitch;

  1. Stalking horses – it is usually pretty obvious when you are called in, against a couple of existing, retained agencies that you are just the stalking horse. You have been put into the process to mix things up a bit, or simply to put the wind up the existing agency. So, pretty much from the begining of the process you know that your chances of winning are really low. If it’s for a project then fine, you have a chance or hitting a home run, of coming up with an idea that wins, if its for the main account then your chances are really low. Clients, pushed by procurement depts, sometimes have to pull in a fixed number of agencies to pitch, even if they know full well who they are going to choose already.
  2. The made up brief – we once had a pitch for a dog food client. They organised briefings, reviews, even went so far as organising consumer panels to discuss their new product, which was a really exciting project. So, in the end we had put in over 4 days solid research, funded by the client, into their new product. Then came the brief, which was to develop a website for a mineral water. It was not a product they sold, or would ever sell, it was a made up brief. As a result there was no briefing or rationale, it was left to us to make up the brand positioning. So they judged us on our ability to market a made up product in a made up market, that they had no knowledge of or affinity with.
  3. The short pitch – If your agency is going to take the time to pitch to you, give them the time to present their ideas. We once were given 10 minutes to pitch. 10 minutes standing on a precise spot in a meeting room with no props in front of 6 stern faced people, it was like the X-Factor. There was simply no way that any ideas could be got across, no background, no flavour of the business.
  4. Too Many agencies – to make number 3 worse, there were 20 agencies pitching. No matter how brilliant you are, to stand out amongst 20 other agencies is always going to be really hard. Added to this, there is no way that the client can really remember what has been presented by the time they have got to number 18. Clients should pick a reasonable number of agencies to pitch, and pull them in if there really is some chance of them getting the work.
  5. Free work – This is for me the worst sin a client can do in a pitch – run a pitch merely to get ideas. I have pitched to a retail organisation, who had 14 huge outlets. They pulled in 5 agencies and the brief was to say, in detail, what you would do to change the social and seo strategy for 3 of the outlets. The trouble was we knew 2 of the other agencies, and after the pitch found out that we had all been given different outlets. So through the pitch they managed to get an overview strategy for their whole business and details of what to do for each outlet.
  6. Technical requirements – this is a pet gripe of mine, but the number of times I have turned up to a pitch, to be told afterwards that we did not get the work because we had not worked with X system. X being some email system, some CMS or some database that the company used. One simple – have you ever used  – question prior to the pitch would have sorted out the agencies it was worth talking to.
  7. Made up requirements – This happens more often in tenders, but sometimes you are asked to supply examples of your experience in areas that’s simply is not possible for you to have experience of. We tendered for an account, managing the content and seo of a council in the south west – call it Devon. One of the qualifying questions was that you had to demonstrate experience of managing the content and working with a list of specific papers in the south west, call it Devon.

Now, as I said, I am sure that clients get fed up with rubbish agency pitches, but, I do think a little more thought from clients would avoid a lot of wasted time and money.

Still, would I rather be invited to pitch, even under all these circumstances, probably yes,,, there is always a chance!