Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How many people should attend a pitch?

A recent blog question posed to me was how many people should attend a pitch. Based on the question, I am assuming it came from a small to mid-sized agency and the piece of business in questions is not a huge, multi-national assignment with multiple partners. For typical pitches facing small to mid-sized agencies, there are a few general guidelines that I tend to recommend when considering the size of the pitch team.
First, do not overwhelm the client. If there only going to be two or three people representing the client side, do everything that you can in order to keep your pitch team as small as possible. This does not mean that you need to bring only two or three people, but it does mean that you should not bring 10 people.
Second, everyone on the agency team gets a speaking part. Bringing a junior person that does not have a speaking role so that the client can “meet the team” does not count. Clients want to get to know the person and see if they are a good fit, not simply put a name to a face. If you send a person to the pitch but do not give that person a speaking part, the client can get the impression that you do not trust junior staff. The advantage of letting a junior person have a role in the presentation is that the bar is set lower for the day-to-day person. You may find that with a lower bar, the day-to-day person will sail over it and wow the client.
Third, it is good to bring at least one day-to-day person. Clients can only assume the worst if the agency is not willing to bring any day-to-day staff to a meeting. This is not to suggest loading up the entire team with more junior staff, but bringing a day-to-day account or creative person is probably a good idea.
Given those three guidelines, there are seven key roles to be played on a typical pitch team.
The role of the executive – a CEO, president, managing director, etc. – is to open and close the meeting and discuss the agency. He or she should not talk about the specifics of the client’s work unless the executive is going to be working on the account. Another role of the executive in the room is to field questions and distribute them to the team. If the executive answers every question it can appear that the team isn’t trusted to answer the questions. Artfully moving the questions to the appropriate team member can help to promote team chemistry.
The planner/high level account person will talk about strategy. Depending on the resources of the agency, this could be a planner, director of account services, or a high level account person.
The day-to-day account person is not necessarily 100% assigned to the account. This person is simply the primary point of contact for the client, usually somewhere between 50% and 100% billable. This person will typically discuss tactical executions and how the strategy will be implemented.
It is great if everyone can speak to digital, but typically this requires special expertise. The advantage of bring the digital person is that you have that extra level of expertise. The disadvantage is that digital can look like a separate department instead of one, unified creative team.
Creative staff is typically one high level and one day-to-day staffer. The higher level creative staff can outline the challenges that the creative assignment presented and set up the first concept. The day-to-day creative can then present some concepts. It is a good idea to have the creative director come back and summarize all of the different concepts that were shown.
Some pitches do not include Media, but even then it is still useful to have someone that can serve as the bridge between the agency and the media buying firm. The absence of this role can leave some gaps in the pitch. We have all seen the role of media change over the last five or so year. Media truly is the new creative. With that new role, comes new responsibilities. In the old days, the media section was what done when everyone else was finished with their presentation. Now, the media section may be asked to carry a pitch. Presentation and storytelling skills which were never stressed in a media department are now very important and can make or break pitch.
The pitch is the client’s opportunity to get to know everyone on the team, so remember to give everyone a substantive role. This does not mean that the role needs to be complex. It does mean that each presenter needs to have enough time to connect with the audience and enough time to establish him or herself as an important member of the team. While team size is probably not going to make your team win or lose the pitch, team chemistry can, and the larger the team, the more difficult it is to show chemistry.

Mark Schnurman
Pitch Consultant

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