Frequently, the difference between winning and losing a pitch is very small. The second place team may not have done a bad job; it may just be that the first place team was a little bit better. Two aspects of a pitch that can help to give winning agencies the edge are clarity and discipline.
Clarity in a pitch setting means that the client
understands exactly what your agency stands for and what your agency is
recommending for the brand. If you are expecting a company to select your
agency based on the new business equivalent of speed-dating, you’d better have
something provocative to say. Simply explaining how well you understand the
market along with a few bland strategic ideas is not going to get it done.
Clients are looking for something to remember you by, and it often takes
something thought provoking to stick in their heads.
Think about your strategic recommendations at your last
pitch. Were those recommendations something that any agency could have
developed? While believing that your staff are the best and the brightest is
nice, smart people are working at every agency, and they just may have come up
with the same strategic ideas as you did. For example, recommending that a
biotech firm focus on the science for the launch of its new monoclonal antibody
may well be the right strategy, but it is hard to believe that five other
agencies would not land in the same place. This does not mean that the ideas
are wrong; the ideas are just not helping you become memorable to the client or
differentiate yourself from the other agencies.
Remember that you are trying to win the pitch, and
providing clear strategic and creative recommendations may not be enough to do
the job; those recommendations need to put distance between you and the
competition. Me-too or unclear messages will not provide you with that
Another characteristic of winning agencies is
discipline. Your agency can call upon many resources during a pitch, but the
most important and finite resource that you are working with is time. Every
agency is working on virtually an identical schedule. The winning agency cannot
use a worm hole to manufacture more time than the competition; that agency
simply makes better use of its most valuable resource.
Discipline refers to the amount of time it takes to get
to a strategy, creative brief, creative review, refining the deck, rehearsing,
etc. I understand that a better brief will lead to better creative and so on. I
also understand that the clock is ticking and sometimes, most times, you will
need to work off a creative (or strategic) calendar that is not ideal. Winning
agencies always seem to find the proper balance of time spent researching,
thinking, creating, decking, and rehearsing.
Another aspect of discipline is the discipline around
deadlines. During the compact schedule of a pitch, even missing a deadline by
just one day or even half a day can sometimes be beyond recovery. This is one
of the reasons that a pitch leader is so important. A pitch leader needs
to drive the process forward and make sure that everyone adheres to deadlines.
Discipline also applies to your messages and creative.
Are you mixing strategic messages just to appease two members of the pitch
team? If so, the client is left with a muddled message, creating a clarity
issue. Poor discipline from a creative standpoint typically leads to work that
is being shown for any number of reasons (it is beautiful, someone worked
really hard on the concept, etc) but is not on strategy. We can argue whether
clients can measure the subtle artistry of a concept, but most of us would
agree that all clients can tell whether work is on strategy or not.
While clarity and discipline are not a guarantee of
success, a lack of clarity and discipline is almost certainly a guarantee of
failure. The difference between the winning pitch and the second place pitch is
often very small, so attention to detail can make the difference.
President -- Filament Inc.