Pitching to clients … a broken process

I’m quite lucky. I don’t do an awful lot of pitching to clients. Lucky because it’s not something I enjoy very much, and lucky because I find the whole process to be flawed and not necessarily conducive to finding the best match between a client and myself.

The pitch immediately creates a ‘them and us’ attitude – you go in there, probably one of several pitches that day, and the marketing team that you meet with want you to knock their socks off. They’re expecting you to wow them with your ideas. And, hopefully, you do – that’s great. But this then causes instant suspicion … ‘hold on, I’ve just given this client my half dozen best ideas for their project – and they’re meeting with 3 other agencies today … ‘. There’s a feeling that the client is using you just for your ideas, rather than as a serious candidate for the job. Or worse, you feel that the agency selected will be asked to produce an amalgamated version of all the pitches. Gah.

For the agencies not selected, the whole process becomes a waste of time and money – money that, in order to remain profitable in your business, has to then be spread out over the course of your successful pitches in the year. Failed pitches become a cost of business that your clients end up paying for.

Anyway, to a degree, pitching to clients has become a fact of life. However, there may begin to be a move against them … I came across this article on ditching the pitch which references the decision by US retail giant Sears to write into their NDA ‘that any ideas presented to them by agencies during the pitch process will belong to Sears, irrespective of whether or not the agency wins the pitch.’. Woah. Sears will own ideas pitched to them regardless of whether they pay for those ideas?! WTF?

It’s an interesting read and ends with the summary that hiring an agency should be like an employment process. You should be hiring the agency based on their capabilities and their track record – not on what they can produce for you in one hour long meeting with flip charts and power point presentations:

Choosing an agency is an employment process and should be handled as one. Look at the candidate’s past experience and references. Interview them extensively. Get to know their attitudes and principles. Then decide if they are capable of doing the job and if they have a character that you can work with.

It’s a good article (found here) and I think that I first found it here. Apologies if it was from somewhere else.