This month, we are delighted to welcome Alex Legge of The Legge Consultancy, who has kindly given us his thoughts on working with creative agencies. Alex is a master of brand management, having seen through the rebrand of financial giants such as Schroders and AOL and is currently rebranding one of Libya's largest architectural and engineering practices.
The Pitch Process - Agency Do’s and Don’ts
by Alex Legge of The Legge Consultancy
I have been fortunate enough to have worked both agency side and client side during my career. This has enabled me to experience the agency selection route from both sides, initially preparing and participating in the pitch process and latterly on a number of occasions, leading the agency selection for the brand I work on. While the approach to choosing a new agency is not a new topic, it is a rarer thing to hear the client’s perspective with an understanding of the agency world.
The pitching process is often systematic of an ‘all change’ scenario client side. According to a recent executive search survey, the average period of time a marketing director remains in role is about two years. This can be greeted positively by agency new business departments as this gives rise to much opportunity. For incumbent agencies, this can be a very challenging time as they often know a customer really only wants to see consistency, but this rarely wins pitches.
There was a time when agency reputation, a credentials presentation and chemistry were sufficient, but increasingly clients are demanding more. In my experience there are some clear wins for agencies, that are often overlooked:
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Often agencies are quick to diagnose the problem or just talk about themselves at the beauty parade stage without understanding the client business. Make sure you understand why a new agency is required, if its related to staff turnover, declines in market share, a need for a refresh etc.
- Clearly link the strategy to the creative output. Establish an explicit linkage between the strategic solution and the creative output.
- Be focused. It might seem counter intuitive not to pitch for everything, but prospect selectivity is crucial. Don’t pretend to be a one-stop shop when your strength lies with launches rather than the growth cycle or maintaining the latter-stage product growth. A client will see through this.
- Be compensated. It’s important especially for smaller agencies to be compensated for their time. It has been estimated that over 10% of your gross income will be spent on pitches. Have the conversation as it’s often expected.
- Give away intellectual capital. Sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to the pitch.
- Offer solutions before understanding the issue. Absorb the client’s issues and problems and then navigate your way to a workable solution.
- Prepare to fail. Rehearse the pitch so that it at least appears that all the agency members have met and prepared before the big day!
- Over jargonise or over promise. ‘Unique’ is a powerful word and should be used sparingly.
- Overlook client chemistry. Clients want people they enjoy working with, not just great agencies and people they respect.
Above all, remember that you are building a relationship so be yourself, people like to be nurtured, take your time to get to know your clients and they will respond accordingly.