On the minds of many marketers is how to rejuvenate the archaic pitching process. Is the method broken or not? Ahead of her appearance at The Drum's Pitch Perfect this September, LinkedIn content partner manager for EMEA, KL Daly speaks to The Drum about not ditching the pitch all together but not to expect too much from ‘request for information’ or chemistry meetings.
What was the hardest pitch you have ever done?
I’d like to reverse this question. The hardest pitch I ever requested when I was client-side was one where, in hindsight, I really didn’t know what I wanted or what my business needed.
The agencies came in with lots of different and exciting ideas, but because we couldn't articulate the KPIs, none of the ideas really ‘stuck’.
The agency I was most impressed with was probably the one that spent the least amount of time on creating ideas. Instead, it focused the pitch on brands like mine that had gone through similar transitions, the various routes they took and the KPIs they focused on. Through this, the agency was able to illustrate its past work while positioning themselves as strategic advisors, and in the process helped us figure out what we needed and built credibility and trust throughout that process.
What did you learn from it?
A good pitch isn't always about a big idea, lots of insights, or a very focused media plan. Sometimes pitching yourself and exhibiting your credentials can be good enough.
Thinking about your audience is critical to this – who will be in the room when you pitch? Who is the decision maker? What will make their lives easier/make them look good?
In that pitch, educating us, providing brand examples and giving us KPIs was what we needed to articulate our needs and ultimately get the internal buy-in and budget for the project.
Has the pitch process become far too complicated?
I think it depends on who the client and the agency are. It doesn't always have to be complicated, but less sophisticated clients who haven’t done many RFPs, or companies who only make ‘consensus’ decisions, can sometimes make the process more complicated.
Don’t be afraid to ask what the process will look like – how many rounds will there be? How many agencies are involved? Who will be involved at each stage? This can help you decide if you want to participate in the pitch and how much resource to put behind each stage.
Is it time to ditch ‘request for information’ or even chemistry meetings?
Perhaps not ‘ditch’ them, but I certainly wouldn't expect too much from them. RFI templates are helpful if they are filled out in the right way and by the right person. However, they are often completed by a team member who does not have the full picture, or who can’t articulate all of the information needed.
I’d recommend anyone preparing for a pitch to do their own research and look at the company’s financial reports to understand their strategic needs. Reviewing relevant leaders’ LinkedIn profiles and activities can also help you understand their background and interests. That research can often yield far more helpful information than an RFI.
Is taking part in a pitch always a logically financially viable process these days?
Always? No. It is important to assess the pitch and work out where you stand within the process. Ask yourself: who you are pitching to? What is the ROI of participating? And how likely are you to win the business? Do you believe they already have their agency chosen and the RFP is simply a procurement formality?
Not all pitches exist to find a new agency, so if you believe you have an opportunity to win, or you can identify another reason the meeting is worth your time (i.e. personnel development or networking with an important leader), take the pitch, but be conscious of the time and resource you dedicate to it.
If you can’t identify the ROI in participating – be it financial, developmental or simply an opportunity to meet the business leader – say ‘no’. The more time you dedicate to endless pitching, the less budget and resource you have to give your existing business.
As an industry are we guilty of pitching ourselves to the ground?
As a whole, probably, but I do think it depends on the agency. Some agencies are really good at identifying a viable pitch and are therefore better at protecting their time against pitches which aren’t worth the effort.
We should all consider the time/money matrix when thinking about pitches. If you are spending the vast majority of your time on pitching, but the ROI is insignificant, then yes, you will be pitching yourself into the ground.
Where this is the case, I’d recommend focusing on creating processes to better streamline pitch responses, meaning they take less time and reflect the given opportunity. Identifying pitches that your business has a ‘high likelihood’ of winning, and giving them more time and resource, while giving ‘low likelihood’ pitches a slightly reduced response, will mean that agencies aren’t spending all their time pitching – often with little return.
Daly will attend Pitch Perfect on 13 September to talk about the value of content generation and thought leadership when it comes to attracting the attention of potential new clients, and offer advice and insights on what works best when planning such a strategy.
This event focuses on helping agencies win new business. Check out the website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Sponsors of the event are BD100 and Digitas.