How can agencies mobilise their teams when pitching for new business remotely? And in the absence of chemistry meetings and on-site visits, are a few Zoom calls enough to tell if you actually gel with a client?
With the Covid-19 crisis forcing marketers everywhere to adapt to a new normal, indie creative and production agency Quiet Storm has adjusted its working practices to allow it to continue to compete.
In an interview hosted by The Drum's associate editor Sonoo Singh as part of our ongoing Digital Transformation Festival, chief executive and managing partner, Rania Robinson, shared some insights to help agencies navigate an unknown era.
Robinson explained how the team at Quiet Storm (which counts Heist, Haribo and Moonpig among its clients) has been consistently pitching "back-to-back" since the end of 2019.
"We are in a good rhythm," she said. "Everyone gets stuck in and it's a team effort, so it's been easier than it would have been had we not been in a bit of a groove already."
She advised agencies to be more organised and put teams together who are used to collaborating and consistently pitching, instead of mixing things up.
Nailing that spark
One of the exec's "biggest concerns" in running remote pitches has been the ability to determine chemistry with clients beyond physical meetings, but the agency has found ways around it.
"We tend to be good in the room. People buy people and we know it's all about chemistry. Even [just to be there in person] reading the room and picking up on people's reactions is important – you sometimes have to even redirect the pitching session depending on what's going on in the room."
Quiet Storm has noticed that even though it's using face-to-face conferencing facilities, many clients are choosing to switch their cameras off. "So we're not getting the reactions and seeing the whites of the eyes and seeing how people react to the work."
She continued: "As a team you're then relying on audio, whether people laugh or make appreciative noises or if they're being very vocal.
"People often say more through body language than they do through words and some people don't verbalise very much in meetings, so that's been difficult in gauging how something is going.
"Yes it's a bit harder, but we've had two pitches and two very different experiences. I think it would be impossible to get the same level of insight that you would if you were in a room with people."
Reading the (living) room
The widespread lockdown means agencies and clients are now hosting conference calls from their lounges, kitchens, gardens and more – offering some insight into their lives beyond work.
For Robinson, agency teams getting a more rounded view of the people they are pitching alongside can only be a good thing.
She observed: "Maybe we all need to think about that a bit more and put more thought into picking which room in the house we're beaming in from, because it's telling a story."
"Certainly with the creative reviews we have been running we've laughed quite a lot and had a lot of fun with things in the background, objects on mantlepieces and so on.
"We have got an insight into each other's homes which was never the case before. Certainly from a team perspective we've been doing this and you can go off-piste a little bit and talk about the bits in the background."
From a client perspective, the preference of audio-only hasn't allowed for this same experience.
"But from an agency perspective, thinking about how you're representing yourself through your background is a really interesting thing and should be considered as part of the pitch process," she said, saying it was a means of showing an agency's personality.
Robinson's other top tips included investing in the right tech; preparing the conference lines early; retaining the ethos and values of your business; and having a moment at the start of a meeting where people have some face-to-face interaction before launching into a deck.