Agencies Agency Leadership Pitching

The 5 biggest mistakes brands make when briefing agencies

By Jamie Pollard, Growth Consultant



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September 15, 2023 | 6 min read

The pitch process is a stressful one for all involved. But, sometimes, does the stress start with an original sin of a bad brief? Impression’s Jamie Pollard thinks so.

A dropped ice cream

Mistakes happen. Here's how to avoid them when briefing an agency. / Sarah Kilian via Unsplash

The pitch process isn’t working. It’s an expensive and time-consuming task, approached by many in the same, misguided way.

Brands, usually, will invite several agencies to pitch, all of whom audit the account and unpick the same issues that the brand was already aware of. This approach doesn’t provide you with the insight you need to select the best partner who will produce the best result.

How do you overcome this? By building a better brief.

I’ve received briefs from leading global brands through to high-growth startups. These businesses have several things in common when it comes to briefing a new potential agency partner.

Here’s how to formulate your brief, setting you and your business up for success by choosing the correct partner from the outset.

1. Not allowing access to your data or platforms

If you’re unwilling to hand over your data and give access to your platforms at best, what you will receive is guesswork from platforms that agencies do have access to. These platforms are great for giving an indication of trends but the data itself tends to be questionable. This can lead to more questions than answers.

Ask the agency to sign an NDA and share this data with them. It’s an obvious way to get a real view of what’s really going on and what your potential partners can achieve for you.

2. Not giving a clear indication of budget

Being guarded around budgets is very common, and this can lead to multiple issues. In the worst-case scenario, the right partner for you may just decide to not be involved in your process – from their perspective, a lack of clarity in this area may be a red flag that leads to questions about the cost of resource and time needed for any pitching process.

You also don’t want to be sitting through a pitch that has blown you away only to find out that the services discussed are way out of your budget range, again wasting precious time and resources for everyone.

3. Not having clear business objectives

To get the best out of any potential partnership, you need to have a clear understanding of what truly matters to you and your wider organization – and be able to communicate this. Usually, this won’t be an increase in your pay-per-click return on investment or a rise in your organic keyword rankings.

By sharing your commercial objectives with potential partners, you can prompt them to think strategically and holistically to ensure any activity executed aligns with your broader business goals.

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4. Putting too much focus on the past and present

This might be an unpopular one, but does spending 80% of a pitch talking about what your current or old partners have done wrong really help you? You should be looking to spend no more than 20% of your time understanding that your chosen pitches have the technical expertise they claim. Then you can spend the rest of your time on getting a true understanding of how they can actually help you progress, taking those commercial objectives and bringing a solution to life.

5. Not understanding the skillset and experience of the team that will manage the account

This may seem obvious, but many businesses have been burnt by seeing the ‘A’ team at pitch stage and ending up with the ‘C’ team working on their account. This could be due to a number of reasons, from capacity in the agency to your available budget.

Make sure you are meeting the team that you will actually work with day-to-day to gain an understanding of their personal experience and their own strengths and weaknesses.

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