Opinion

How to improve your pitch in 2015

After another year of hefty account reviews, Tom Denford, joint chief executive of global media management consultancy ID Comms, reviews where agencies in Europe can improve in 2015.

Tom Denford: joint chief executive officer of ID Comms
Tom Denford: joint chief executive officer of ID Comms

This year has been huge in terms of the size and scale of the multi-market pitches we’ve managed for our clients and we’ve been racking up the air miles across the region to help them find the best agency partners.

I've spent much of the year listening to presentations from agency teams who have worked late into the night to answer the challenges they've been set.

Contrary to popular belief, advertisers do really appreciate and acknowledge how much effort goes into these pitches, effort that can feel wasted if you don’t win the account (and rest assured that nobody wins all the time).

In the spirit of giving something back at this time of year, I'd like to offer some advice to help agencies win more of their pitches.

Here are five things that most agency networks can improve, if not in all of their offices then certainly in some of the more far-flung locations:

1. Get the basics right. Media agencies do so many things these days, from analytics to content to social, that too many pitches feel like a menu of services and a generic sales pitch.

Never forget that the role of the presentation is to demonstrate that you can help solve the client's business challenges.

Spend more time discussing how you can optimise client's investments and more time on basic media planning and buying.

2. Consistency. Many of the pitches we work on are multi-market and what really shines in these contests is a consistent approach both in terms of quality of thinking and talent.

In 2014 many agencies invested in dedicated central business development resources that allow them to maintain consistency and quality across markets.

Through the year, it became immediately apparent who had this backup and who didn't.

If you didn't invest in this area this year, then you need to if you want to impress with your ability to keep complexity across markets and brands down.

3. Widen the experience of junior staff. Our sense is that mid to junior level people have become weaker over recent years. Increasingly we see a clear and growing gap between senior and junior resource in pitches.

It's hard to explain why this should be the case when the media business offers broader and more challenging careers than ever. We think the primary reason is that junior people these days are less exposed to the commercial side of the agency business and end up being siloed in their specialisms.

This lack of breadth makes them poor pitch presenters at a time when agencies should be seeking to create a new generation of leaders with experience across their businesses.

4. Shrink your pitch team. Europe is not America so you don't get huge teams of people sitting silently at the back.

Everyone participates in some way even if they don’t present, but all too often there are still too many people in the room. Try and keep it to 6-8 people max.

5. Put up your 'A' team. People are the key differentiator in pitches. We know that at any one time a large agency network will have four or five large pitches going on and many smaller ones, but new business is hard to win, especially if the billings are significant.

We can tell whether the A team or the B/C team is on display and not just because we know lots of people in the industry.

Demonstrating that the best agency talent is being applied to address client objectives will make or break your pitch.

In 2015, agencies need to think about being more selective about what they contest to ensure they meet this basic requirement.  

Tom Denford is joint CEO of ID Comms

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