Advertising Pitch Planning: Tame The Meeting Beast

images wildPoorly managed advertising, design and PR agency meetings waste time, kill creativity and cost money. This is a particularly nasty problem in the over-heated world of agency new business pitches.

We know from a recent research study of advertising professionals by Provoke Insights that agency employees are dissatisfied with the agency pitch process.

 “Approximately half (47% of respondents) of advertising professionals surveyed by Provoke Insights say they are dissatisfied with the current internal approach to pitching.”

As a long time agency new business professional, I know that one of the worst “approach” offenders is the poorly managed pitch planning meeting. Worse, poorly managed pitch meetings could lead to losing the pitch itself by making the entire development process less efficient.

The Pitch Leader Must Lead

If you are the  pitch team leader your job is to manage the pitch process so the agency will deliver the best response it can. I’ve always believed that meeting management is the first place to start.

Meeting Management Ala Northwest Airlines

In 1986 I moved from Dancer Fitzgerald Sample’s New York office to Minneapolis  to manage our Northwest Airlines account. I was invited into the client’s inner circle and attended their senior management meetings as the advertising agency representative. These were the good old days when the agency’s opinion on marketing was considered critical to the client’s success.

I quickly realized that Northwest had a serious meeting problem. Most of my clients seemed to be in non-stop meetings from 8AM to 6PM. I couldn’t figure out when they had time to think let alone get their jobs done. This fact wasn’t lost on the CEO who hired a management consultant to help create an efficient and effective meeting culture. It was instructive to watch this course correction help Northwest to be the fastest growing airline in the late 1980’s.

Effective, well-managed meetings deliver three key benefits:

  1. Effective meetings achieve the meeting’s objective.
  2. They take up a minimum amount of time.
  3. They leave participants feeling that a sensible process has been followed.

Meeting Rules

Here are the 10 rules I picked up at Northwest.

  1. Every meeting must have a leader to run the meeting and manage the process.
  2. Invite only the people that need to be in the meeting. This isn’t a numbers game. It is OK for some people to be working at their desks until they are really needed.
  3. Make sure that everyone understands that they are required to show up on time and if they are late they will be costing the agency time and money. Keeping colleagues waiting is rude and costly. Do the math.
  4. Have a clear agenda with meeting objectives. Share it at the start.
  5. Have a timetable. Make sure that anyone needed in the meeting knows of the start and stop time. You should try not to have any open-ended meetings. This is critical.
  6. Consider banning mobile phones. It may be hard to believe that there was once a time when we managed to live our lives without being constantly tethered to our smart phones.
  7. Once a meeting objective is met move on to the next one. Stay on topic.
  8. Watch the clock.
  9. End the meeting when you have covered the objectives.
  10. State any follow-up items, timing and individual responsibilities. Send out a meeting summary ASAP.

The Pitch

The pitch itself should be well stage-managed. These rules should be considered (I stress considered) in how you mange the actual client presentation. Clients will respect you when you show respect for their time and show that your agency is well-managed.

My Pitch

Call me. I’ll help you win more new business.

While you are at it… Don’t miss any of my brilliant (LOL, but I mean it) thoughts on new business.

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