How To Run An Advertising Agency New Business Pitch
A high school teacher friend asked me to help her with a study plan about how an advertising agency manages the advertising agency new business pitch process. She is asking her students to run their own sales pitch for an imaginary client. I thought, what the heck, I’ll share some of my thinking with you.
Why me? Well, I did write the definitive book on ad agency new business pitching which included a detailed look at the advertising agency pitch process. What to do and what not to do and how doing the what not to do will cost your agency money, time, staff pain, and heartbreak. Somehow this teacher found my book. I guess Google works.
A Very Simplified Look At The Advertising Agency Pitch Process
Before I start, I have to say that the current way many clients select an agency, as in having multiple agencies pitch against each other, is too time-consuming and costly for both the client and the agencies. I’ve seen large pitches drag on for weeks and months. One would think that a savvy client should be able to look hard at the agency’s expertise, past work, case histories, culture plus a couple of conversations to make a decision. Of course, pricing is also a factor, especially if the pitch is partially run by the client’s procurement department. A department focussed on costs – not necessarily an assessment of agency skill-sets.
OK, nuff said about the inefficiency of many pitches.
There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ pitch. Some clients are large and others small. Some large theoretically sophisticated clients have no process, and some small clients are super organized. Here is a look at what is often the process.
Some clients are looking for the whole enchilada (an agency that will do everything from branding to social media) and some clients are just looking for one specific need – often a project. For example, a new name, and logo. Some clients want to work with category experts (as in needing a healthcare specialist) and some are looking for a great ‘creative’ agency.
How Does The Client Find Agencies?
Here is my master list on getting found and contacted:
You get a referral from a happy current or past client. Hopefully, your agency has a referral strategy to help make this happen.
You get a referral from a friend or family member. For example, my nephew was once the publisher of Men’s Vogue – he introduced me to someone who became a great client. Maybe your mother plays bridge with the mother of New Balance’s marketing director.
Word of mouth (WOM). People have heard of you inside the general marketing universe. Somehow, you’ve gotten people talking.
Your agency has won a prestigious marketing award. The right third-party recognition is a good thing. No, do not enter every ward show.
The press writes about you, your agency or asks for your expert opinion. I have a friend at Adweek who occasionally asks for a quote. This has been a good thing for my brand awareness.
You know how to use social media to get the good word out and make connections. That means you use one or just a couple of blogging, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok; Facebook, you podcast: or utilize whatever the latest social media platform that makes sense for your audience.
You advertise your services. Yes, imagine an agency that actually uses advertising.
You wrote a well-targeted advertising or marketing book that gains industry fame – like my: The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.
You are an expert and the specific categories that you rule (tactical or business categories) know about you.
You speak at the right conference, were in that smart podcast or write for trade publications. I used to write for HubSpot and ‘borrowed’ their enormous audience.
You know how to do what is often called Account Based Marketing. This means that you have created a list of the type of clients that your agency ‘should have’ and you contact them directly. Intelligently and gently. Often you will send them hard to resist, I call it unignorable, insights.
A professional advertising agency search consultant put you on the prospective client’s list. This is a very good thing. It should not be an accident that the consultant knows about you.