RIP to the pitch process?

PHD new business and marketing director, Chloe Hooper
By PHD new business and marketing director, Chloe Hooper | 14 June 2018
Chloe Hooper

For many years, the ‘new business pitch process’ has been compared to the process of getting married. A justified comparison, when one considers that building a relationship with an agency takes the same dedication as with a new partner. However, in the last five years, the dating game has changed and you can now find a partner with a simple swipe. So why hasn’t the approach to new business undergone the same transformation?

This year has seen a mass outbreak in the media industry around the world, calling for a new pitching process. This has been a long time coming, with agencies and brands exhausted from the pressures of the current process – which, as PHD’s Simon Lawson highlighted in last year’s five emotional stages of pitching, can be a tumultuous experience.

Furthermore, approximately 61% of brands and 93% of agencies want to see a change to the pitch process, according to a new study by Creativebrief. The bright industry spotlight will likely result in changes to the way new business is won. This change will happen incrementally, as agencies become more confident in turning down calls to pitch, brands become more personalised in their approach to evaluating agencies and pitch consultants begin to refine their recommended processes. The UK-based pitch consultant, Oyster Catchers, claims to have launched a new pitching process that allows brands to find agencies better suited to meeting business objectives in half the time.

However, what is clear from all the publicity on this subject is that the ‘Tinder for new business pitches’ hasn’t been invented yet. I can’t help but agree with PHD Worldwide CEO, Mike Cooper (surely it wouldn’t be a smart career move not to), when he recently said; “It’s not going away. The rise of procurement and purchasing departments will ensure that, for compliance purposes, agencies will continue to go through competitive pitch processes.”

So, if the pitch process is slowly dying, what do we need to do ensure that we don’t get left behind?

Is it time to reinvent your internal pitch process? 

If you haven’t redesigned your new business process in the last six months, then rip it up and start again today. PHD has doubled in size every year for the last four years by winning new business, including the likes of Volkswagen, Unilever and CUB. However, the processes put in place to successfully win new business six months ago will no longer be effective in today's landscape.

We talk about how tumultuous the media landscape is every day. As an industry, we are constantly innovating with new technologies and developing creative solutions to wow our consumers and deliver that all important ROI. The resultant forgotten cause is often the evolution of innovativeinternal processes. Processes have a reputation for being stagnant – “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” But the processes need to follow the same evolution that the rest of your business follows and unfortunately, they need to do so at the same rapid pace. 

Be the reason a pitch is called

You need to show brands what they are missing out on by not working with you. And you need to do it before they have even identified a problem with their current agency. Identify the exact clients you want to work with. Choose those who match your purpose, your values, and show them how you can create solutions to their biggest challenge. If you are the agency in mind before the competition has even received the RFI, then the pitch process won’t seem so painful.

Act like you are their agency

If you are dedicated to working with a brand, then you need to put the budget and resources behind acting like you are already servicing them. This approach is often used by Silicon Valley enterprises who will build a product for a client before they have even commenced working with them. This not only demonstrates capability, but also showcases your enthusiasm to work with the brand. At the end of the day, people buy people, so what better way to show your team's passion?

Pick up the project

Fast turnaround project work is becoming a common way of working for many brands that are looking to test and learn with new agencies. This approach ensures that your agency is front of mind, it encourages and highlights your accessibility, and it creates a perception of an efficient internal culture.

While the industry waits for the pitch process to evolve with the times of real-time gratification, agencies can get a head start on reinventing the game by revisiting their own processes and approach. In doing so, one might even become the architect of the future model the industry adopts for new business. Or at the very least, it will continue to spark innovation within agencies and add to their competitive edge.

PHD new business and marketing director, Chloe Hooper

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