Agency pitching: Preparing to win and dealing with failure

Pitching has always been challenging for agencies, with loads of contenders and only one winner. How could one maximize the chance of winning or collect valuable takeaway lessons after losing a pitch?

How to win the bid?

There are many factors influencing the client’s decision, being both objective and subjective, clear and unclear. Though agencies may not be able to change their “chemistry” with clients, they can actively and thoroughly prepare these following factors:

  • Credentials

Credentials introduces an agency, their projects, clients, as well as their achievements… Considered as an agency’s resumé, credentials must be well-designed in both content and visuals. The more diverse the showcased experience, the more credible the clients, especially the retainer ones, the easier the agency makes a remarkable first impression to clients.

An agency’s credentials is readily available. However, you should make it more persuasive by making customized versions for different clients. For example, with technology brands, agency should send credentials that emphasize their experience on executed projects for technology brands – who could be the clients’ competitors.

  • Understand the requirements

Clients usually provide the agency with a brief which describes their requirements and expectations. An agency will then make a proposal to carry out the clients’ wishes. Nonetheless, there are also clients who will not prepare a brief. Instead, they will only have a meeting to exchange ideas and share their requirements.

Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, Managing Director of EloQ Communications explained: “A brief is like a problem that an agency must solve. ‘Going off-topic’ is unacceptable. In order to score the point, you must ‘touch their heart’ with not only a right solution but also a creative and unique one”.

Of course, a good solution only comes after an agency digging in the problem, spending time researching their clients, before, during and after the meeting. To do this, an agency should try to answer these questions: who the client is, what are their values and visions, what are their past projects, their strengths, their weakness, their potentials, etc. It is never too much when it comes to researching about the clients.

  • A proper proposal

A proposal presents the ideas and suggested solutions to clients’ problems. If the understanding about clients and the brief are “straws”, then an agency’s skills, experiences and creativity which have been refined through various projects are what needed to “make bricks”. (As in “you cannot make bricks without straw.”)

A good proposal needs to be well designed in both content and visuals. If any of the spelling, grammar, alignment, capital letters, etc. is wrong, then the agency will be eliminated right from the beginning. Also, a presentation with great designs but poor and off-topic content is not any better.

  • Price is the decisive factor

Every brand wants a maximum result with a minimum budget, especially during this time of financial difficulty caused by the pandemic. With the plan still on paper, it is not easy for an agency to convince clients with reasoning like “you get what you pay for”, or that an agency could bring better performance than lower-budget competitors. However, it would be easy to understand if the client chooses the agency with the lowest quotation.

  • Presentation skills

Don’t flood the presentation slides with text. And don’t read them out loud like you are afraid that the client cannot read. This is not only amateurish, but can also distract the listeners. The slides should display vivid illustration to support the arguments. Word use in the conversation should be kept standard and easy to understand without overusing technical terms. The presenter must have a clear and persuasive voice, good control over intonation, and charisma.

Finally, remember to that practice makes perfect!

What to ask when you fail?

It’s hard to take in bad news. When losing a pitch, it’s okay to be sad, disappointed, bitter, doubtful, or all of the above.But do not let it get you down for too long. If you don’t want to waste the team’s day-and-night efforts on the projects, and if you want to turn today’s failure into tomorrow’s success, then stay calm and muster up the courage to ask the following questions. Ask the clients to answer these questions is most ideal, but the agency could also have an internal discussion to learn from the experience.

“Hope for the best but expect the worst” is the correct mindset for every agency before a pitch. Winning gives you the contract, losing brings you the lessons. Every outcome will benefit the agency in the long run as long as you dare to admit your weaknesses and find the way to overcome them.

Nhung Do is currently a PR & Communications Manager at EloQ Communications. She has more than 10 years of experience in writing, teaching, and content creating. Her first book is “Fox fire in the sky – 100 tales about Finland”, which presents her best cultural experience in the hometown of Santa Claus.

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