RAZOR BRANDING BLOG: To Pitch or Not to Pitch...?

To Pitch or Not to Pitch...?

One of the questions that plagues all B2B businesses is how to get new business and develop more clients. There are lots of theories about inbound v outbound marketing.  

I received an email the other day from JC Fantechi in Sweden.  He is the founder of Icebreaker which helps ad agencies in Europe win new business.  He emailed me because he heard an interview with me about the new business wins we have had this year.  I thought his question was great, so I wanted to answer it here:

In your opinion, are pitches/should pitches be a thing of the past? Are they  really necessary in order to gauge an agency’s output, or wouldn’t a “chemistry test” be better, to meet a potential agency & its work team to see if there is grounds for a good marriage, then work together to solve the strategic and the creative? Maybe that’s the way you already work, but I’m tired of getting my clients into pitches, getting half decent briefs and only one performance in order to get things right.
JC Fantechi
Founder, Icebreaker
These questions are not specific to just advertising agencies.  Most companies that work in the B2B space are expected to put forth some sort of outbound effort to gain new business.  Most often, that outbound effort involves one of the following:

  • RFP - Request For Proposals - Potential client creates a 10-100 page document detailing everything they want to know about their new prospective partner.  In the construction industry, a contractor then spends hours researching the blueprints and creating a very detail proposal including costs.  The final written documents could at times rival the size of War and Peace and the cost would be enough to purchase a house.
  • Pitch - An incredible investment of time and resources dedicated by anywhere from 2 to 20 companies is made at the behest of the client and much like the Olympics, there is only one gold medal winner.  The companies involved completely engross themselves in the client and learn everything they can about the brand and the category.  Since this is typically done in a vacuum with little or no input from the client there is no guarantee that the research and analysis is on target.
I completely agree with JC.  If a sample project were the third option, it would be the best choice every time.  A project would allow both sides to really get to know each other.  A project is like actually dating vs the RFP/Pitch which are more like a first date where you only know what they want you to know about them.

There is another option though.  

We work with our B2B clients to generate inbound efforts.  This is the same way we develop our own business.  Using a myriad of tools, from social media through speaking and writing engagements, we are able to establish ourselves as knowledgeable experts and that is why we are experiencing unprecedented growth (Q1 09 up 118% compared to Q1 08).

Inbound marketing is great for a lot of reasons, most of which, once the relationship is in place, there is no competition for the business.

What sort of tools do you use for your business?

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner


Bill Cokas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Cokas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Cokas said...

Completely agree. Problem with pitches (REAL pitches, not foregone conclusions) is that they're so one-sided. "Dance for me, monkey boy!" We stage the equivalent of a royal wedding while the client leans back and buffs their nails. Not quite, but you get the point. Can't tell you how many pitches have been sabotaged by inadequate/inaccurate information. With a project, the client will make sure you're prepared, because they've got skin in the game. Plus, you get a chance to learn about each other, not only from a product/service perspective, but from a chemistry and corporate culture standpoint as well. In the dating world, it would be drinks after work. No commitment, but just enough interaction to see if it's worth pursuing.

jstanich said...

Just Monday we saw a disturbing new mutation of the agency pitch/spec creative strain-- the "contest." A certain client here in Indianapolis wants agencies to complete to create new branding. What other kind of professional services firm would even be asked to spend the time and talent to develop a complete product that then would be judged against other products (with no stated criteria other than it be iconic)? Then, if you "win," the client gets to use the work for free. At least the winner of "American Idol" gets a paying contract.

Like Bill, we've had great luck in developing new business with the project approach. Despite an agency "No-RFP" policy, we've gotten six new clients in the past year. I have to admit we're guilty of doing spec creative from time to time. But, without fail, spec remains just that-- speculative. We've gotten the account, but always have had to start from scratch for the real work.

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