With the vast majority of new client pitches ending in a loss, agencies need to find new and creative ways to set themselves apart from the pack.
Winning new client pitches is critical to an agency’s success, but it can also be arduous and expensive. Agencies spend hours and hours, including evenings and weekends, preparing their proposals for a shot at beating out the competition to win a new client.
A survey conducted by Cubeyou in late 2015 yielded the following statistics on ad agency pitches:
- It costs an agency $15,000 to participate in an RFP, based on an average of 100-150 hours of work.
- While costs vary, agencies who make it to the finals incur an additional $45,000 in costs, on average, with nearly ⅔ of that cost attributed to research and strategic planning as well as creative work.
- The average agency wins 43% of the time, while the top 10% of agencies win 85% of the time.
Some in the industry are working to find relief for agencies bearing the costs on their own but one thing is clear: the ability to win competitive pitches is one of the top drivers of success for an agency. But how can you set yourself apart from the plethora of other agencies during this critical time?
Here are 3 ways you can win more new client pitches beyond the usual advice:
#1: Be an Authority
One of the biggest complaints from clients who hire external agencies is that they lack the tribal knowledge needed to be effective quickly. It’s true that you are an outsider and likely managing clients across many verticals. However, establishing authority does not require specialization.
To be an authority on a topic, you need to be correctly informed. Becoming informed can be accomplished easily via detailed market research. However, most agencies stop at even the most basic forms of qualitative research. Listening socially, participating in forums and other types of ad hoc research are great for developing theories but proving those theories requires quantitative market research. To truly develop authority with a client who lives inside their product and industry each day, you will need to provide them with insights beyond what they already know.
Unfortunately, there is a perception that quantitative market research is expensive or too time consuming for the pitch process. That’s simply not true anymore. DIY market research tools like AYTM.com, make conducting quantitative market research fast and affordable. You can launch comprehensive creative tests, brand awareness studies and market segmentation analysis in hours without having to hire a market research firm. Get the data you need to be an authority and you will win more deals.
#2: Create Pitch Partnerships
When you win a new client, it’s not just your agency that benefits. Each agency has at least a handful of vendors that stand to profit from the win. Develop a pitch partnership with these vendors to bring their expertise into the pitch process. Most ad networks, digital tools and creative service providers have resources on staff to help you develop a stronger pitch.
Getting pitches sponsored by a partner may sound too good to be true, but it happens more often than you may think. Vendors like AYTM.com have set up a special “pitch fund” for agency clients. Participating agencies get a percentage of their research spend back to use on new client pitches. This helps to mitigate the cost to win new business as well as allows you to do tip #1 much more affordably.
#3: Know Your Audience and Let Them Know You
Creative isn’t the only thing that wins pitches. So does your ability to craft your message and build rapport with the audience in the room. Truth is that clients want to work with people they like. As a Chief Marketing Officer who has worked with top agencies over the years, I have often liked two creative concepts equally but in the end chose the agency who I felt matched better with our company culture.
Understanding a client’s company culture is key. You can be wildly innovative and creative but if you can’t sell an approach to the client the relationship will eventually fail. Take the time to ask questions about how they like to work, challenges that existed in previous relationships and 2-3 goals that really matter. Speak to them in their language in the pitch and show them you are capable of adapting the creativity of an agency into their real business environment.
There is a lot more to winning pitches than just these 3 things but when coupled with preparedness, solid creative and a great pitch deck, you can change the odds to make winning new business more successful and less expensive.