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Cocoon Presents: How pitches affect the bottom line

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Pitches are a reality for agencies. But do you ever consider the true cost of pitching in terms of quality of work and client-vendor relationships? This whimsical presentation helps point out some of …

Pitches are a reality for agencies. But do you ever consider the true cost of pitching in terms of quality of work and client-vendor relationships? This whimsical presentation helps point out some of the hidden costs of pitching -and provides some solutions to help clients and agencies pitch smarter!

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  • 1. A tale of two Agencies How pitches affect the bottom line Presented by Douglas Kaufman, Cocoon Group
  • 2. A tale of two Agencies Let’s talk about pitches! Let’s face it, pitches erode value from client-agency relationships and quality of work. In the last few years in particular, pitches have become a part of our business that we can’t escape. But hopefully this presentation will help you see them differently and give you some ideas for mitigating some of the adverse effects that pitches can have on your work.
  • 3. This is the story of two hypothetical agencies. We’ll call them agency A which ALWAYS works through pitches; and Agency N which NEVER works through pitches. Another pitch? We’ll do it! I’m sorry. We don’t work on pitches.
  • 4. So Agency N always gets a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work
  • 5. Agency A While Agency A basically gives a lot of its work away.
  • 6. Agency N can forecast profits and make adjustments and investments accordingly
  • 7. While Agency A cannot because it is impossible for Agency A to forecast what resource will be used against what revenue will be coming in.
  • 8. Agency A also has to live the repeated nightmare of seeing ideas and work which was not approved in the pitch, somehow finding its way onto projects that were realized by other agencies.
  • 9. But this presentation isn’t about Agency A’s moribund worldview, growing sense of injustice, or fragile mental state…
  • 10. Rather, let’s talk about how pitching affects clients and the work that clients get when they work with agency A.
  • 11. First of all. Let's be clear. Agency A does not care about your brand. Like all businesses, Agency A has salaries and rent to pay. Until the agency knows where that money is coming from, all other considerations are secondary. Maybe if they get the job, they will care about your brand or your goals. But for now, Agency A cares only about winning the project.
  • 12. Agency A Preparing for a Pitch presentation… Considering what is in the best interest of the client and their brand. So, rather than thinking about what’s best for your brand or your project, Agency A is using its resource to figure out the best tactics to give it an edge over the competition.
  • 13. Rather than being the focus, work quality is just another means toward that end. If Agency A feels that amazing quality will give them the edge they need to win, (and the additional investment has a good chance of paying off in the long run) then you might just get amazing quality work… However, more often than not, you’ll get ’good enough' or 'we'll figure that out later'.
  • 14. That's not to say Agency A isn't expert in brand building… They have tools. But there's no reason to invest further in the client until they win the project. They have methodologies. They have experience.
  • 15. The irony of course is that most of the work will be done finished before the agency knows they've won. At which point, the opportunity to use strategic and creative tools will have passed.
  • 16. Questions about the objectives? Concerns about the approach? Red flags regarding the strategy being used that the agency can point out based on its extensive experience doing 100 projects just like this one across multiple categories and brands?
  • 17. Not worth bringing up. Questions about the objectives? Concerns about the approach? Red flags regarding the strategy being used that the agency can point out based on its extensive experience doing 100 projects just like this one across multiple categories and brands?
  • 18. Not worth bringing up. There’s that chance the client won’t understand or think the agency doesn’t understand–or just think the agency is difficult. Which will prompt him to choose someone easier to work with.
  • 19. Not worth bringing up. So Agency A just keeps their mouths shut. They can always bring this stuff up after they win. There’s that chance the client won’t understand or think the agency doesn’t understand–or just think the agency is difficult. Which will prompt him to choose someone easier to work with.
  • 20. The client initiating the pitch is completely on his own when he works with Agency A. Unable to tap into agency knowledge and experience, he must come up with the strategy, criteria, objectives, etc. completely on his own. Once the agency and concept have been chosen, he is essentially invested in this work. He becomes de facto responsible for it more than the agency. Through the pitch process, he has essentially bought the work rather than a partner agency. If, midway through the project, he’s not satisfied with the direction the work is moving, he is pretty much out of luck. The agency did everything it was asked.
  • 21. They can decide what pitches to put effort into and what pitches and what pitches they can coast on. If they’re on the agency roster, Agency A knows that regardless of how this project goes, on the next project, there will be another pitch. Another phone call. And they get to start the process all over again.
  • 22. The trade off in additional responsibilities and lack of quality far outweigh any advantage they may think they are getting. So, the client thinks he’s getting a deal… Lots of creativity ‘healthy competition’ Butt coverage However…
  • 23. Now, what about agency N?
  • 24. With Agency N, we have a partner who is focused on your brand and your success –because they know their work will be judged based on whether or not YOU achieve YOUR objectives.
  • 25. Their commitment to the project begins the moment you hire them and lasts until the project is on the shelf (and often beyond) Agency N understands that future work and continued cooperation with this client relies on a successful project (not winning the tender).
  • 26. Commitment means… Calling out red flags and asking questions Dialogue with the client Looking at the big picture
  • 27. Agency N can be called long before the project even kicks off. Their knowledge, experience, and tools can go toward defining the strategy and helping create the brief, becoming a much appreciated resource for the client. At the end of the day. It really depends on what kind of relationship the client wants with his agency… I’ve got a problem and I need a solution, fast. I’m your man. Let’s figure this out!
  • 28. The client-vendor relationship with Agency A is, at its core, adversarial.
  • 29. So they are always on guard against giving too much away or revealing more than they might get in return. Agency A is always worried that their thinking and ideas will be wasted or go to another agency…
  • 30. Agency A is always worried that a wrong word or bad meeting will result in termination. So they avoid asking questions or raising issues that might be off-putting* *even when those questions might be for the benefit of the project!
  • 31. There is no incentive for the client’s other agencies (such as advertising or PR) to sit with Agency A and discuss how they might cooperate. As far as they know, Agency A might be gone in a week.
  • 32. The client-vendor relationship with Agency N however is truly collaborative. Both between Agency N and the client… …and all other client agencies.
  • 33. Agency B wants what is best for the brand. Because brand success = their success.
  • 34. Agency N wants to grow and nurture the relationship. Because a smooth relationship means better workflow and environment
  • 35. Agency N has incentive to invest in the client because the client has invested in them.
  • 36. Incentive to work together with other agencies. Sharing knowledge and sharing tools.
  • 37. Incentive to provide additional value-added services
  • 38. Incentive for raising concerns, having discussions, asking questions, maintaining an ongoing dialogue about what is the best way forward.
  • 39. It's a real strategic partnership. With a sense of both security and accountability and fairness.
  • 40. Of course this story is a…
  • 41. Fantasy Of course this story is a…
  • 42. There is no such thing as an All-Pitch agency. And Never-pitch agencies are becoming more and more rare. So, in effect, every agency is a little bit Agency A and Agency N. We don’t lock away the ‘good stuff’ –but we do think long and hard about whether or not we use it with a pitch client. We don’t spend most of our time picking out our lucky clothes –but we probably spend more time than we would thinking about presentation formats.
  • 43. C The real question for agencies is ‘how can we be more like agency N and less like agency A? And for clients, ‘How can we ensure we’re getting the level of value given by Agency N rather than Agency A?
  • 44. C The answer is to PITCH SMARTER! Clients, before calling a bunch of agencies for a pitch, check the following… Agencies, before agreeing to a pitch from a client, check the following…
  • 45. C How many agencies participating? More than 3 suggests the client is just fishing for ideas. Clients, if you can’t limit the pitch invitation to 3 agencies, it implies you don’t really know what you’re looking for and you just want ‘free ideas’ Agencies, with 2 other competitors, you have a 33% chance. Any more and it just doesn’t make mathematical sense to participate. There are just too many factors outside your control!
  • 46. C Are the deliverables clear and universal? Clients, ‘just give me what you think will do the job’ is not a brief and it’s not fair to agencies that have different approaches to concept presentation. Give deliverables that are clear and will allow agencies to decide if they are the right partner for the job. Agencies, how can you trust the client to judge you fairly or competently if they can’t even tell you exactly what they’re looking for?
  • 47. C Is the evaluation criteria clear? Ditto for everything I said on the previous slide, clients! “I’ll know it when I see it” is not a briefing! This isn’t a lottery where you get dozens of hours of free work from other businesses just so you can decide on a whim what you like or don’t like. Hey agencies. If they can’t tell you how they’re going to judge the work, run –don’t walk –in the other direction. You’re going to devote your employees to this project and the client can’t even tell you clearly what he’s looking for? I’m afraid not.
  • 48. C Are you dealing with the real decision-makers? Clients, please make the real decision-makers available to the agencies participating in your pitch. Otherwise, it’s very much a waste of everyone’s time. Agencies, if you don’t have access to decision-makers, just say no.
  • 49. C Is this a paid pitch? Clients, Now we’re talking! Paying for pitch work –whether it’s sketch fees or first stage –shows you are serious about treating your pitch participants like potential partners and that you value their work. Agencies, If they’re paying, then you are officially agency N!
  • 50. Thank you No, Thank YOU d.kaufman@cg-eu.com www.cg-eu.com

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