He says serious clients’ proposals “feel more concrete and tangible”. Bakowski continues: “They’ll explain that they’re developing a specific line of packaging in, say, cookware, or a logo for this or that part of the business.”
Regardless of the scale of resources invested in a pitch, no agency wants to lose. So are there any sure-fire ways of increasing the odds of victory? Preparation is the key, says Pie Communications’ Patricia Howard.
“It’s vital to study the client’s business and their competitors, and arm yourself with solid facts. The more homework you do the better your chance of winning.”
A one-size-fits-all approach has little chance of succeeding, warns Howard. “It’s vital to understand the client’s mindset and temperament. Some may require a bells-and-whistles spectacular, while others prefer a more cerebral approach. We often hear from clients about agencies pitching with what’s obviously a template into which they’ve just dropped the client’s details, resulting in something completely off brief.”
Adam is a graphic designer and co-owner of 13 Souls (www.13souls.com). He describes a recent example of how thorough preparation for a pitch can pay dividends.
“We were presenting to an organization responsible for funding art and cultural projects in the Midlands, so we spent time thinking about what they needed, and ended up aiming our presentation not so much at the organization but the smaller organizations and groups it funds.
"This went down really well, as effectively it gave them a ready-made ‘package’ they could send out to people, explaining what marketing and communications support they could provide, via us.”
Yet having a potent idea and communicating it well are wholly different things; good communication usually means the difference between winning and losing. “We’re supposed to be in the communications business but a common mistake by agency folk is talking too much about themselves,” says Howard.
“It may seem staggeringly obvious but listening to the client, and showing that you’ve learnt something from listening to them, demonstrates you’re genuinely interested and that you’ll approach the brief in an intelligent way.”
“[Pitching is] a much better process when it’s a dialogue about a common approach to solving a problem with your client, rather than a one-sided thing where you stand up and talk to them,” argues Joe Bakowski.
He continues: “The most important thing is not to bullshit them – just talk to them normally and don’t get hung up on the fact it’s a presentation. You wouldn’t enter into a conversation in the pub thinking, ‘What are the do’s and don’t of saying this?’. You don’t want to go into a pitch situation and be incredibly formulaic.”