We all know the score. An exciting brief arrives from the client and the specified budget looks good. So your best creative minds spend days or maybe even weeks preparing for a major pitch; you’ve had the team brainstorm and come up with a great proposal and possibly a couple of alternatives. You’ve researched the market, costed your ideas and produced some storyboards. Possibly even a supporting video showreel. Add up the man hours and the time devoted to preparing your pitch is by no means insignificant.
In the meantime of course the client has got several agencies working on competitive pitches and only one of you will win the business. Inevitably that means some of you will be disappointed and walk away with a feeling that all your efforts have been in vain.
Naturally if you strike gold then brilliant: the moment when you realise that you’ve hit the right note – when you can see it in a clients eyes, in their body language, you pitched it right and they love your idea you’ve got the business. Bingo.
Lose though and you wonder if it’s all worth it. What should you do, accept the status quo and move onto the next pitch? Do we consider if we should charge for our time, after all in some industries and service sectors it’s the norm, but it would be a brave agency who attempted to charge for producing a creative proposal in the current economic climate especially when any number of competitors are likely to continue to do it for ‘free’.
Sitting around a table with 5 or 6 members of staff with a brief and a blank sheet of paper is one of the greatest parts of the job. Being given the opportunity to help to promote, sell, guide, train, inform, market and educate clients’ brands, products, processes and people is a fantastic privilege. Coming out of those meetings with a great idea, developing that idea and working together as a team is a liberating and rewarding experience - win or lose.
When you’re unsuccessful, feedback from the client is invaluable and should help you improve next time you’re invited to submit a proposal. You should also learn from the experience and be better prepared next time – a bit like going for a job interview.
Sometimes of course a client’s remit is simply to choose what on paper looks like the cheapest proposal irrespective of the creative merit of your or indeed the competition’s ideas. This too is not only frustrating but also demoralising for a creative business trying to produce innovative and engaging content. Clients should really question whether the least cost proposal is actually going to deliver any value if it fails to meet the original project objectives.
Possibly the most difficult ones are those where the client is unclear about what they want and these are often typified in the vaguest of briefs. Beware the client who briefs along the lines of “We are looking for something really radical” I’ll lay odds they’re not!
Of course pitching can be a very positive rewarding experience even if you don’t win the business and in the long term, provided you can continue to offer genuinely creative solutions to budget, you’ll probably win your share of business over time.
Tim Evison, November 2011