Why a great pitch should have hallmarks – not scratch marks

Our typical approach when developing proposals is to define the ideal final outcome first, and then work backwards. That way we’ve always got something to work towards, ensuring ideas and concepts ladder-up to the ideal end-state.

So it occurs to me this week to take the same approach and share the ideal end-state in an agency pitch process. To do this, it’s helpful to strive for five key hallmarks and so avoid some troublesome scratch marks.

All this may vary depending on what business you’re in – the reasons for your search and perhaps the questions you ask during your process – but here are five hallmarks that can really help set your process apart:

You learned more about your own organization

Because agency relationships are dependent on the clients they serve, they’re as much about chemistry and fit with your own organization as they are about the agencies themselves. If you’ve asked the right questions and really taken time to look at the pros and cons of each agency, while stacking them up against your incumbent agency’s performance, you should uncover some really good insights about your own organization and how you work as a team.

Your eyes were opened to what the market really has to offer

Our business has shifted so quickly and agency models have evolved so rapidly, that unless you’re in the unique position of having gone through an agency search in the last year or so, an agency pitch is going to be an eye opener.  In our view, every pitch should have a seamless connection between brand digital and media offerings, and how the market has evolved to meet that connection continues to surprise – and hopefully delight – marketers who are evaluating their agency rosters.

Feedback is consistent

If a pitch has gone well, your feedback should be reasonably consistent across all stakeholders. In addition to your internal stakeholders, consider those agencies that were rejected along the way.  All marketers should take time to give feedback to agencies not selected personally.  And everyone’s done their job well, the most common thing we after giving feedback is, “that’s a fair comment…”.  It underscores the evaluation process was thoughtful and accurate, and reinforces decisions that were made along the way.

Your team is aligned

Sounds easy, but we’ve seen emotions get seriously high when evaluating agency pitches.  The best way to get that alignment is to take extra time to ensure stakeholders were listened to, issues were addressed and your evaluation criteria clearly defined before you went to market for an agency.  Not taking time to really define the kind of agency you’re looking for, or indeed your real evaluation criteria, are primary issues team misalignment during evaluation.

Your process was fair

No matter what kind of agency you’re looking for or what your circumstances were that led to the search process, you need to ensure your agency search process is fair and transparent. Making sure agencies understand both the process they’re following, and the evaluation criteria by which they’ll be judged are key factors in ensuring fairness and transparency.  Choosing an empowered search team and holding them to the highest standards of governance during the process will also give you confidence your process is beyond reproach.

These are just some hallmarks to aspire to as you prepare for an agency search process. If you’re in any doubt or the process seems overly complex, employ the services of a professional agency search consultant to help you and your team set yourselves up for success, and avoid the scratch marks of a poorly run pitch process.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Eric Golub

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