Why Your Agency Should Stop Pitching — Now

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Ashley Andy
Ashley Andy



stop-pitchingYou heard that right. Sounds pretty counter to what your instincts might be saying.

But here's the deal: Too many agencies are chasing too many pieces of business they have no business pitching.

I'm all about swinging big. Going for the big one. And swinging often. But with some realistic expectations. With more 19 years of pitching business at some of the best new business agencies in the country, the one thing I've learned is: STOP. CHASING. EVERYTHING.

We all know how those round table "discussions" with top management go when deciding whether to pitch or not. Everyone has a POV (all very valid, I'm sure) but it can be an endless loop on the merry-go-round of opinions. In the past few years, we've seen decreased marketing budgets and limited agency reviews, so everything looks appealing to everyone.

Here are some things to consider when deciding to swing:

What would happen if the dog caught the truck?

If that $50 million piece of business landed on your doorstep, do you have the infrastructure to handle it? If you’re an agency of five people, it probably wouldn't make a lot of sense to spend time and money trying to convince the client that you can handle his business. Be honest with yourself.

Is your heart in the game?

If your management team doesn't see the brand/opportunity or assignment, it will show. I guarantee it. It's like sorta liking someone in middle school — the other person can tell. Never underestimate the power of passion to weigh heavily in the deciding of an agency. Clients want their agencies to love and adore their brand. And while we all can be pretty good at spin, I'm not sure we're all great at faking it.

Is it real?

Unfortunately, we've all been really excited to be pitching that one piece of business. But during the process, you realize the client might not have complete buy-in throughout the organization for this important change and decision. The client is slow to respond. There isn't consistent feedback from all the marketing clients. And you start to notice that not all the decision makers are involved — these are big, flashing red signs. Ask the hard questions in the beginning to avoid false hope and to save time and money.

Is it a revolving door brand?

If you stay around the “pitch” world long enough, there are a few brands that are known to make the rounds. These brands shall remain nameless for now. But always check a prospective client’s past agency relationship tenures. No matter how amazing you and your team might think the brand is and how excited you are for the possibilities that come with the client, if it has a habit of jumping from agency to agency, I doubt you’ll stop that revolving door. Do you want to spend that much time and effort to be one of many past agencies?

Does it value what you do?

Sounds like a human relationship, right? The same rules apply to an agency-client relationship. If it’s a brand that ultimately doesn’t understand or truly value advertising and marketing, it might not be the best fit. No brainer, right? But I've heard many people lament: “But it’s such a cool brand with such potential.” Convincing someone of your value is often a huge waste of time. You deserve better. And so do your employees.

What can you learn if you lose?

And lastly, if you know the odds are stacked against you and you're going for it anyway, manage the agency's expectations. View it as a learning opportunity to practice your pitch. Find out what is working and what might need improvement. Do some of you need improved presentation skills? Is your agency process easy to present and understand? And who knows, you might pull down the big one. It can happen. But if not, you learned some valuable lessons.

Granted, there are plenty of other considerations when determining whether to pursue a new business opportunity. Taking big risks can have big rewards. No question. But these areas should take precedent before you go all in. Protect your time, money, and intellectual value —just like you do for your clients.

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