Leading business development for a small, fast-growing agency has been one of the biggest, most invigorating challenges of my career. During the past year, we’ve participated in a variety of pitches. In most cases, we were the smallest -- and youngest -- agency in the mix . There were times I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, and others where I knew we should have declined from the beginning.
We won some, we lost some.
Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, specifically our strengths, weaknesses, and pitch style. One of the biggest learnings has come in developing the process we follow when crafting a pitch. While the process may vary depending on the agency and type of work, we’ve defined several key strategies we live by when crafting a great pitch.
The Pitch Team
Keep your pitch team small, tight, and highly connected. I’ve seen agencies take eight people to a pitch, and while I’m sure it makes some clients feel special, I believe it dilutes the presentation.
Sure, there may be a dozen people gathering research and compiling assets, but when it comes to delivering the pitch, it’s better to put a few of your top presenters in the room than to pack it full.
It sounds obvious, but when you’re scrambling to pull together pitch materials, it can often be glossed over. Research is an essential step to take to provide a solution for your client.
Exhaust yourself learning about them. Find out what makes them tick, where they’ve been, and what the dynamics of the group are. The list is endless. You can never learn too much about the people you’re presenting to.
Simplify Your Communication
Ask yourself: To win this business, what’s the one idea we want to communicate?
Everything in your presentation should map to that one idea. If it doesn’t, it’s probably unnecessary and can be left out of the pitch.
Develop your presentation to communicate that one idea so well that the client becomes invested in it.
Tell a Great Story
In The Art of the Pitch, a book I highly recommend, Peter Coughter writes, “You’ve spent God knows how long working on your idea, yet most agencies talk about how to present in the car on the way to the meeting.”
Who cares how great your idea is if you can’t sell it? Forget about your slides, and take the time to craft an amazing story the client can connect with. Create a positive association using your presentation so the client will remember you for the right reason.
Do More Than Everyone Else
This is one I still struggle with, but what I’ve discovered is that you can never do enough. Do more than leave your brand book behind for the client to sift through. Whatever method you choose, create something personalized that will stick with the client after the presentation.
We recently lost a mobile app pitch where a competitor designed more than 40 concepts representing the agency's vision for the app. In a new business pitch, there’s no such thing as going overboard. Do what you think is sufficient, then do more.
Taking the time to thoroughly prep for a pitch will show in your presentation. No matter how talented your speakers are, the client will pick up on whether or not they’ve done their homework. Sticking to these strategies for create the perfect pitch.
Originally published Nov 25, 2014 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017