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What is the best way to pitch a piece of business?

July 23, 2010

Cesar Carrillo pitching for the Lake Elsinore ...
Image via Wikipedia

Pitching new business is fun and annoying at the same time.

I remember my second ever job. Staying to 4:00AM working on a pitch. Making the creative perfect.

We were pitching a piece of business that would have added 40 people to the agency, and the agency had 80 people. That agency had a theory about pitching that went something like this:

30% of the presentation was strategy.

30% was creative.

30% was presentation.

The final 10% was gut. Energy could be spent on the thing that felt the best.

Why three equal parts?

The advertising pitch is like no other thing in business. A client puts out an RFP (Request for Proposal) and the pitch is the penultimate answer. The pitch is a blank slate, whereby the agency can do whatever they want. Often though, the client has a specific question.

What would you do to solve this. Or this. Or that.

Sometimes pitches are for parts of business. An unfortunate example is the rash of Social Media Agency of Record pitches. A thing I think is purely ridiculous. So lets take them in order.

Strategy: the thinking behind the message. These are the insights phase of the pitch. Where, based on little research, and lots of assumptions, the agency generates insights about the brand, the target market, the category and whatever else impacts the story.

I should stop here for a second. The reality of a pitch is simple: the pitchers aren’t privy to a lot of information about the brand. The brand will often hand over some data about the category, brand and target market, but since this is the ‘dating stage’ of the relationship, the brand doesn’t open up.

So this part is guessing. And yet it informs the next step.

Creative: This is spec creative. Spec creative is one of the things that are annoying about marketing. Spec creative is dumb because rarely is it on strategy (see above). It can’t be. Spec creative that wins a pitch rarely (if ever) becomes the campaign that runs because it’s rarely based on all the information. That said, we do spec creative and literally give away ideas and effort for almost nothing.

Presentation: The presentation is the thing a lot of places don’t think hard about. They should, and here’s why. The pitch team is an assembled team of people who will vote on the agency partner. That team consists of people from all over the brand, from the CMO to the CFO. It’s filled with people who come at the business from the specialty — which is important.

But those people need to remember the pitch. And frankly, the most memorable presentation will stand out. The presentation where a monkey flew across the room. Or someone danced. Or something happened that amazed, dumbfounded or startled.

Think I’m crazy? Presentations are based on Strategy and Creative. But they have to be remembered. If they aren’t then it doesn’t matter what is said.

It’s like an ad. Unless the ad gets people’s attention, it won’t be remembered. Unless the presentation is memorable, the good parts won’t be remembered.

Make the presentation memorable. The one that stands out. Then the ideas will.

Good luck. We’ll see you on the next RFP.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010 10:23 am

    I love the balanced attack… But that 10% gut is the one most people mess up. Great post!

  2. November 22, 2010 6:46 pm

    there are so many ways. I love this article so helpful

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