At Lloyds Banking Group we have a well-established roster of agencies, with strong and long-standing relationships, so in truth we don’t tend to pitch that often.
Over the last 3 years, though, as we’ve brought the two banks – LTSB and HBOS – together to form Lloyds Banking Group, we have of course consolidated our media agencies into one; moved our LTSB DM business and more recently changed creative agency on Halifax.
To do this within and across a complex organisational structure takes discipline, focus and a lot of collaboration (imagine the number of people who had a view when we consolidated 14 media agencies into 1, for instance).
I’d characterise our key learning over this period as follows:
Be absolutely sure that you need to pitch
It sounds obvious, but we’ve all seen – been part of pitches – where neither client nor agencies, in their hearts, are really convinced why the whole process is happening. Be honest and tough with yourself and only kick it off if you really, really, really need to go to all that time, trouble and expense.
Get the right brief
As a client it’s your responsibility to ensure that the brief is keyed into a key business issue – or is at least sufficiently representative of a current business issue so that the people on the receiving end of the agencies’ output recognise the issue it’s trying to address
Have the same brief
Make sure all parts of the business agree the focus of the pitch brief. In any large organisation it’s impossible for the brief to encompass all of everyone’s needs, so you need to broker agreement as to what the brief does and does not cover so that it can be judged accordingly. Oh, and don’t let anyone change the brief mid-way through the process…there lies doom and confusion.
Get the right people around the table
As a client marketing director, If you’re heading up the pitch it’s your responsibility to get the right people at the right level around the table on pitch day. Ideally in the meetings or if not, briefed asap afterwards.
And if your decision needs some form of higher-level executive sign-off, at least have the decency to ensure that the higher-level gets to meet your recommended winning agency.
Design the right process
There is no single perfect pitch process, so be prepared to vary according to circumstances. You may have good reason to flex or lengthen the process – or stage things differently. And don’t be scared to shorten the process!
Help the pitching agencies navigate your organisation
Especially for non-incumbent agencies, a new prospective client organisation can be a complex and fearsome beastie, and many hours of agency time can easily be spent unprofitably running around the client stakeholder set. Help the agencies focus where you need them to focus.
If you get most of those right, you should be in good shape for a successful pitch process and the right outcome – for client and agency.
Brand & Customer Marketing Director
Lloyds Banking Group