The Good Pitch team spend 5 minutes with Clare Campbell, the Head of Business Development at Beattie McGuinness Bungay.
o    What is the most exciting thing about pitching?

Winning. (And the post-pitch win bar tab).

o    What piece of advice would you give clients who are putting their business up to pitch?

Be really clear about what you’re looking to achieve as a business and from your chosen agency. And be available – the more time you can give to the pitch process, the better the response will be.

o    Tell us about your best / worst pitch moment.

I was on the receiving end of a pitch where an agency decided to demonstrate their flexibility and creativity LITERALLY. They employed a gymnast dressed as an account exec to perform several eye-watering moves on the boardroom table before they started the presentation. It was 8.30am and a total David Brent moment.  I’ve been     afraid of ‘pitch theatre’ ever since.

o    What single thing do you think is most important for clients to realise when pitching?

That the pitch process will never be the best way to see what an agency is really like to work with – its an artificial process by its very nature.

o    What one thing would you like to change about pitching today?

I’d like to see more innovative ways of pitching. Clients, like agencies, vary hugely in their culture and ambitions. It would be great to see more innovative, alternative pitches that reflected the personality and values of that business.

o    Please submit any ideas or experience with alternative pitch processes.

Some of our longest, most-successful client relationships have been chemistry-based pitches. We’re also big fans of the two-week pitch.

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  • What is the most exciting thing about pitching?

 

Pitches are the best time to learn about and solve the client’s most deeply held pain points – from the logical, commercial issues, to the private hidden agenda that they may not have even admitted to themselves.

Sitting at the intersection of the client’s beliefs, ambition and business imperatives, what better environment to learn about people, pressure and profit?

And with my Code hat on, delivering enterprise-level Marketing Technology to clients alongside our agency partners means I get to see the transformational power of ideas and technology at the same time.

 

  • What piece of advice would you give clients who are putting their business up to pitch?

 

Can I cheat and have two?

Focus on defining the problem and let the agencies worry about the solution – particularly in the realm of Marketing Technology, where a little misplaced knowledge can misdirect the whole pitch process.

And be open; the more you let us in, the more we speak, the better the solution you’ll get. Like The King said, a little less documentation, a little more conversation please.

 

  • Tell us about your best / worst pitch moment.

 

Pitches can be long, drawn-out affairs – often understandably so, particularly in this economic climate.

But, for me, the very best pitch experiences are those where excitement and momentum are easy to maintain because both client and agency are at ease with one another and feel in sync.

As a dyed-in-the-wool new biz bore, I’m obliged to use a relationship analogy here – it’s like the blissful honeymoon period after guy meets gal (or whatever your persuasion), when everything just feels right.

My worst pitch moments are when it becomes obvious that you’ve failed in qualification – when the client doesn’t know what they want, they can’t help you to define it, and everyone’s faced with tough decisions or dysfunctional outcomes.

 

  • What single thing do you think is most important for clients to realise when pitching?

 

Although my experience is that really poor pitch practice is actually quite rare, I’d remind clients that it only really hurts them in the long run.

For one, a smart, busy agency will run a mile from a daft pitch, so the client loses access to top talent. And cost-cutting pitches self-inflict poor service levels, a bad reputation, and poor ROI.

Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. And pay peanuts, get monkeys. They’re my two hackneyed clichés on the subject.

 

  • What one thing would you like to change about pitching today?

 

I’d like to see more innovation – from clients and agencies.

The best agencies are already expanding their definition of ‘Creative’. This enables them to present skills and partners for answering broader marketing and business questions – not least, ahem, questions around their clients’ technology needs (I’m allowed one lairy plug, right?).

Painting from a broader palette not only keeps me in work, it also affords agencies a point-of-difference that, most clients will tell you, is often missing.

Different briefs and different agencies with different skills. Make it less of a buyer’s market. That would make pitches more exciting, not to mention less cost-led.

 

  • Please submit any ideas or experience with alternative pitch processes

 

As Churchill almost said, pitching is the worst form of agency selection except all the others that have been tried. So let’s think of some more.

I don’t see any real alternatives to pitching, but yes, there should be any number of widely proven alternative ways of pitching, particularly those that don’t involve giving away ideas for free.

After all, the client holds all the cards; they’re paying our wages and it’s an oversupplied market. So if they ask a pitch-list of 50 agencies to jump – and to pay for the privilege, and probably even to bring their own biscuits – at least 40 will probably ask how high.

So avoiding a beauty parade seems unlikely. Just like I’m unlikely not to get three quotes to replace my bloody boiler.

And any enforced code of practice to eradicate ‘bad’ pitches won’t work. It would be impossible to police, potentially constitute restriction of trade and, worse still, offer no incentive for clients to sign-up.

So yes, finding alternate ways of pitching is definitely a better idea.

In which case, the ‘Good Pitch’ initiative is a brilliant model to follow – get both parties together and make sure the debate is about mutual gain, rather than agency bleating. The more both clients and agencies alike can hero best practice, the better – particularly towards a younger audience, who get to see a better way of working before bad practices become old habits.

Naming-and-shaming the worst offenders will also help. And not just the clients; after all, who’s the more foolish – the fool, or the fool who follows him?

 

Robin Bonn, Business Development Director, Code Worldwide

@robonn, @CodeWorldwide

 

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