Monday, September 3, 2007

Ditch the pitch

In the past few weeks two marketers have handed their accounts to agencies without a pitch. Sunbeam awarded Brave New World it’s $6 million account and CommBank gave BMF $50 million worth of business both without a pitch. Let’s hope this trend continues and the outdated practice of pitching is abandoned once and for all.

Pitches are bad for existing clients for 2 reasons.

1. Cost to you.
If your agency is pitching for new business (and they probably are) they are using time, money and staff to do the work - lot’s of it. Is the company they are pitching for paying the true cost of this pitch? Almost certainly not. Who is then? You are. Agencies that regularly pitch have to allocate a budget and as they have no other way of making money than by charging you, you pay the extra to cover pitches.

An agency’s chances of winning new business (to cover the cost of pitching new business) is small. The odds are as simple as the number of agencies pitching. 3 agencies – 1 in 3 chances. 10 agencies – 1 in 10. That’s if all things are equal. They never are.

2. Service to you.
If it’s so expensive and hard to win new business you’d think an agency would treat existing clients like gold. No? Sadly attention is often diverted away from existing business towards the shiny new client that is just out of reach.

Pitches are bad for new clients for 2 reasons.

1. It’s pure theatre.
Pitches are ritualised performances that give you no real idea of how the relationship will pan out. The chairman, managing director and creative director who were your best friends during the pitch process will suddenly become much harder to find. They certainly won’t be working day to day on the business. The work presented may well have been done by freelance creatives and presented by a full time ‘new business director’.

So how does a marketer select a new agency? Easy. 1-Ask around. 2-Do a little research. 3-Make a contact. 4-Brief a single project to a single agency. 5-Judge the success of the project. Either award all of your business, give another project or try someone else.

There is no better way of deciding how you (and your team) can work with someone (and their team), than by working with them. A real life project will reveal many of an agency’s strengths and weaknesses, that a pitch never would.

You’ll get a much better fit. And if everyone in the industry ditches the pitch, marketers will save a fortune.