On Thursday 28th September 2017 the Drum hosted it’s annual New Business event, Pitch Perfect. Upfront was in attendance for a day focused on helping agencies to win new business and share ideas to perfect your pitch to help you clinch that all-important client.
With an impressive speaker line up and a wide range of topics covered, here are our highlights and key insights from the presentations on the day:-
The day started with the Drum’s Managing Director, Richard Draycott providing a warm welcome and setting the scene by talking about the impact of wider economic factors on agency new business and – keeping those in mind – the importance of getting this right.
Apply empathy to understand decision makers emotional triggers
The first speaker to take to the stage was Tom Head, Director at Lab, who soon had the room talking to each other as he focused on the importance of taking a human approach to new business. Tom went on to discuss behavioural psychology and apply Lab’s classification of Monkey (how it makes me look), Lion (how it works) and Dog (how it makes me feel) to look at different drivers in client decision making, highlighting the importance of empathy when pitching and understanding emotional triggers.
8 Essential elements of any new business plan
Next up was Jody Sutter, Owner of The Sutter Company and a Business Development consultant who specializes in working with leadership at small to mid-sized ad agencies. Jody talked about the importance of having an annual plan to align expectations and allow you to prepare for, and measure, what can be a chaotic process. Jody shared her 8 essentials elements of any new business plan:
1) Start in the marketplace – understand industry trends and who your competitors are (now and in the future) so you know what you are up against. Don’t just think about things from your own agency perspective, but also consider the impact of changes in the marketplace on the brands you are targeting.
2) Performance – based on your agencies performance, make sure you know your current performance ratios to help you understand what you will need to do to achieve your targets. How is the company performing on new business? What is the split between reactive and proactive opportunities? What is your current pitch conversion rate?
3) Goals & benchmarks – strategic and financial. How much can you rely on organic growth? What is your likely attrition rate? What focus is needed on prospecting un-identifed new business – and what are timescales involved? Jody urged caution to make sure you account for annualised revenue and plan for what happens if you have a slow first quarter.
4) Meeting the goals – how much will you need to pitch to achieve your growth targets? What is reasonable sized client and what will it take to win them? Make sure you budget for new business and support required. Based on feedback from the audience, this is something many agencies aren’t currently doing.
5) Your team – who’s on your team and what do they do? Is it just you? What kind of agency are you? Jody shared a few typical examples: ‘Natural born hunters’, ‘natural born promoters’, ‘small team / multiple hats’, ‘CEO / Chief Sales Officer’, or ‘it’s your job, keep us out of it!’ Make sure you keep roles well organised and play to your strengths.
6) PR and marketing – does your positioning serve you? How are you telling your story? Make sure you have a joined up plan, which you can email Jody for a template she is happy to share. Make sure your website is working for you. One particularly useful tip was to experiment with blogs which can feed into thought leadership.
7) Operations – what staff, tools, processes and materials do you need to ensure you are effective? How are you finding intelligence on prospects, and how are you tracking progress?
8) Executive summary – written last, goes first. You need a concise summary to your plan, use it to your advantage to highlight the key information from your plan.
Jody finished up her session by advising the audience to start planning NOW to make sure you can get out the gate fast in 2018.
Weave price and value into your proposal
Paul Williamson, Managing Director at Sports Ink, shared an interesting case study around the successful pricing for the 2012 Olympics and the success they enjoyed growing revenue through clever pricing. Paul went on to apply best practice to agency new business and in particular, the tender process. Paul recommended that agencies need to weave price and value into the process and not just have it as the last slide.
The importance of having purpose and thinking like a brand
After lunch, Lena Robinson, Co-Founder of Kiwi Gray had everyone fired up and motivated for the afternoon with her presentation, which looked at how to win before you pitch. Lena was quick to highlight the importance of thinking like a brand, rather than classifying yourself as an agency.
There are over 22,000 agencies out there so you need to have a clear purpose to stand out. A passionate Lena made it clear that purpose has to be lived and breathed by everyone – and to do this, you need to understand why you exist as a business. Don’t just talk about what you do, people are more likely to buy the reason why you do it. And the good news is that businesses with purposes make more money!
Lena went on to explain that this should come from the heart to ensure authenticity. With this comes both power and vulnerability, which is needed for true engagement. Be honest and open and stand up for what you believe in. Then share this through blogs, events and every conversation. Applying this to the pitch process, Lena felt that when responding to a brief, agencies often hold back as they don’t want to say the wrong thing, but a client will want you to guide them and help them identify what they really want. If you stay true to your beliefs you are more likely to win the right type of clients.
In summary, be brave, stick to your guns and remember that new business should be everyone’s responsibility.
Panel Discussion: how to ensure you are Pitch Perfect
It was then time for a panel discussion hosted by Steve Antoniewicz, Head of Consultancy at the Drum. Steve was joined by Greg Roberts, Head of Business Development at Jellyfish, Julia Fontaine, New Business and Marketing Director at Soul, Pete Gomori, Creative Director at Reading Room, Sasha Rae Russell, Business Development Manager at Banana Kick and Matthew Crissey, Sales Manager at List Partners Inc, to discuss the perfect pitch.
The discussion started by looking at how to prepare for a pitch: Greg highlighted that one of the biggest challenges for agencies is to free up time of the key people who need to be involved. To manage this effectively, Greg shared the process at Jellyfish, where for each pitch they will allocate a pitch lead to facilitate resource internally and a Strategic lead to focus on the pitch story.
Julia agreed that finding people’s time in the process was a key challenge, not just from your team, but the client too. Julia highlighted the importance of building a relationship with the client along the way (pre-pitch), as if you thrown in without having met the client your chances of success are low.
Pete also talked about the importance of getting to know the client and making sure you have done the maximum to understand them. This isn’t only based on your experience of meeting them, but doing your research. Making sure that you (and your team) have read their annual report, watched their videos, looked at their twitter feed. That way you can get a feel for what they are likely to respond to and make sure everyone is looking beyond just saying their bit.
Sasha agreed that it’s all about relationships and discussed the importance of understanding your clients specific requirements and finding ways to bring this to life for them in your pitch. Matthew then took on the conversation to apply this theme in relation to pre-pitch prospecting. Matthew highlighted the importance of using data and intelligence to help you know when and why to reach out to the right person – and using company insight and triggers to inform your approach and ensure relevance.
When it comes to pitching, the conversation moved on to delivery and whether you should practice dramatic theatre. This split opinion and Pete urged people to be themselves – think about how you come across and remember a pitch is not the same as a presentation.
The panel then discussed what happens if you don’t get the result you were hoping for. If you have built a relationship with the prospect you should ask for feedback and try to ensure as open and transparent as possible. Sometimes it can be a good idea for a CEO or Owner to ask a stakeholder for blunt feedback to get past the stock answers of ‘cultural fit’ or ‘close second’. Then try and understand what you could have done better.
If you do mange the perfect pitch and are lucky enough to win the business, also ask for feedback so you understand why.
Thanks to the Drum for a great day and some really useful take outs. Hopefully some of these will help you to perfect your pitch against the other 22,000 agencies out there.