HOW TO WIN THE PITCH? – A LOCAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
HOW TO WIN THE PITCH? – A LOCAL AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
In the creative world, acquiring new clients is not always a rational process, but in fact, a bloody travail for some agencies. Not welcome as it seems, pitching is usually a drain of both intellectual resources and social capital, which does not always result in a long-term partnership between business owners and their creative partners. The juncture is even worse if you are a newly start-up local agency. Despite of the agencies’ passive position, they can still turn the table on clients and change the pitching process to mutual benefits for both parties by utilizing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – an emerging business strategy in client service recently. Focusing on acquiring and maintaining relationship development with customers, CRM contribute to the success of an enterprise by differentiating it from others and “reap the rewards in customer loyalty and long run profitability” (Chen & Popovich 2003).
Figure 1: Provided by the interviewee (2013)
Established in March 2012, DNA Digital – a local start-up agency is a byword for the “David” in advertising industry, which has to fight with many “Goliath” – international firms to “gain a piece of cake” in the market. With 10 years of experiences working in the industry, Mr. Ngo Minh Thuan – the founder of this young but enthusiastic enterprise, has ran a business on his own and won certain achievements thanks to his strategic and creative approach to customers. Now DNA Digital is working with big clients such as Honda, Samsung and P&G, etc.
A research on 1400 B2B customers found that companies completed 60% of their purchasing decision before the pitch actually started (Aspden n.d.). Here, small agencies sometimes play the part of the “pawns”, only being called to complete the pitching process. Hence, the surprising success of DNA Digital makes me wonder about how small agencies can acquire new businesses and maintain trust-based relationship with clients.
Explaining my question, Mr. Thuan shared that it is the trust-based Client – Agency Relationship that not only determines whether agency can win the pitch but also maintain the long term profitability. “Winning the pitch is just the beginning of Client – Agency Relationship”, he adds, “it is the professionalism and quality of your work driving clients’ decisions whether to call you next time or not”.
THE FOOTING OF TRUST
According to Thuan, one of the most difficult challenges DNA Digital has to cope with since the very beginning is how to make clients believe in the internal force and the ability to carry out the creative solution of the agency. He then figured out that the keys to attract new customers are the quality of the pitch, how we deliver the ideas into reality and value adding services to customers. His sharing is relevant with the four factors driving the success of CRM identified by Fam and Waller (2007), which consists of:
- Work product: the creative solution presented in the pitch
- Work patterns: how client and agency work together
- Organizational factors: companies’ policy and structure
- Relationship factors
Figure 2: Reproduce from Chaindelsvire 2013
So quality and professionalism is the key leading to trust-based Client-Agency Relationship?
“Yes, of course. In every project, we tried our best to come up with the most distinctive strategy and idea, and then, at all cost, we had to keep our commitment with clients. Our endeavor has helped us gaining the credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers. The result is, after a few projects, customers started to recommend us with other businesses.”
SOLUTION SELLING AND ENGAGED SELLING
Aspden (2013) defines engaged selling as the new selling approach that requires more thoughtful customer analysis, to have in depth understanding about clients’ objectives, demands and preferences toward a particular business problem. Thuan supported this idea by impressing the importance of researching clients’ background and objectives before the pitch in order to offer more insightful and informative solution. Despite the lack of resources and strategy, DNA Digital once won an international ATL agency in a pitch thanks to the thoughtful client analysis. He strongly believes that many clients value the approach to an idea more than just selling the idea itself. “Seeing how an agency thinks when developing creative solution to real business problems is extremely valuable for a client looking for a long-term relationship”.
Which elements do you think that make up a successful pitch?
“Pitching nowadays, is not just about selling a business solution, but also about how professional and thoughtful we do the service, how we create customer experiences, comfortable or stressful, how we consult them when there is a problem.”
HOW CRM CAN HELP TO WIN THE PITCH?
In the constructive spirit, Mr. Thuan drawed some tips on winning the pitch for local agencies based on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
- 1. Get to know the clients first:
While business partnership and loyalty tend to be more formal and less friendly than normal relationship, the mechanism underlying are the same. The most important factor is mutual understanding. There are many resources that agencies can use to have better understanding about the core business problem and client dynamics before starting the pitch. If you can access to the chemistry, compatibility and values of the meeting with prospective clients, you’re half winning.
- 2. Align the goal and values of agency and clients:
“The most compelling way to influence is to demonstrate that your idea or proposal will help the other person accomplish one of his goals” (Sobel 2009). Brainstorming and thinking in the direction of clients will help the agency to define customer strategy and action plan, determine whether that clients are good fit and, then match business delivery model and values of agency with that prospective clients. “A partnership is only good if expectations on both sides are in alignment” (Fera 2012).
- 3. Keep in mind that pitching is for mutual valuing:
Agencies should balance the time and intellectual resources spent and the potential benefits of winning the pitch. Good clients tend to solicit creative partners as if they’re hiring a key member of their team, not fishing for ideas
Taken by author 2013
Aspden, Leo. “Engage with your customers to boost sales.” Contract Flooring Journal (2012): 43. General OneFile. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.
Chen, I. J., & Popovich, K. (2003). Understanding customer relationship management (CRM): People, process and technology. Business Process Management Journal, 9(5), 672-688
Fam, KS & Waller, D 2008, ‘Agency–client relationship factors across life-cycle stages’, Journal of Relationship Marketing, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 217-236.
Fera, RA 2012, 10 ways to fix the agency pitch process, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.fastcocreate.com/1680035/10-ways-to-fix-the-agency-pitch-process
Kindelspire, A 2013, ‘Online dating your digital agency’, Digital Marketing, 13 February, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.atlargeinc.com/blog/2013/02/13/online-dating-your-digital-agency/
Sobel, A 2009, ‘All for one: 10 strategies for building trusted client partnerships’, John Wiley & Son Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.