Navigating New Business: Tips for the Pitch Process

As an ever-growing agency, we know the importance of developing new business.

Navigating New Business: Tips for the Pitch Process

Posted Tuesday August 25th, 2015 by in Analysis + Strategy.

As an ever-growing agency, we know the importance of developing new business. We also understand that giving a pitch is daunting, especially if you are a small agency and new to the game. Recently, Advertising Age held a Small Agency Conference in Boston where a panel of industry experts lent their advice on navigating the sea of new business. If you are a small business, we strongly suggest adopting this advice to help grow your company and client list. In fact, if you are a large, established business, these pointers on the pitch process can help you, too. Need proof? Look at us . While we have come a long way since our humble beginnings in 2008, we still adhere to these practices and know that they no doubt continue to play a large part in our success.

It’s not a race, it’s a marathon: This may sound cliche, but it’s the truth. A lot of companies, eager to gain new clients, hope to win them over in the first meeting. Don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t happen. It rarely does. The client-agency relationship takes time and effort to cultivate. Your pitch is just the first step in an effective partnership. Co-President of AAR Partners , Lisa Colantuono says, “The most important thing to think about is getting invited to the next meeting.”

Leave the ego at the door: You know you are good, but this meeting isn’t all about you. Plus, no one wants to hear the boilerplate speech they can read on your website. Of course, there are certain times to talk about your company in a meeting, but your main priority should be to learn about the client. Ask about their company mission statement, their short- and long-term goals, and what they are looking for in an advertising agency. In other words, find out what you can do for them. As RSW/US Owner and President Mark Sneider says, “It’s better to come in with smart questions and begin creating a bridge.”

No need for glitz and glam: Be yourself from the start and you’ll find that clients will gravitate more toward that than a fabricated version of your company. You want to know who you are working with and so do they. On top of that, be prepared, personable, attentive, and confident (but not overly so). In other words, rely on making a connection, not just your slideshow presentation. The Partner/Product Manager of Work & Co , Gene Libel said, “What I learned is that you don’t need 100 slides to tell your story.”

A little goes a long way: Sometimes, the smallest details make the largest impacts on potential new clients. When you have meetings with a client, don’t just bring the big dogs, make sure to bring someone that will be personally working on the account. This shows that your team is accessible and adds a personal touch to the pitch. After meetings, something simple like a hand-written thank you note can mean the difference between the client choosing you over your competition. Never underestimate common courtesy.

Give it to me straight: Determining a plan of action for your client relies on the budget they give you. That being said, this is not a subject you should avoid during your meetings, because it’s something that will determine the scope of your work. It is also something you need to know before proceeding with your proposal. 72andSunny Business Development Head Rebekah Jefferis says, “It shouldn’t be awkward; it should be a direct question. If they don’t want to talk about the budget, it’s not going to be a good fit.”

Great things come in small packages: If you’re a small agency, so what? It certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t compete with the industry “giants.” If anything, they should be afraid of you. Companies are now looking to smaller agencies to get the work done. They find that within smaller agencies there is more flexibility, and they can get much closer to the senior staff and creative team to get the results they desire. Once again, Lisa Colantuono lends her advice with these encouraging words, “I wouldn’t consider yourself a small agency, I’d consider yourself a little giant with agility.”

Everyone has to start somewhere, and all big businesses started off small – even huge companies like Apple and Google. A company’s growth is reliant on the choices made, the work produced, and level of determination. By using the advice and guidance handed down from industry veterans, small businesses can navigate new business with ease. Trust us: having grown GEM to three offices in two countries, we’re always refining the art of the pitch !


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