The principals dominate the meeting
Clients want to see and talk to the people that will actually work on their business, day-in and day-out. If you are a small shop and expect that the agency president will play a prominent role in servicing the account, then it's OK for the president to play a leading role in a pitch. But when that isn't the case, have the people that will actually be working on an assignment lead the pitch.
While it is possible that these individuals won't be quite as polished as principals with decades of presenting experience, most clients tire of agency formality rather quickly and would rather hear from those who will actually be stewarding an account. The passion and engagement of those individuals will count a lot more than their presentation choreography.
You don't understand the fundamentals of their business
When you boil it down, there are really only three types of marketing challenges out there -- awareness, trial, and repeat purchase. Start first by understanding which need is most urgent for the prospect's business. Then ensure that your past work for other clients that relates to that sort of business challenge features prominently in your presentation.
Then consider category -- the dynamics of the bubble gum trade are rather different from those of luxury automobiles. Think through those business challenges before you start brainstorming ideas. Virtually any organization can come up with hundreds of ads or product ideas in a world without business rule constraints. The right agency views those constraints as a springboard for their unique and powerful new thinking.
I'm not suggesting that you need to approach their challenges in a strait-jacket but rather that you filter your ideas through a workability lens.
Once I helped a candy company with their agency search. One agency came in and pitched an effort that centered around new 3D labeling technology that would certainly have added a great deal of impact at shelf. But the cost of such labels -- 3-5 cents per bar, ate up fully half of the company's gross margin on the item. Taking the product cost of an item from 22 cents to 27 cents is both "just a nickel" and "a whopping 27 percent increase." A few moments spent with an improvised Excel spreadsheet might have mitigated that agency's rapid elimination from the pitch group.
None of this is all that earth shattering. But you would be amazed at how many agencies forget or ignore these fundamentals. As you pursue your next new assignment, make sure you make the effort to "show" your remarkable nature. You won't win everything, but I think you'll see an increase in your hit rate.
Further, by showcasing what is special and unique about your firm and its people, you will win accounts that are truly a better fit for your organization. And that's of vital importance because their fit with you and your shop is just as important as your fit with them.
Jim Nichols is vice president of branding at ROI DNA.
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"3 monkeys" image via Shuttertock.