To pitch or not to pitch

Mark JonesWe recently had a pitch day at Workhouse. A big Lancashire company gave us, and five other agencies, a brief and one week to present ideas and rationale for a big new website for them.

It was great to be invited as we’ve wanted to be involved with that particular client for some time now. The pitch, however, was unpaid.

We put a team of three people on it, spent three long days and nights on the pitch, and delivered our wares to the best of our ability in time for the deadline.

The feedback from our team was that it had gone very well, there were a few things we could have done a bit better, but overall they did the agency proud.

What made this pitch stand out, though, was that we had to present to ten senior executives, some of whom had flown in for the meeting.

Does it really take this many people to choose a website and a website supplier? Does anybody know how many cooks it takes to spoil the broth? How many is too many?

Ten people, six presentations of at least an hour makes 60 hours of management time, plus airline and accommodation expenses!

And a committee of ten is likely to choose the safest and blandest solution, while the original, different and groundbreaking idea might be overlooked.

The question is, though, should we pitch in these circumstances or not?

We don’t have to. A six to one chance of winning isn’t brilliant odds, but as the lottery says you’ve got to be in it to win it and if we don’t pitch we have absolutely zero chance of winning. If we turn the pitch offer down, it is highly unlikely that we’ll ever work with that client ever again.

There are agencies who refuse to undertake pitches without being paid for them, but if the client doesn’t want to pay, the chances of working for them in the future are also slim.

I think it’s a necessary evil in our business even though I think we must be the only industry in the world where six agencies provide the client with the full solution to their problem for free.

Pitching is quite time consuming and costly for the agencies involved.

There’s the research, the understanding of the issues, the strategic solution, the creative solution, the presentation costs, and as we want to do a thorough and professional job, a lot of brainpower.

Multiply that by six, and a lot of good agency people have been tied up when they could have been applying their skills to their existing clients’ businesses.

But this is the business we’re in and it is the business we love, and if we have to pitch to progress then pitch we shall. The high of winning is still one of the best feelings in business, and with odds of six to one, why not have a go?

We’ve got the same odds as Olly winning X Factor, or Blackburn knocking Chelsea out of the cup tonight…

Mark Jones, managing director, Workhouse Marketing.