The RFP comes in, and after a moment's celebration, panic sets in. In this challenging economic environment, every account team is stretched to the max with billable business. Who will have the time it takes to pull together a winning pitch?
The answer, in a nutshell, is that every pitch team needs adequate support behind it. Executives who bear the primary responsibility for serving existing clients day-in and day-out are often required to drop everything to not only provide creative and strategy, but scramble for the resources needed to pull off a first-rate pitch. In fact, there is often a direct correlation between the level and quality of support the agency provides with the presentation quality and ultimate win rate. Conversely, the overworked account team that's now been transformed into a pitch team left to fend for itself might not only do a less-than-stellar job, but emerge from what should be an exhilarating process burned out and resentful.
Before the recession, some smart, strategic firms fielded dedicated pitch teams. There was an obvious benefit to this approach: a crack team stood at the ready at a moment's notice to not only provide the research and direction, but to handle many of the time-consuming aspects of the pitching process. Materials created and intelligence earned were both carried forward from one pitch to the next, with no waste or duplication of effort.
While there could be a potential downside if the real day-to-day team the client always wants to meet wasn't integrated into the mix, the potential for an increased win rate was real.
While flush times may be a thing of the past, at a minimum, the agency pitch team should be provided with access to behind-the-scenes staff whose support for pitches is an integral part of their job and who receive commensurate value for time committed to supporting pitches as they do for billable hours. Preferably, the support staff should consist of individuals experienced and knowledgeable about the pitching process, so that the pitch team does not need to constantly recreate the wheel. Support staff members could include:
1. An experienced visual support professional who is up on the latest visual trends and software and has access to the resources needed for quick turnarounds. Preferably, this person will be knowledgeable about what the graphics and video-production teams have produced in the past, adapting existing pitch materials when appropriate to meet the current demand.
2. A top-notch researcher or research component.
3. An administrator whose responsibility it is to maintain and use a central repository of materials and best practices that can be easily accessed by pitch teams. Materials will include a statement about the agency, biographies, areas of expertise, and services provided.
4. A keeper of the pitch process road map; a clear, concise checklist of the pitching process, from brainstorming and creative through the development of presentation materials and rehearsal of the pitch team.
Provide your pitch teams with adequate support and not only will you be putting your agency's best food forward every time, but your executives will be more effective and efficient. They will also be a whole lot happier when they are given the good news that they have been tapped to lead the charge.
Dan Orsborn, CEO of Orsborn Partners, has spent most of the last decade leading PR agency searches for major marketers. His column will tap into his expertise, from both sides of the equation, on the agency-search process. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.