It's dangerous to play it safe when pitching to existing healthcare clients

Pitching to existing clients can offer up a dilemma for agencies; whether it's pitching to keep a client, for organic growth or putting together plans for a new budget cycle, agency leads can find themselves second guessing what the real ask is - sometimes contrary to the brief.

Don't 'phone it in' for a client repitch, argues Matthew Coy. You might as well save yourself the time
Don't 'phone it in' for a client repitch, argues Matthew Coy. You might as well save yourself the time
Accumulated knowledge of the client, the company and the culture can become your worst enemy. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of putting together a plan of work that the client is most likely to buy instead of interrogating and responding to the brief objectively. 

Particularly in the healthcare space when clients can be traditionally more conservative, if it’s felt something is unlikely to get signed off, agencies can shy away from proposing ideas that are strategically and creatively bold that will excite them and their client.

Why should repitches and proposals for a new programme of work not receive the same time, diligence and energy as first-time pitches? 

They should, but sometimes, they don’t. 

You think you know what the client really wants and so you choose a safer route, wrongly thinking that a more pragmatic path of least resistance is the fast-track to a project sign-off, especially with a risk averse pharma client. 

But how do you deliver pragmatism with passion and excitement? With great difficulty. 

And in a situation where you’re against new agencies fresh in the door, you’re going to stand out and not in a good way. 

As the incumbent agency with the inside track you can run the risk of looking uninspired.

Hands up, who has ever pitched a programme for anything that was signed off and delivered unchanged, in full? It hardly ever happens. 

Therefore, going in with something safe can actually be pretty dangerous. Unless you’ve successfully read the client's mind and nailed what they want exactly, you’ve left yourself with nowhere to go. 

If you’re going to ‘phone it in’, the chances are you aren’t going to win, so why not save yourself the time and focus on projects that will bring out the best in the team?

Matthew Coy, director at Portland


It’s infinitely preferable to be asked to rein in an idea to make it more practical than it is to be told your plan lacks ambition and inspiration.   

There are other factors that lead agencies down the dangerous path of playing it safe. 

A breakdown in the agency-client relationship, a tip-off that the client is looking for a change of scene, or changing agency priorities and conflict can all result in an agency putting less than 100 per cent into the process.

But if you’re not going to give it your best shot, why are you pitching for it at all? Despite the obvious answer of "fees are fees"?

Avoid the safety trap. Decide whether it’s really for you. If you can’t muster the energy to put your best creative efforts into the process, is it a piece of business that you want? 

There’s a reason a lot of agencies have a strict no-repitch policy. 

If you’re going to ‘phone it in’, the chances are you aren’t going to win, so why not save yourself the time and focus on projects that will bring out the best in the team? 

If you are going to go for it, then go for it.

Existing client knowledge should be a weapon, not an obstacle. Take what you know about them; what they like and what they don’t as a starting point to push their boundaries, as well as your own.

Matthew Coy is a director at Portland

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