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Calling time on speculative pitches

When it comes to generating new business, free speculative pitches can be a complete gamble for both agencies and clients. For agencies it’s reckoned that a pitch for a mid-sized brief would cost around £10k in creative time alone. For clients, the gamble is you invest your valuable time and resource but still might not find your perfect agency.

Respected agency industry bodies; Recommended Agency Register (RAR), Design Business Association (DBA), Industry of Practitioners of Advertising (IPA), Direct Marketing Association, to name a few, have been tirelessly lobbying to improve the pitching processes in order to stamp out the practice of speculative free pitching and encourage clients to think of other ways to recruit their next agency.

John Scarrott, membership director of the DBA quite rightly believes that it’s equally in the hands of agencies and clients to cut out free speculative work. He said:

Free creative as a basis for selecting an agency is a lottery to which both parties buy a ticket. And it’s tempting for agencies to demonstrate they can solve the problem by actually solving it.

As with any ‘punt’, there is always a chance of a win for both sides, but the stakes are actually higher for the client than they are for the agency. For the client, if they’re serious about their brand, making the wrong choice of agency can be costly. When it comes to selecting who you’re going to trust with your brand, why would you flip a coin to make the choice? There’s always another way to demonstrate an agency’s worth than offering free creative, there’s plenty.

So what are the alternatives? Here’s couple of suggestions to finding the right agency for you.

Referral Services

For clients sizing up their next agency, we’d recommend referral services offered by the likes of the DBA and RAR. These resources provide a wealth of information on member agencies, from the basics like sector expertise and contact details, to case studies and in-depth information on the financial history, company structure and policies within their business. Plus, they independently and anonymously source client testimonials. In the case of RAR, these testimonials are used to rank an agency – we’re proud to be in the Top 100 RAR list, rated against 6,000 agencies.

The Collaborative Pitch

As relationships are people-based, ensuring the chemistry between agency and client is right, really will get the best out of a brief. We’ve found a successful and alternative route to speculative free pitching that works brilliantly for us is a collaborative approach. A collaborative approach kicks off with a brief or invitation to meet with a prospective client. We’ll then meet face-to-face to present our credentials, discuss the brief and budget in more detail covering our approach to answering the brief – sometimes we might even have alternative suggestions to gain ROI.

This collaborative approach shines through in the work we do. It also helps to forge the very best working relationships with clients as the dynamics of the team, understanding working processes and the creative and strategic approach are quickly established.

Hopefully this offers some food for thought when you’re next looking for a new agency. The IPA The Good Pitch is a step-by-step guide to creating a more efficient pitch process for both clients and agencies.