For someone who is not with an agency any more, I have been part of a surprising number of pitches this last month as part of the client team. Honestly, I’m only part of the meetings, because amidst all the uncertainty, clients want at least one familiar and neutral voice. The initial paralysis of the pandemic is wearing off and now businesses must grapple with a ‘nobody-knows-what-lies ahead’ reality.
There is one thing that all businesses seem to have in common – they don’t believe that what got them here, will continue to serve their best interests. Even the most optimistic acknowledge that some things have changed forever and may require new thinking or even new creative partners.
You’re On Mute
Pitching remotely is a nightmare. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to do it. Making a good impression has much to do with the intangibles – understanding the power dynamics in the room, reading body language or forging a connection via a shared laugh. Most of these are very hard to do over a screen. However, there is certainly a list of Dos and Don’ts that could make or mar your pitch. I’ve tried to put together a list based on my experience these last few weeks, and I hope you find it useful.
Do: Link your offering to business benefits, both short and long term
I’ll go out on a limb here. No matter how they articulate the problem statement, most clients are thinking first, about the next year or so, and then about the longer term. In one pitch, after a perfectly decent start, a large agency sent in a proposal that talked only of a post-Covid world where all would be exactly the same as before. No one can know what that world will be. Better to talk of what your services can accomplish in the current scenario and present a hypothesis about future ones.
Do: Factor in trends created by the pandemic
While working on your pitch, ask yourself what current trends do you need to factor in? If your pitch looks exactly the same as it did pre-Covid, then you are doing something wrong. The whole world is spending significantly more time online – which industry is not impacted by this fact? Your creative services don’t have to be digital, but they cannot disregard this shift.
Do: Have consensus on a written brief before you pitch
This is important because client teams themselves are still figuring out things. Circumstances are changing rapidly and much can happen between the briefing call you had two weeks ago and the pitch you are presenting now. For example, a chain of retail stores would never have listed Amazon as a competitor pre-Covid, but given the importance of online revenue, the e-commerce giant is now part of their competitive landscape. Creating a written brief forces people to think more clearly. If you don’t want to increase friction for the client, write up the brief yourself after a call and get the client to sign off.
Do: A dry run
Typically, different people will work on different parts of the pitch. Unlike the office environment, where you are looking over each other’s shoulders, you do not know how merged files will look and behave online. Weak WiFi can cause long buffering periods for videos. (Send links to videos in advance to clients, so they have it with them during your presentation.) A dry run is important to iron out the glitches and make sure everything works as it should.
Don’t: Introduce every single person on your team on the call
This my pet peeve. You cannot use the same process that you would in a physical meeting. A winning team thoughtfully mailed in their team photos, names and short bios before the call and requested that the client do the same. It was such a huge relief to be able to say “Good morning everyone” and dive right in. No one wants to spend one extra minute on a conference call.