By NBZ Partner Co-founders Simone Oppenheimer Mandel and Rachel Segall
Let’s face it: it’s a tough moment for agencies. Marketing budgets are shrinking, talent is harder to find, and the pressure to keep existing clients happy is mounting.
With agencies focused on survival, turning down new business seems like the last thing anyone wants to do. As a growth partner in the marketing industry, we’re here to tell you that it’s not about turning down opportunities. It’s about choosing the right opportunities.
Relationship rigor is taking the qualities that make your strongest relationships and using them to win new ones.
You can systematically build new ones aligned with your strengths and goals by standardizing insights around your most successful partnerships. Here are three fundamental questions to get you pitching with relationship rigor in 2023.
DO WE WANT IT?
This is the first question you should ask with a new opportunity before you answer with a resounding YES! Consider if the opportunity aligns with your agency’s wants and needs.
Rule 1: Get clear on the opportunity.
Summarize the information you need to decide and create an intake sheet to capture your client’s input. Understanding your client’s business outlook, project objectives, budget, and timeline are crucial to know if you’re a good fit. If your client can’t give you a clear brief or budget, don’t be afraid to push them or walk away.
Rule 2: Your growth plan is your guide.
Align your agency’s goals for growth, from revenue to new hires to agency-of-record relationships. Then consider the types of partnerships that will get you there. Knowing your criteria makes it easier to evaluate an RFP.
Rule 3: Keep it about the agency.
Let those criteria guide you, so your team is focused on what’s best for your agency.
CAN WE WIN IT?
You know you want the business. Can you win it? You must know when you perform your best and if that aligns with your client’s wants.
By interrogating your client on their process, expectations, and cultural landscape, you’ll be able to evaluate if you have the team and the skill set to win.
Rule 1: Ask the hard questions.
You need to give your agency the best shot at winning. Understanding the following will help position your team for success:
Criteria. Know your client’s evaluation criteria.
Participants. Ask which agencies or types of agencies are participating so you can differentiate yourself.
Expectations. Know your client’s baseline expectations so you can work to surpass them.
Working style. Know your client’s way of understanding their culture and personality.
You factor. Know how well your client knows you to understand why you were invited in the first place.
Rule 2: Communicate openly.
The more you communicate with your client, the more you understand their needs. Explore if they’re open to multiple touchpoints between the brief and the pitch.
If they don’t give you access, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Rule 3: Never pitch without a winning team.
Don’t waste time, money, and resources on a pitch unless you have you’re A-team.
HOW DO WE WIN IT?
You need a pitch brief that drives and inspires your team. Relationship rigor is vital to ensuring your brief plays to your strengths, highlights your differentiators, and exceeds your client’s expectations.
Rule 1: Be yourself.
Outline your client’s priorities, the unique value you bring, and why you want the business.
Rule 2: Adopt a winning mindset.
If you do win, what will they say blew them away? Thinking through your winning qualities will reinforce them with your team.
Rule 3: Your pitch charter is your bible.
You need a set of agency commandments. They’ll come in handy when your team needs a fresh dose of inspiration. Charters vary by agency, but 30 years in the business have revealed a few particularly effective rules to live by:
- Do it right or not at all. The moment someone else wants it more, you lose.
- Arm your team. Leaders get pulled in many directions. Appoint a team member to drive the work.
- Make it a story. Ensure you’re presenting a single narrative, not individual pitch sections.
- Pitching is a skill. If something works, deconstruct it and do it again. If it doesn’t, ditch it.
- Never walk in cold. Do your research. Show the client you get them. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
- Ready? Set. Pitch!