By Andreas Keller
As the summer holidays come to an end and the business community returns to town, get ready for a flurry of new business PR briefs to hit the market. Sorting through which opportunities to go after and how to win the ones you prioritize can be challenging. After over 10 years of pitching in the Middle East, here are my top tips to ensure that you don’t waste your time and win the opportunities you are truly interested in.
Before even accepting to participate in what might be a lengthy pitch process that will cost you lots of time and energy, make sure that it’s the right fit for your agency. To have a good chance of winning the business you should be familiar with the brand’s business, industry, and have the right team to service the account. Try and find out which other agencies are pitching and if they are similar agencies to yours. Do some research on the company who sent the RFP. Do they have a track record in the market or a history of working with agencies? If the brief is well written and comprehensive, this is usually an indication that they have experience running pitches.
Most of the time you won’t get all the information you need in an RFP to put a comprehensive presentation together. It’s important to really spend some time taking the brief apart by asking the right questions. Set up a meeting to establish rapport and ask pertinent questions that will help you get a clear picture of the company’s needs and challenges. Ninety percent of the briefs are usually incomplete in term of the information they provide, so in order to truly stand out, you will need to go beyond the brief in your thinking.
Give yourself enough time to do a brand equity analysis so you fully understand the company. Getting media feedback is standard when doing research however you now need to extend this to include influencers, industry experts and other key community stakeholders. Your research should culminate into one or two key insights. It’s always better to present one or two great ideas that you believe in wholeheartedly (and that are supported by good data) instead of a collection of scattered ones with the hope one will stick. Remember that your concept and idea should be superior to the channels that are used.
Research has shown that the number one reason agencies win accounts is usually down to team chemistry. If the team you bring on the day lacks cohesion and chemistry, the client will see this. Too often agencies will bring a massive team to a pitch to demonstrate strength in numbers when the truth is that only a few will end up working on the account. If you are a smaller team you become more memorable and can enjoy a more intimate dialogue. Try and find out who the key decision makers are, who else will be in the room and what their responsibilities are. Once you know this, it will help ensure that your presentation speaks to everyone in the room.
Today’s agency environment is ultra-competitive. Most agency presentations will look and feel the same. Think of what you can do that will separate you from your competitors. Producing a video and investing in design today is not enough. Figure out how you can add an emotionally compelling aspect to your presentation which can elevate the content and make your pitch even more memorable.
Deciding how to price the budget is always tricky. With increasing pressures on budgets, it’s better to be conservative with the financials you submit so that you are in pole position during the final stages of evaluations. With the growing importance procurement departments play in determining the budgets for clients, you need to agree on a fee that works for both of you. Be aware of your overheads and what margin you are happy to operate with. You should know when you are losing money. If you are unable to agree on a budget that works for you, maybe it’s best to walk away.
Andreas is the Managing Partner of Leidar in the Middle East, a global boutique agency that helps leaders find their North Star. Opinions expressed in this piece belongs to the author.