Challenge your agency's strategic and creative approach.
We have all seen this before… the agency puts on a detailed 2-hour presentation that covers every point requested in the RFP, but during the entire presentation there are only nods and smiles. No dialogue…”only crickets”… as some of my colleagues like to say.
Brand managers, please don't just sit and listen during a pitch. Engage.
In general, there are 2 ways to interact during a pitch:
1. You could remain silent, smile politely, show no emotion, and thank the presenters for their effort. The problem with the quiet client is that any unclear points remain unclear. Then the interpretation is up to what people “thought the agency meant,” rather than asking them to defend or explain what they really DID mean.
2. When you engage often, and probe as to why certain routes are taken, you will learn a great deal about the personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of the agency.
A pitch is just as much about building a relationship through chemistry as it is about getting it right strategically or creatively. Yes, every agency wants to nail the strategy and provide creative executions that provide you with the unforgettable image and memorable message your brand must communicate to be successful.
Often though, the agency strategy isn't perfect—how could it be— the agency might only have had 3 weeks to work on your pitch when you've been immersed in the brand for the last 3 years.
Be vocal and interact
Spend at least 10 minutes learning what the agency really knows by challenging their rationale.
Have the presenters defend their insights, positioning, and creative. Chances are, you will learn more in those few minutes about the agency's ability to be your partner. This give and take will help you determine whether they can do battle in the marketplace for your brand.
Don't waste the opportunity during the pitch process to learn how much an agency knows about the challenges facing your brand. Learn how they think, how deep they understand the challenges of your marketplace, and whether their creative exploration is strongly based on the strategy so carefully articulated.
Be clear on all points presented during the pitch.
That requires you to engage, not just sit there nodding your head.
Ask questions, get answers.
Make it happen during the pitch.