Failed Pitch Research


Waiting for the pitch result

Waiting for the pitch result

I did the interview, rushed to the airport, caught the plane, and ran a digital marketing workshop in Istanbul for the EACA on 24 March. It won’t make me a millionaire, but I enjoyed it. The course attendees were great. They were four or five years into their career, and were completely comfortable with the tools, applications and analytics.

We spent time looking at how social networking had helped to topple the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. I thought this might be a tricky moment, but they were very interested.

What was tricky was their atitude to their bosses.

“Why don’t we have digital integrated in our agency?”

“Why don’t our bosses get it? And why don’t our clients?”

Well, they’re not alone. It’s a bit like this here in the UK.

There are other problems, too. From time to time, I get asked to conduct failed pitch research. I’ve recently done this for an email marketing company and a very long established building contractor, both in Oxford. I’ve done it for a computer and IT company, for a large digital marketing agency, and for many others.

Curiously, the potential clients all wanted to talk. They were all helpful and regretful in equal measure. They wanted the failed agency or contractor to do well, and hated having to say no.

I left Heathrow on a Turkish Airlines A330, wondering what I was going to do about the latest piece of research into a failed new business pitch.

The client had hired a procurement consultant, whom I knew but not particularly well.  The lady very kindly agreed to talk to me about why my client had not won the pitch. Here are the bullet points:

  • The client had an internally generated list of twelve quality online fashion photography companies. My client became the thirteenth when a person from the client’s IT department strongly recommended them
  • My client did very well at RFI (request for information) and RFP (request for proposal) stages, but got washed out at the pitch
  • The pitch is not over yet

What happened?

My client, the pitching agency, thought that the pitch was the key event.

The client saw the whole thing as a procurement process. The process had at least four key stages, and they were RFI, RFP, initial pitch, and final pitch. This meant the agency had four key opportunities to make its case. So, the first pitch represented, at best, just 25% of my client’s opportunity to shine.

As it was, the pitch was not the final pitch. It was merely designed to reduce the number to three for the final pitch.

I was particularly interested by the scoring system. This is specifically designed to take all the emotion out of the potential clients’ decision. What they want are measurable facts. “Can you execute the brief? We know you can buy us drinks, and tell jokes, but can you deliver?”

This little piece of research did make clear to me that the 1980s have gone. This is a much less forgiving business environment, with boozy lunches now a fireable offence, so you need to listen to your client and to any procurement consultants very, very carefully.

And never, ever, make the mistake of thinking you know it all.

You don’t. And neither do I.