The no pitch, pitch

by | Apr 7, 2020

Meet the ‘no pitch pitch’ – a surprising way of getting client and agency back on track…

I’m writing this blog as last week I read about running virtual pitches (and some of my friends in agency-land are taking part in). I thought, what fresh hell is this? As if the pitch scenario is not tough enough under normal circumstances, this is a whole other level. It’s so impersonal and I imagine requires a whole new playbook that probably hasn’t been written yet.

I’ve been researching for a new online course I’m writing and stumbled across this great website from the IPA/ISBA from a few years ago now. It’s called the Good Pitch, and is a dedicated resource to the pitching process. It’s not clear when it was last updated, but it strikes me in these tough times that the advice there is as good today as any other time.

One of the alternative ways to pitch they suggest is the No Pitch, Pitch. In a nutshell this is a good option if the client believes that their incumbent agency has just ‘gone off the boil’ with their ideas and working practices but there isn’t a fundamental breakdown in the relationship. If there was an all-out pitch the incumbent would definitely be the front runner. They say:

“In a No Pitch Pitch only the incumbent agency is asked to re-pitch for the business, as if it was a brand new potential client.”

“Running the pitch this way allows the client to deliver a fresh brief to the incumbent agency as if it were a new agency relationship, and allows the agency to pitch as though the existing client was a brand new prospect. The agency has the chance to fully change the existing team, showcase new skills and ideas and deliver a new strategic direction or creative approach. This option gives you the opportunity to potentially avoid a full competitive tender or pitch dramatically reducing the time, cost and resource required for a full pitch.”

The IPA suggest that the process for a No Pitch, Pitch goes something like this:

Run a chemistry session with your agency as if they were a new company. Issue the brief, decide on the pitch evaluation criteria, assemble your own in-house team of decision-makers. This allows the agency to showcase other client work, their full capabilities and (which you may not know about or use), change the team completely and demonstrate how the agency has developed over time. Offer a chemistry or check-in session pre-pitch just as you would with a new partner.

They also suggest that the Pitch in a Day (PIAD) method can work really well in this situation as it allows the client to actively participate in the strategic and creative development and really see their agency at work. I know that this is increasing in popularity and I think is a great way to see your agency minds in action. This route sees the client set a typical scenario for the agency – whether it’s a crisis to respond to or a news piggy-backing scenario – and asks the agency to respond in real-time. PIAD can also be run for competitive pitches and can condense the timeframe considerably from the usual pitching scenario.

I don’t know about you but I have been in the ‘gone off the boil’ scenario many times in my previous agency life and am sure I would have appreciated being able to showcase our thinking, and embrace the second chance if it was real (sometimes you know you’re a goner, deservedly or not). I think it’s pretty low risk as if the agency doesn’t rise to the challenge then the client can take any learnings and develop a full pitch list anyway. This way it saves time and resources all round and if the client-agency relationship is already good, then this will no doubt improve it.

The drawn-out, stressful process of pitching on top of the day-to-day client work can sour the relationship as its happening and I think impact the result. None of this takes away from the fact that sometimes of course we can get complacent and need to up our game, but the no pitch, pitch seems a good first-line, creative approach to pitching if you want to save everyone a lot of additional work and stress at this already difficult time. Of course there’s still the virtual element to grapple with but it’s got to be worth a try!

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