5 things every small agency can do to win big business
You’re a small agency and you’ve managed to secure an office visit from a leading global marketer like Procter & Gamble. They’ve arrived. Now it’s time to deliver your credentials presentation and make your pitch.
This is a rare opportunity, and the stakes are high. What happens during the next 90 minutes will go a long way toward determining whether your agency has a shot at landing the account. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of smaller agencies tend to miscalculate in their approach because they do not fully understand what the marketer hopes to learn at the meeting or gain from the pitch.
So, let’s rethink the entire process from the client’s point of view.
First and foremost, everyone involved should understand that large advertisers often look to smaller agencies to fill a void in their creative content (which is probably why the company took the meeting in the first place). Of course, large agencies and holding companies continue to play an indispensable role in managing the multitude of campaigns and brand communication of a global business for companies including P&G.
Yet smaller agencies can provide several unique benefits. The lack of layers for creative development and fewer people means they can be nimble and efficient in responding to the client’s business challenges. Smaller, more specialized firms may also offer a deeper understanding of a particular target audience or advertising medium, because they spend more of their time dealing with it.
But that’s just a starting point. Here are five things that every small agency can (and should) do during their pitch:
1. Make the work the focal point
Marketers primarily want to see the work an agency has produced. The greeting phase should last no more than five to ten minutes. A founder or new business development leader may provide some background on the agency’s mission and culture, but should not waste time trying to impress a potential client with its advertising philosophy, litany of services or views about the complex media landscape.
- Find a simple way to provide your current list of key clients/accounts, so the potential client can see if there are conflicts or similar businesses.
- Make sure a creative director is physically present to provide commentary on the work.
- Be sure to introduce all players in the room.
2. Provide context and results
Marketers want to understand how an agency uses creativity to solve business challenges. Don’t just show a sizzle reel. The client wants to see the full work, not just pieces put to music. Case studies work best.
- When presenting case studies, think “CAR” (context, action, results). Give a brief overview of the marketing challenge for each campaign. Discuss the action that you took. And then share some key results.
- Be sure the work matches the idea. Include a timeline to highlight speed or cost data to highlight efficiency.
- Be prepared to defend your creative choices with a coherent argument that reinforces the client’s belief in both you and your work.
3. Show how your ideas travel
Marketers are looking for the agency’s ability to make an idea travel across mediums. Share at least a handful of case studies to adequately represent the portfolio.
- Showing multiple executions across different mediums is often an effective strategy.
- Do not worry if you don’t have anything specific to the category the company competes in. Marketers will expect to see work that goes well beyond their own category.
- Be sure to highlight the industry awards that your teams have won.
4. Showcase the “smell of the place”
Marketers want to work with people who share their values but who also have a unique and interesting culture. An office tour is an opportunity to convey what makes the agency’s culture distinctive and fun. Take time to highlight décor that tells a story. It could be photos in the break room of a charity event or fun costumes spotted at a holiday party. Perhaps some whimsical design accents were created to warm up the loft space or color was added to break up the black and white cubicles. All of these details convey personality and offer a glimpse into what makes the agency and its people tick.
5. Highlight your superpowers
Marketers want to know your unique capabilities. Identify what makes you different from the agency down the street—these are your “superpowers.” Maybe you have a specialty in a particular medium, like experiential street activations, terrestrial radio or outdoor. Maybe you have a lot of experience with a particular target audience, or have done a lot of work for a particular product category. Perhaps you have been successful launching new brands or reviving old ones. Look for opportunities to consistently reinforce these attributes with the potential client.
In summary, the single most important thing that a small agency can do to impress a big client … is to act like a small agency. It is not necessary to impress us with all of your industry connections and networked resources. We have big agencies for that. Tell us who you are, what you do better than anyone else, and show us the work. You are a small agency. Be proud of that.
Case in point. I arrived a few minutes early at one agency and opened the outside door to find that there was a meeting in progress with another client. The founders quickly ushered me into a little storage closet, where I waited among the boxes of copy paper, a small sink and a copy machine. A few minutes later, they invited me to join them in the only other room in the agency. The founders exclaimed, “Welcome to our world headquarters. This is our conference room, focus group facility and bar.”
I loved it. Their confidence spoke volumes about the agency. And yours will too.