5 ways to differentiate your agency’s pitch

A critical element of success for all agencies is winning new, high-quality clients. It’s a reputation-builder and typically leads to more growth. And it all starts with one thing: an exceptional pitch.

When crafting a pitch, remember the Golden Rule: Pitch the way you would want to be pitched. If you were an in-house marketer, you would want to know that agency’s approach is rooted in data, evidence they did their homework on both you and your competitors, and a fresh, authentic message.

In a recent survey by my company, Vennli, an Indiana-based data insights platform, agency professionals and in-house marketers identified the following elements of an effective pitch.

1. Data wins projects

When asked about the biggest mistakes an agency can make when pitching, “not showing how they plan to back up their claims to increase revenue,” was No. 1.

The survey also found that 70 percent of marketers expect primary research in pitches, and 75 percent of agencies said they conduct primary research. Why? Because an in-house marketer expects from an agency what their management team expects from them: proof that marketing efforts have a return on investment.

2. Play the long game

As stress and pressure mounts, it becomes easy for agencies to focus on short-term projects and push long-term plans to the back burner. But consider this: 40 percent of marketers reported putting their business up for review every one to two years, and 47 percent reported that the typical length of their relationship with an agency is between two to four years.

Of course, focusing on the long term is easier said than done. But agencies should approach every project as the beginning of a long-term relationship. Not only does this save time in the long run, it eliminates the need to re-develop strategy on the fly.

3. Be a consultant, not an advertiser

In-house marketers reach out to agencies because they have a specific problem that needs to be solved. They don’t want to be sold to; they want a solution.

An agency should serve as a subject matter expert that consults with the marketer and can pivot as necessary, bringing their market expertise with them. Forty-nine percent of marketers said the ability to “be flexible and redirect efforts if we need to change direction” is among the top three characteristics they seek in an agency.

Bottom line: An agency is more than a megaphone for their client’s messaging. They’re a consultant, willing and able to use their expertise in order to solve problems at every turn.

4. To know the client, know the market

It might seem obvious, but it’s essential to research the client’s competition. According to survey respondents, 82 perfect of marketers expect agencies to conduct primary research on their competitors as an element of the pitch; however, only 56 percent of agencies claimed to conduct such research.

Sixty perfect of agencies with win rates above 50 percent said they always conduct competitor research. On the contrary, of the agencies with win rates below 40 perfect, only 44 percent reported always conducting competitor research. Remember, an in-house marketer’s needs are a reflection of the competition.

5. If the client is important to you, be important to the client

Few things make customers feel less like an individual and more like a sales lead than a copy-and-paste email campaign, and the same is true for a copy-and-paste pitch presentation. One of the best things an agency can do to differentiate itself from the competition is to take the time to produce a unique, thoughtful pitch for every potential client.

Thirty-six percent of agencies said that they’re always re-thinking the client’s entire strategy when developing a pitch. However, only seven percent of marketers reported seeing this happen in all pitches, and 59 percent report seeing it only some of the time. No in-house marketer wants to award an agency their business if the project doesn’t feel important to the agency.

At the end of the day, when pitching to a full-time marketing professional, it’s unlikely an agency will employ a sales tactic that no one has ever seen before. However, with data insights, authenticity, and a creative outlook, an agency can successfully differentiate their pitch from the rest of the pack.

Written by Mary Claire Mandeville for CW Magazine.