Is the marketing agency pitch process outdated?
Whether you love or hate the agency pitch process it still seems to be the best way for brands to establish the credentials and creative solutions offered by a potential agency partner. It encourages new ideas, allows agencies to think differently and promotes price competitiveness within the industry. However, is there a better solution without taking a slight leap of faith?
A Creativebrief survey reported by Campaign Live revealed that 61% of brands and 93% of agencies wanted to see change in the traditional pitch process. The data goes on to say that less than half of brands (44%) believe the pitch process doesn’t offer a true sense of what working with an agency will actually be like.
The pitch process usually consists of lengthy RFPs, chemistry meetings, several rounds of pitches including various tasks across multiple disciplines and several days (plus some nights) of pulling together pitch slides, refining and editing several iterations before settling on a final version to take to the client. All of which drains resource from both agency and brand teams in terms of time and money.
In the end, the work is usually given to an agency with a pre-existing working or personal relationship with the brand or head of the pitch process. Failing that, the agency with the most competitive price is selected and that doesn’t always reflect value for either party, often leaving agencies on the commercial backfoot.
At Summit, we believe there is a better way of proving the worth of an agency to a prospective brand, that both saves time and allows brands to put a monetary value on their investment before making a long-term contractual commitment. Especially when it comes to Marketing Technology tools that can be plugged into existing activity using a brands own data, either on its own or against an incumbent provider.
Should we be doing more head-to-head trials?
Head-to-head trials are hardly a new idea, but they are rarely adopted as part of a new business pitch. When testing technology, head-to-head trials have some key benefits. Mainly, they allow agencies to back up the claims that they are making within their credentials and case studies. This allows brands to see how the technology works for their brand specifically as opposed to looking over the results of a case study of someone in a loosely similar vertical who has tested the tool previously.
Summit recently completed a head-to-head trial using its marketing intelligence platform, Forecaster, against one of the market leaders and incumbent technology providers for La Redoute, winning comprehensively. Doing a free head-to-head trial helped reduced several risks for La Redoute when it came to switching from one provider to another. La Redoute were also allowed to see how the technology performed against their existing provider as well as test the interface extensively and get to know the team at Summit to understand whether this would be a better fit for their business in terms of driving performance and receiving additional account support.
The success criteria of a 6% increase in revenue from the same budget as well as the length of the trial was agreed in advance, allowing Summit to define a clear end point and timeframes for a full launch should Forecaster achieve the agreed results and KPIs. The result: Forecaster was able to drive more revenue for 12% less spend against the competition. A win-win for both La Redoute and Summit that saved significant time and resource on both sides.
Multi-million-pound decisions are being made without understanding performance benefits
There is no guarantee that the result of a pitch process and a new agency will deliver a better outcome or improved performance. If brands are in a position to do a head-to-head trial with a new provider, why wouldn’t brands want to test and understand whether there was something better out there to what they currently have? Brands can then start to put a monetary value against their investment, allowing brands to calculate potential returns before any contracts are signed.
Don’t be seduced by the agency that rolls out its big guns for the big pitch day before they retreat into the confines of their agency tower never to be seen again until there is a problem on one of the accounts. Go with a provider that isn’t afraid to back their claims with proven data up front and allow you to dip your toe before taking the plunge and parting with investment that could have significant repercussions on how your digital marketing activity performs.