Opinion

Agencies need to learn to market themselves during the pitch process

Marketing trainer and coach John Scarrott takes a look at what agencies typically pay attention to during the pitch process, and how it might be steering them in the wrong direction.

When it comes to marketing themselves, to clients or the wider world, agencies are not as good at selling themselves as they are at producing the work for their clients – but they can be.

By seeing their creative output as the tip of the iceberg and spending more time on what’s beneath the surface, agencies can become as good at selling as they are at doing the work.

The following are some of the biggest stumbling blocks for agencies who are prone to selling themselves short while attempting to attract new clients.

Treating the process of ‘selling themselves’ as synonymous with ‘producing work for their clients.’

Agencies often over-commit themselves during the pitch process (sometimes to the point of doing the work), in order to be in the running to win the work.

Treating ‘selling’ and ‘producing’ as two different things creates the time and space for agencies to focus on what really matters when it comes to selling.

Over focussing on the end product creative work or the process.

During a pitch process, an agency will talk about the aspects of the work and the method they’re interested in, instead of what their client is interested in. They often become overly focussed on the creative solution or on the process they used to get there.

But what is important to the client? And how best to help them get to their answer?

Clients see most agencies as equally capable creatively. What clients are really interested in is the agency’s point of view, their capability, and their ability to explain clearly without jargon how they would work with them.

Not pausing to ask: “What do we, as an agency, think?”

A client will want to know an agency’s point of view on their industry. The risk here is that the agency spends so much time preparing creative, that they simply don’t have time to curate their thinking.

By pausing to think, an agency prepares themselves for a conversation, a two-way dialogue. This is what happens at the first meeting. If you’re not clear on what you think, then you can’t ask questions or listen well.

Not discussing the agency’s expertise.

By and large, the businesses doing the buying are bigger than the agency doing the selling. Agencies need to shrug off any inferiority complex and show their expertise. They need to learn to foster opinions about what works and what doesn’t and why, and be able to articulate them to their big, (not so) scary potential clients.

Going it alone.

Agencies often feel they should be the ones to figure out how to sell themselves. Perhaps because it’s what they do for their clients.

It may be harder for an agency to escape their own gravity than other businesses, thanks to the shadow their expertise casts. The brave agencies recognise this and look for partnerships that can help them to develop a clearer understanding of the most effective approach for them. And that’s often where they get the best view of the iceberg.

John Scarrott is a trainer and coach working with the marketing, design and creative businesses.

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