How to lose a pitch

How do you persuade a client to reject you as their agency? Is it difficult and how good are you at it?

I spoke with a number of clients about what they look for and what turns them off.

If you’ve ever wondered how to lose a pitch, the answers could be below.

Mystification: Agencies place too much emphasis on their creative process. They take the basic principles and then re-describe it and add a TM and a name. The general view here was that design was complex enough. It required simplification. And that any attempt to reframe it, still describes the same process underneath.

Playing hide and seek: Agencies are prone to disguise. For example, when concerns are expressed about the size of an agency in relation to its ability to do a job, the agency resorted to justify themselves and persuade of their ability to do the job.

Using names to sell: Agencies that say “We’ve worked for Coca Cola”. So what? Who hasn’t? It’s not about the names you’ve worked for, or the name above the door.

Not living it: Agencies that don’t take their own advice. Talking about brand building yet failing to show how they’ve built their brand. Talking about innovation, yet failing to show when they’ve innovated for themselves. If you’re saying ‘segment your audience’ show how you’ve done it.

Asking the wrong questions: Asking the client if they have a brief. Going in with the wrong mindset ‘we can design your packaging’. A failure to think bigger, see the bigger picture.

Expecting to be liked and understood: Being too immersed in their own world. Failing to show they understand the client and waiting for them to understand. There is a whole world of activity that the agency that doesn’t take the time to ask about or understand and will never see.

So how do you rate? Are you successful at losing pitches? What else would you add that loses you work? For some ideas on how to move in the opposite direction, take a look at my top tips piece here.

All of the clients I spoke to agreed that the power of design is amazing. But they also said that often buying design is not. In a competitive market with opportunities and threats, this is a wake-up call. If the industry doesn’t change it could be stuck and heading towards Blockbuster territory. It’s time to move on. Some already have. Far more could. The future belongs to those that will.

Thanks to the clients I spoke with for taking the time to talk with me and share their viewpoints

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