TL;DR

How: Be agile and keep in constant contact with your clients.

Better Agency: How to Win Pitches Against Big Agencies (Part 3 of 5)

You can be David. You can take down Goliath.

Better Agency: How to Win Pitches Against Big Agencies
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Many agencies start out with its founders wanting to earn more than when they were an employee while still do very much the same things, but find themselves hit with the realities of bills to pay and clients to win. With little to no business experience, few manage to survive and even fewer are profitable enough to scale.

In this five-part mini series, James Ient, CFO at Compagnie Financiere Tradition (CFT), shares quick tips on how to run a more successful agency business.

Commissioning brands need to focus on local culture, local customers and countries that used to be considered third-tier markets.

It’s true there are huge agency networks that oftentimes get massive contracts with big brands to deliver a global message BUT it’s a David-and-Goliath business nowadays and Goliath can fall. Commissioning brands need to focus on local culture, local customers and countries that used to be considered third-tier markets. Brands also need content that is contemporary, that’s present and of the moment.

Boutique agencies can and often do create compelling work that grabs the attention and changes the narrative.

“Be” the boutique. Agile and innovative.

Work with [brands] in an agile way on ideation, delivery and feedback to battle Goliath agencies.

I hope that the businesses that I am involved with retain their hunger for changing the views of their clients, seeking out and hero-worship of their industry peers by learning and working collaboratively on projects and be open to all new ideas.

How do they do this?

  • Brainstorm how to achieve brand objectives regularly (perhaps weekly). It’s great for putting your team in the client’s shoes.
  • Actively propose content ideas to your client network. Don’t wait for briefs; it’s lazy and you might not get what you expect. Get on the front foot and propose ideas from your brainstorming.
  • Share briefs you are having trouble with with your network. If you can’t turn it around in a day, give someone else a chance and maintain industry momentum.

Bottomline: Every brand wants more sales today, more loyal customers and sales growth. Smart marketing teams want to ideate, commission and activate content. Work with them in an agile way on ideation, delivery and feedback to battle Goliath agencies.

It’s not just ideas. It’s delivery.

… you can generate business just by your behaviour in the pitch phase and you can generate referrals from keeping it up.

Big agency staff will always have too much inward focus, so boutique agencies always have the upper hand in being present, relevant and reactive to clients. Know it, recognise it and generate value from it – you can generate business just by your behaviour in the pitch phase and you can generate referrals from keeping it up.

How do I create the big agency professional feel while still being small? It’s simple: Get back to the core principles and set communication KPIs.

  • Set a KPI to reply to emails (ideally same day).
  • Keep formats and text clear, concise and complete. Take out the personal references and jokes – these are for phone calls and IMs. Good emails are forwarded, so think about all potential readers.
  • Update regularly on unfinished projects. I recommend a weekly update when a project is live.
  • Call your clients (yes, on the phone) as if you were an account manager at a blue-chip. Touch base no less than once a month. Email after the call to say thanks and record anything important.
  • Meet your clients (yes, face to face). Coffee, lunch, dinner, gym, yoga… anything.

Boutique firms can be known for a consistent level of professional production of creative ideas that respond to contemporary trends, hero the staff, empathise with the customers and then apply directly to places the brand is active.

Coming up next week: How agencies can win big accounts

Read the previous post:

Part 1: How To Win And Keep Clients

Part 2: How to be More Profitable

This post first appeared on James’ LinkedIn profile.

Featured image of Don Draper from Mad Men.


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After 20 years as a business operator and investor, I know a thing or two about business: When to start, how to scale, what can become sustainable and when to profit. I’m a not a woo-woo strategist – I believe the simpler the solution and the more widely understood the process, the more effective it’ll be.
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