Business development advertising agencies pitches

Do Business Development and pitching keep you awake at night?

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Do Business Development (Biz Dev) and pitching keep you awake at night?

If so then you’re in good company. Business development was a key focus for 77% of agencies according to the joint survey ““Reflect, Recharge, Move On: Creative Agencies In 2021” done by Deltek and Campaign.

It’s not surprising that new biz and pitching are a constant concern for agencies when you look at the numbers in this article by Peter Levitan

  • The average win rate for pitches is at best 30%
  • The average cost of responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) is $15k. We’re not at the pitch stage yet.
  • If the agency is selected, the actual pitch costs $35k per year

Levitan goes on to say that means that if an agency responds to 10 RFP and does 6 pitches, the cost is $360k (10 x $15k + 6 x $35k). And that does not include the day-to-day costs of new business development!

Some of those numbers may be disputable but the point is that pitching is an expensive and thankless process.

6 Tips to increase your sales pitch win rate

1) Practice what you preach

It is still incredible to see advertising agencies with crappy websites, old social media accounts and with little or no evidence of self-promotion. Don’t despair, I have seen a few accounting firms, consultancy firms and software companies in the same position, so this is not just common to the ad industry. That does not make it ok though.

You should treat your agency as its most important client. In other words. Create a brief, outline a marketing plan (tactics, timing and deliverables), estimate it (resources, time and expenses) and set aside budget for it. Once this is done, track this like any other client project.

2) Use social media effectively

Part of the above plan should include a well-defined social media strategy. It is good to see that many agencies are doing this now, finally! Some great examples of this are:

  • The founders of GUT who have 30k followers between them on LinkedIn alone
  • Adweak which has nearly 86k followers on Twitter
  • Findasense in Spain with it’s 30k plus followers

3) Use a CRM

Deltek Workbook agency management CRM

Business development/sales is considered the most important function in virtually all other businesses, yet somehow that’s not the case in advertising. Ad agencies relegate it behind creatives and even account management.

It needs to be taken seriously meaning that your agency should have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Yes, WorkBook has a CRM module which is fully integrated into the rest of the ERP solution, but there are a bunch of alternatives. For example, HubSpot and Salesforce.

This will help your agency track leads and follow up when required. They should also allow you to track your sales pipeline so that you can budget and manage resources effectively. Of course this is easier of your CRM is integrated.

4) Know your numbers

Effective business development means knowing your numbers. Track pitch costs so you know how much your agency is spending. Know what your cost rates and margins are so that you can negotiate effectively with clients. Have visibility of your resource availability and sales forecast so that you know if you need to bring in freelancers or you can sell work at “incremental rates”

Knowledge is power but, perhaps more importantly, it also means you avoid losing money on the 30% of pitches you win.

5) Create a niche

2020 was an odd year and revenue generation was a big concern for agencies. That led to a lot of agencies diversifying their offers. The problem is that these were less profitable according to the survey we referenced above, and it’s very expensive to pitch work. The best way to maximize the chances of winning pitches is to create a niche for your agency based on its strengths or differentiating factor.

Determine (not guess) what your most desired and respected offerings are to your target prospects. That gives you the best chance of winning the pitches you do go for.

6) Pitch to win

Once you’re in a pitch situation, set yourself up to have the best chance and remember the following:

Its about them not you so:

  • Don’t go on about the awards you won. Its tempting, but most people outside the industry don’t care.
  • Ask them about themselves at the beginning of the presentation
  • Listen and take note of the answers and incorporate their answers in the pitch

Try and make the pitch face to face. It’s tempting in the new post COVID world to do everything via Zoom but there is nothing better than face to face contact.

Further reading

That’s it from us but below are some great resources to follow up on this topic.

John Heenan – Why isn’t my advertising agency win rate better?

Philip VanDusen – How To Do a Pitch Presentation Right and Win More Clients

I particularly like his suggestion of circling back on clients to get feedback on your work. Not only is it great client service but provides ROI on your pitch case studies.

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