What’s the big deal with pitching?
It’s a tale as old as time; business needs website, business writes brief, business emails brief to 20 agencies and asks for them to present back…and then commences the ceremonial pitch process. With all the flaunting, cheap suits, free lunches, pages and pages of waffle about why one agency is more ‘creative’ than the next, price squeezing, more presenting, more price squeezing, pictures of dogs and last minute baseless, creative concepts that were pulled together at 2am the night before…And finally a victor!
Now don’t get us wrong, if you approach the hiring of an agency in this way, you are doing what most businesses do on a daily basis, across all cities of the world. It’s the ‘go to’ process of hiring an agency and has been for many many years…the problem is however, it’s completely flawed.
Here at Code23 we don’t like to just repeat old ways of doing things just because they have been done for decades. We like to ask the difficult questions, find out why things are the way they are, explore new and better ways, more efficient ways and challenge the status quo a little.
In this post we will try to explain why we don’t get involved in this pitch process in our approach to new business, the flaws built into the process for both client and agency, and we’ll explain why we think there is a better way to start what is a very important relationship between your business and ours.
A ‘brief’ discussion
Let’s start at the beginning. Imagine you have been messing around with your kids down the park, or played one game too many at the office 5-a-side, or something ‘just went’ as you were bending over to feed the dog – you’ve hobbled along to the doctor, lay down on the practitioners bed and said “Hi Doc, I have slipped the third Thoracic Vertebrae in my spine, could you please prescribe me with anti-inflammatories, a week of bed rest and some physiotherapy please, thanks!”
They would probably look at you and think you’ve either lost the plot, or assumed you were a fellow doctor. And most of us are not the latter.
In almost all life or business situations (problems with your car, your boiler, your house survey etc etc), we rely on experts to diagnose the problem and we rely on their training and experiences to propose the best solution.
The same is true with web design and development. Most of the businesses that come to us are not fellow web developers (Nor doctors for that matter!), but they are businesses that know they have a problem.
Starting with a brief and then pitch process assumes you have correctly diagnosed the problem, thus the pitch becomes about solving a problem that might not be the actual problem! And I think you’ll agree this is a waste of everyones time.
We invite you to have a conversation with us about how these problems are showing up, for how long and what are the goals for the business mid-long term. We’re a partner, not a vendor, and we want to help businesses become more successful. That’s what we do.
So whether it’s lower than expected sales on your e-commerce site, a need for more business automation in your internal company processes or a new idea that you’ve had and want to start bringing it to life, let’s talk. That’s the best beginning.
The second problem in this process is that it’s entirely focused on the agency and not you.
Now, we know agencies. And we know that given the chance they will waffle on about themselves until the cows have not only come home, but have made the dinner, watched the game, taken the dog for a walk and gone to bed!
But this is what our website and credential documents is for, or at least it should be. It’s our space to show off, to talk about our bespoke processes that lead to successful projects and happy clients. A place for you to see our specialisms and focuses, our case studies and to meet our team! It’s a place for potential clients to see our previous experiences of similar projects, and importantly for us, if we are a cultural fit.
That stuff belongs on our website and creds doc, and not the first 30 pages of a presentation that will bore you to tears and take up your precious time. So just ask us for this information before we start any project so you can get to know us in your own time.
When you’re happy with us or need to know some more specific information, then we should talk. A chat, a chinwag, a shooting of the breeze. You will already know about our culture, our experiences and successes at this point, so when you do speak to us, it will be all about you.
To put a pitch process front and centre of your hiring process is to shift the focus to the agencies and away from where it should be, on you and your project.
And being really honest, sometimes we might have that conversation and think, you know what – maybe this isn’t the best project for us and our skill sets. Engaging with us doesn’t mean we will try to convince you to buy our services. We are not in the business of arm twisting, we are in the business of solution finding and value creation for our clients.
Give it away now
Something that we get a lot is “can you just come up with some ideas for us, and we’ll commit if we like them’.
This is totally commonplace across agency pitching and is a perfectly normal question to ask. However it’s based on the assumption that we understand the problem well enough already to be able to propose a great solution. And this is not the case as we mentioned earlier in regards self-diagnosis.
We could create a homepage design, or propose some SEO tweaks and a new user flow for you, but it might not be very helpful to you as we have not had enough of a deep dive with you to find out what the real problems and pain points are. So it’s more likely to be a total waste of time.
The second reason is probably more important.
We really value our work here. We invest heavily in our staff and believe our ‘thinking’ is of great value. It’s our product. We also believe that independent businesses should not give away stuff for free.
This is why we will focus all our efforts on existing clients, and not on requests for free work from speculative clients. Whilst this might sound a little….snooty…it actually benefits you, because it means that if you choose to join the Code23 family, then you will be getting our full attention and the time you have paid for on your project isn’t getting used up on building huge pitch presentations for other businesses.
That doesn’t mean we don’t want to speak to potential new clients at all! Quite the opposite. But we prefer a conversation where both parties get to ask each other questions, and find out if there is a good fit to take things to the next step. Pitching is more a one sided performance and never get the best fit for the client or the agency.
We hope that you can see why we think pitching is never the best way to approach hiring an agency, not just just for the agencies, but for you the clients too. It’s an outdated practice that we hope, some day soon, will find it’s way into the dustbin of time, along with Mini-Disk players, Christmas Tinsel and Donald Trump.
If we sent you this in response to a RFP or request to pitch then we hope you are open to having a good old fashion conversation with us about your project instead.
Or if you’ve found us some other way and would like to work with us please get in touch for a quote.