Kealey Nutt
Kealey Nutt, Director at Eleven & Twelve

Offline and direct marketing

How do you pitch a creative idea to a client?

You come up with a brilliant idea for a campaign for a large public company. Something they're not *asking* or advertising for. But something you're pretty sure they'd engage you to work on for them, if you could just get the idea in front of the eyes and ears of the right person within the company.

You put together a pitch proposal.

How do you proceed next? How do you approach a potential new client with a pitch? Who within an organisation or company do you target, and what is the etiquette surrounding pitching an unsolicited idea, politely and respectfully, but with confidence?

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4 Answers

Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne , director at Smarthinking

Hi Kealey

Actually, you might be surprised how often companies get pitched new creative ideas. More often than not, big businesses have a policy on unsolicited ideas. Just ring up their Communications Dept and ask.

You might also be surprised how seldom an idea gets implemented as a result of a cold call. No-one, but no-one will spend money on a solution for which there is no problem. So what's so different about an ad agency pitching for an account, you ask? See above. There MUST be a perceived need on behalf of someone within the client organisation for the pitch to be invited. Of course, that may simply come down to knowing someone who knows someone, but that's what personal networks/social media connections are for.

You won't get in the door unless you have a willing audience. Find out which people within the organisation are those with either 1. a vested interest in improving their own standing in the eyes of their superiors, or 2. their superiors. Those in decision-making positions. Then engineer a chance meeting across a crowded cocktail bar...

But please bear in mind: an idea by itself isn't worth much. An idea put into action, tested, and proven is worth a lot. 

The truth is that creative in and of itself has little value in most cases. Implementation is what counts. You have to prove that the concept works first and show the ROI in order to get it developed and refined. That's why the ad agency wins the account based on what seems like simply showing a bunch of pretty pictures. They actually win based on their capability to implement the idea.

I'd be interested in what other Savvies like David Price and Anne Miles have to say on "how to win pitches."

Here's a link to a very good book which might save you a lot of time and trouble dealing with this subject in future: http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/manifesto 

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Phil Joel

Phil Joel , Director at SavvySME

Hi Kealey,

I am not in exactly the same field but when I was in IT consulting I would target my prospects by profiling them - understanding their core business and understanding where their challenges and opportunities are. You can actually get a lot of these from their Annual Report, the media and people who may have dealt with them previously. They could be also people who have consulted to them or could be their either clients or even suppliers. Once we had enough information on them, we would build a client / account plan. There are a lot of Sales methodologies out there that can help you with this - TAS, Holden, SPIN etc. The main purpose of the Sales Plan is to keep you focused and progressing your opportunity. We would identify the various stakeholders; what they were responsible for. We also look at the competitor landscape currently servicing the client as no doubt we would cross paths with them at some stage. We would also look at our own core capability and how they line up with the clients' problems. If there is a good match then we know that we have something compelling for them.

In terms of getting into the client, I don't believe there is a single answer. You'll have to look at your own network to see if there is way to get a warm introduction or referral. You can cold-call but it is a black art and it is not for everyone. It requires a lot of skills and persistence to get passed the gatekeeper. If you want to do this then my advice is to try and get the direct number of the person you're trying to call and then call them at around 6pm (their PA is not likely going to be there then). You will probably get one shot at it so you need to be well prepared. Good luck.

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Kealey Nutt

Kealey Nutt , Director at Eleven & Twelve

Thanks Phil. I've always wondered what the advice is. Surely not every great campaign idea came from a request made by the company! Some unsolicited ideas must have made their way through at times!

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Phil Khor

Phil Khor , Founder at SavvySME

Great question Kealey, I'm just as keen to hear what people think is the right approach.

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