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How agencies can increase their pitch success: 4 pitfalls to avoid during the pitch process - Labyrinth Marketing
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How agencies can increase their pitch success: 4 pitfalls to avoid during the pitch process

We have been involved in a number of pitches recently, both representing the client to manage the agency selection process and supporting agencies in their responses.

Subsequently, we’ve noticed some disturbing recurring themes, both in proposals and in the run up to the pitch… pitfalls that can easily be avoided.

People participating in a pitch


It’s not just about the end proposal and creative ideas on pitch day that help win pitches; in our experience from the moment the agency gets the invitation, this is their time to demonstrate the benefits of their potential partnership and collaboration.

The marketing industry is incestuous; even if you don’t win, the brand owner will move (likely within the next 3 years) and you don’t want to be vetted from a future agency pitch shortlist because of a previous negative experience.

1. Team

Key take out: Keep the team consistent, your clients will love you for it

Chemistry is a huge part of the process; clients are looking for an extension of their team, genuine collaboration, to help grow their brand and meet their commercial goals.

Please don’t just wheel out the seniors for pitch day, ensure that those who are working on the account (when successful) and delivering campaigns or future work are part of the pitch team from the start. It also gets you off to a bad start once successful, causing potential frustration if the agency team is unable to hit ground running if they weren’t part of the pitch process. The client may be left questioning ‘where is the team that I bought into?’ or even feelings of ‘why have I now been given a junior team, is my business or brand not valued?’

True story: A while back, there was a tissue session where the pitch team was spot on – full of energy, synergy, client and agency left clear on the next steps. Fast forward to pitch day and the seniors came, the pitch team were no longer presenting and some of the creative ideas were superseded; the revised ideas no longer met the brief and client wishes hadn’t been met. Needless to say, they were not successful.

2. Q&As

Key take out: Your Q&A is your first opportunity to make a great first impression as an agency who strategically understands how to deliver growth

Interrogate the brief, line by line, before the call, everyone in the pitch team should do so (creative, planner, account team) and maybe even those that aren’t, for fresh eyes. Be prepared and collate all questions across the team, prioritise and if possible send your questions ahead of the session. This gives clients the opportunity to prepare for the detailed gritty questions. Plus it demonstrates that you are taking the process seriously and have composed well thought through queries.

This is your first chance to impress, show understanding of the brief and brand challenges, enthusiasm and challenge back where appropriate e.g. “is this campaign objective for the 1st quarter or the whole year”, “is this budget to include production” etc.

There is a fine line when asking questions (particularly after the allotted Q&A session) between keen and overkill; stay the right side of it, before you become a bit of a pest and start the pitch on the wrong foot. It also leaves the client thinking that you haven’t read the brief fully until later.

True Story: Agency joined Q&A call, unprepared, with no questions and asked for us to walk them through brief. Not a great first impression.

3. Get out of London or [insert other key city agency locations here!]

Key take out: Ensure your proposed activation will work for the true target audience

Don’t base your entire thinking on popping to the Sainsbury’s Local on Tottenham Court Road. This does not represent the national shopping experience. Clients love to hear shopper or consumer vox pops supporting your creative strategies, but get out of the London bubble to do so!

True story: A creative execution Idea was presented for a U.K. food brand on oyster cards (when first launched, yes a while back now)…that’s great for London, but it was a brief with national scope – what about the people of Northampton, Aberdeen, etc?

4. Keep an eye on budget

Key take out: Ensure you present ideas that will deliver the commercial goals in budget

Ensure that the core essence of your idea is within the parameters of the budget as per the brief to deliver the required brand commercial movement. Many clients like to see the Big Idea expanded or understand how it may have longevity, but make this clear during the pitch that this is incremental to the success of the core campaign. We’ve worked with clients that have a 70/20/10 model where 70% of budget is allocated to the core activation, 20% is doing something different (with increased risk) and 10% for PR worthy innovation (or alternatively 80% on proven mechanics and 20% on test and learn.) If you follow a similar model, be transparent about where the budget is allocated.

True story: An agency presenting back their initial response went into so much detail to show how the Big Idea could be expanded, they had mocked up every consumer touch point available, plus TV scripts for this year, an example of how it works for Christmas and another execution for next summer. A huge amount of work, but the response was certainly lacking any concept of budget and a clear recommendation of the activation strategy to meet the commercial objectives of the brief.


We work with agencies to help them respond to the brief and win the pitch, and can also support them with interim planning resource, as an extension of their agency team.

As a CIM trainer, I have trained brand marketers for over a decade.  More recently I have become an IPM trainer educating agency marketers on how to become a true strategic partner.

So if you need help with your pitch, proposals, need planning resource, commercial data interpretation, setting commercial targets and KPI’s, Labyrinth can become an extension of your team – giving an external view, training and supporting you to embed these skills required to meet clients’ growing needs…

So, let’s get connected:

Call                           Abigail Dixon on 07855 840 844


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