Running an agency selection process

The Digital Strategy Unit was recently commissioned to help a client find a new digital agency to help them drive real performance and results through SEO and PPC.

It was an enlightening experience as it was the first time I had been on the receiving end of pitches, having literally done 100’s over the years.  I’ve also done quite a lot of training with new business teams and I was reminded of the 12 key steps in effectively and successfully responding to new business briefs:

 1.  Pick the brief up early, and act on it – the temptation is often to think ‘we’ve got a couple of weeks, I’ve got more important things to do right now’.  The sooner you act, the more time you’ll have to think, the more thorough the response will be.

2.  Read the brief, read it again, and then read it once more – only then will the requirements truly sink in, you’ll then be able to:

3.  Decide whether to proceed – it’s hard to decline the opportunity to work with a new client, but it can be the right thing to do if the client, objectives, timescales and/or budget aren’t right.

4.  Get the right people on the bus and allocate tasks accordingly – who are the best people to work on the pitch? Simple really!

5.  Create a schedule, and stick to it – easier said than done of course, but critical if you want to avoid working all night to get it finished (despite what every agency thinks – clients can tell!)

6.  Ask yourselves – what do we know? What don’t we know? What do we need to know?  You can then ask intelligent and thought through questions of the client – they like to be challenged, and like to know you’re taking their brief seriously.

7.  Create real relationships – we all know how important chemistry is and therefore how many pitch decisions are based on ‘can we work with these people?’.  Don’t rely on this coming through at the pitch, do as much in the run up to it as you possibly can.

8.  ROI is mandatory – clients want results, and need to show their bosses what they will be delivering.  So be both clear and realistic in your response.

9.  What’s the best way for this response to be presented?  PowerPoint isn’t always the answer, and when it is don’t just fill the slides with loads of text.  Think about the story you want to tell, and then what the bet way to tell that story is

10.  Start from scratch with the response – never, ever dig out the last one you did and start from there, it’s lazy (and often obvious in the response).

11.  Use a pitch doctor, and rehearse in front of them – can’t recommend this enough, get a senior person who is not directly involved to ‘be the client’ and ask difficult questions.

12.  No complacency – remember, good work is the enemy of great work!

It’s true that agencies often do there best work when pitching, make sure that’s the case for you and your agency.

© THE DIGITAL STRATEGY UNIT 2015 / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.