Stephen Greensted is a consultant in the UK with a long history of client service and new business under his belt. On his website he states that if you need help with your marketing, advertising, winning pitches, customer satisfaction surveys plus failed pitch research, and, specifically, digital marketing, you should talk to him. I can’t speak to all of his expertise, but when it comes to understanding pitches, or failed pitches, based on this post I would agree! In fact, I would encourage you to head over and read his entire blog.

how to lose a pitch

It’s easier to lose a pitch than you think

Over the years I’ve seen many failed pitches, and heard about many more, but I had never seen a list like this one. Stephen lists some of the best, funniest and painful pitch events out there. I wish I could sit down over a few drinks and hear the background on some of them. So in all it’s wonderful glory, his list of how to lose a pitch.

How To Lose A Pitch:

  1. Didn’t read the brief
  2. Read only the first page of the brief
  3. Read the brief, thought it was rubbish, so ignored it
  4. Didn’t rehearse
  5. Went absurdly over time
  6. Had people presenting who were not going to be working on the business if appointed
  7. Had people chewing gum
  8. Had not kept in touch with the potential client during the pitch process
  9. Knew nothing about the potential client’s business, and had made no attempt to learn
  10. Made comments about the client’s business concerning things about which they neither knew nor had een asked to give an opinion
  11. Rubbished the brief in the pitch
  12. Had mysterious people in the pitch with no defined role and took no part in proceedings, and whom the client was meeting for the first time
  13. Rubbished the opposition, the other pitching agencies
  14. Offered a veiled bribe
  15. Introduced their Chairman who then fell asleep during the pitch, woke up, and then referred for the rest of the pitch to the potential client as Findus. It was Ross.
  16. Punted up a board director who, I think, spoke in English, but whose Indian accent was so strong that the managing director had to translate for him
  17. Used a girl, chewing gum, in a mini-skirt, fishnets and high heels to present to six clients, all of whom were 40+ women
  18. Threatened the client during the pitch concerning possible abuse of copyright and intellectual property
  19. Went to the right office but was thirty minutes late
  20. Arrived on time, but went to the wrong office
  21. Arrived on time but had a managing director who had an enormous black eye owing to a punch-up in a pub the previous night
  22. Had an agency MD who “fell out of a tree” the previous weekend, and didn’t turn up
  23. All the concept boards were thrown away after the pitch, the account manager (me) forgetting it was a two stage process (Eastern Electricity Board)
  24. In the days of 35mm slides and Kodak Carousel projectors, dropped the slides – all 120 of them. They were un-numbered and impossible to put back in their correct order in the time available. It was like Dunkirk without the boats
  25. Wrote rude things about the clients on a notepad, and then left the notepad behind, which one of the clients picked up and read with interest. “Dickhead” was the key word (Old Saatchi and Saatchi)
  26. Won the business but then had to resign it almost immediately when P&G complained to our head office in New York (IPG)
  27. The agency team argued amongst themselves
  28. The agency failed to tell the client that half the team didn’t actually work for the agency
  29. The agency was too big and too intimidating. (The bastards. Why were we on the pitch if that was the problem?)
  30. Another agency in the network (Italy) pitched before us and made a complete mess. They had neither told us what they were doing, neither had they asked for help. The clients didn’t turn up for our presentation

As Stephen states, we all have horror stories. Please share yours with us! Think of them as lessons learned. I could add to his list with stories like showing up without the presentation, no backup file, and no hope; or perhaps the time the pitch team ignored my advice to fly into the city the night before thinking they could all catch the early morning flight and show up with plenty of time, only they didn’t. But I will leave you with one very painful lesson…

Ad Agency New Business Lesson: Stick to the Strategy.

hard lesson in new business

A tough lesson in new business.

I was helping an agency overseas where the competition was really tough. The agency was invited into a highly-competitive shoot out with the best agencies in the country. We decided to win on strategy, not creative. We then tantalized the prospect with our strategic development process using Benefit Testing™, a key resource we move into agencies that don’t have a strong strategic process. We did this on the pre-presentation tour where we demonstrated how Benefit Testing™ worked. He was hooked. But at the last minute the creative director came up with a flash of inspiration built around a new line that was soooo perfect.

There was only one problem, however: The new line was off strategy. The creative director convinced the agency owner to change everything at the last minute to the new line. The prospect, Body Copy™ to the core, spotted the mismatch, and in the midst of the presentation, stopped everything and demanded an answer.

The agency had none. Later we found out our agency had won the account with the Benefit Testing™ process and all it needed to do was show up at the presentation and not make a mistake. That didn’t happen and the largest account in the country went to another agency. That one hurt.