How to find a good client/agency match without pitching

The pitching process is time-consuming for clients, and expensive for agency's. So are there better ways to either find a good agency match, or build your agency's client base?

Mark Knight, director at PR agency Broadgate Mainland, says: “With the increasing requirement for content on client’s digital and social media channels, PR consultancies have never been better placed to provide a wider range of revenue-generating services to clients beyond traditional media relations.”

Here he, and Threepipe‘s Jim Hawker, suggest five ways to build business.

Mark Knight, director at PR agency Broadgate Mainland:

Offer content generation for social sites – the explosion in the expansion of social media has allowed many agencies to offer day-to-day content generation for Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as well as initiatives to drive the size of the client’s social audience. Also, coaching for client’s senior management teams on the techniques required to engage on social media is another way of cementing a client relationship while earning increased revenue.

Provide website content – the changes that have recently been made to search engine algorithms such as Google has also made it necessary for companies to improve the quality and quantity of their website content. As the PR team generates a vast amount of written material it is best placed to recreate this content, as well as preparing and commissioning fresh material, in a search-engine and customer-friendly magazine format on a client’s website.

Teach clients how to handle the media – media training has often only been the provenance of former TV journalists. But now clients increasingly need a wider array of knowledge and skills when dealing with the media to ensure they get the best outcome. As PR practitioners have become increasingly analytical about managing media relations they have the necessary nous to offer media relations training which goes beyond presentation techniques.

Jim Hawker, co-founder of PR agency Threepipe:

Create artificial briefs as a training exercise and present them to potential clients
­– after our merger earlier this year we felt that a great additional way of both businesses to get to know each other would be to create artificial client briefs asking for integrated PR and digital marketing responses. I mentioned this in passing to a marketing director who wasn’t an existing client who was keen to get involved and to see some presentations for their own business. The marketing director created a brief for a challenging situation in the organisation and we asked teams (made of up of account managers and below) to present their campaign ideas. The marketing director and the wider comms team was impressed enough with some of the ideas to find some actual budget to make them happen. Not only did we create a valuable internal training exercise which allowed us to further identify talent, but it has now lead to a new client coming on board and a new campaign starting imminently. This is certainly something we would consider repeating again for prospective clients.

Work for free for a month – I had lunch recently with an ad agency boss who has been picking up lots of business recently by suggesting that the agency work for free for the first month to secure the business rather than go through a pitch process. I mentioned this recently at a PRCA conference and many thought it was crazy that an agency would agree to work for free. It is worth reminding people that the amount of time taken to pitch for business competitively can run into the tens of thousands and not be guaranteed a win or financial compensation for that time. I personally think this is a good approach to suggest to prospective clients who often also don’t want to go through a pitch process.

But before agencies rush off to bombard clients with ideas that they think will make them lots of money, they should pause. Julia Ruane, director of agency ChiCho Marketing, warns: “The biggest mistake people have is in thinking that they have this amazing idea that they have to share with the client as it's just PERFECT for them. Usually they are way off base because they are thinking about themselves (and how amazing they are to come up with the idea in the first place) not the client”

Ruane concludes that the best way to “pitch” an idea is through discussion, knowing your client and generally listening to them then “suggesting” an approach that the client can then own themselves and drive forwards: “That concept of ownership is key as ultimately it's the client that needs to push it through the system to a final result. You are just the aide.”

Written by Daney Parker

Creative Moment Awards 2020