The right client/agency fit can make all the difference in marketing. Yet the typical RFP cattle call used to make that match is broken. The hoops clients give agencies to jump through in a pitch don’t really mimic the working relationship. Agencies are also often asked to create actual campaigns for free that may never be used, all the while ignoring their real clients.
“Agencies are victims of our own drama. We have taught the clients that we will give them free ideas, that we will invest extraordinarily for a chance to prove we are the right partner, we will give away our IP for a shot,” said Laurie Coots at TBWA\Worldwide in a recent Fast Company article on “10 Ways to Fix the Agency Pitch Process“.
In one of my first agency jobs 15 years ago, I responded to most incoming RFPs for an interactive agency. It was exhausting work for the whole organization. We created entire website concepts as spec work for free. If we lost, we’d often see our ideas six months later grafted to the ideas of the agency that won the business.
I’ve since worked on both sides of the client/agency dynamic. The best relationships weren’t those that shared the best single campaign idea in the pitch. They were the relationships with the right chemistry in people and culture.
Agencies and clients need to realize that relationships are a two-way fit. In the same Fast Company article, I like this alternate approach from Tom Denari at Young & Laramore:
“Recognize that agency relationships are just that–relationships. Instead of having the agencies spend ungodly hours developing a campaign that might never be used–or worse yet, might be very ineffective–have the actual working team commit to a two-day session of intense interviewing. Interview the agency principals individually. Find out what they believe in. What are they in the business for? Are they going to sell out? See if their stories match. Make sure you can work with a group that might present something you won’t like, not just something you do.”
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away one signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. I’ll pick one comment. Thanks!)