Navigating A New Business Pitch


Winning pitches means more money coming through the agency's door. Those high stakes mean that being on a pitch can be extremely busy and stressful—but also super exciting and fun. While the exact process will vary between agencies and roles, here's roughly what you can expect when you're put on a pitch. (It'll also give you the right language to use in your next interview!)

How does an agency get involved in a pitch?
Some agencies are invited to pitch by the client based on reputation alone. Other times, getting into a pitch is the result of months (sometimes years) of relationship building by the new business team. The number of agencies invited to pitch will vary, based on the size of the business up for grabs, and how quickly the brand is looking to bring on a new partner. 

Image from  Hey Arnold

Image from Hey Arnold

How is a pitch structured?
Typically, the client will issue an Request For Proposal (or RFP) to the agencies it wants to invite to pitch. The RFP is a set of info that the agency submits to help the client decide who will move forward. An agency will put together a deck that outlines the agency's capabilities, relevant business stats, leadership team, how they work with partners, and sometimes case studies. The info the client asks for in the RFP will differ based on what type of pitch it is, but it's typically basic stuff that allows the client to make the first cut.

Once an agency's made it past the RFP, the client will brief the team on what it's looking for in the pitch, both from a business and deliverables perspective. This is also usually when an agency finds out how many rounds the pitch will be and the timeline. The number of rounds is often based on how many agencies are in the pitch, how many checkpoints the client wants (ex. Strategy Presentation, Creative Tissue Session, Final Creative Presentation), or how many client stakeholders are involved. 

What happens when I get put on a pitch?
Because pitches are so important, teams will sometimes try to clear your plate of other projects so you can focus (especially if it's a quick turnaround). Other times, it'll be like working double time. Being on a pitch is often what causes late nights at the office and having to work weekends. 

No matter what your role is, you'll be diving deep into the brand, its business, audience, and category. You'll grow closer to those on the pitch team, because there's nothing like competition and high pressure situations to bring people together. Depending on the size of the agency, being on a pitch could mean more exposure and face time with upper level leaders who often get involved in important pitches. 

Image from  r  eddit

Image from reddit

How long does a pitch last?
The length of a pitch varies like crazy. Some are super short one week turnarounds. Others can take months and months based on how many rounds are involved—and can cause serious pitch fatigue. 

Can I talk about the pitch with others?
Unless they work at your agency (and even then, check with the new business team), do not share anything about the pitch with others. Pitches are highly confidential, both from the client and agency's perspective, so keeping things under wraps is key. Saying you have to work late because you're on a pitch is fine, but avoid telling people who the client is. 

What happens if we lose?
Losing a pitch can be a crushing experience for everyone involved, especially after you've put so much hard work and time into it. But it's part of the agency experience, and you'll learn to move on. The agency should try to get as much feedback from the client on why it wasn't chosen—though sometimes you're not given much. 

Image from  Netflix

Image from Netflix

What happens if we win?
Total elation and joy! There are few things as sweet as hearing that the agency won the pitch, and celebrating with your team (and before the logistics and realities of working with the client long-term complicate your feelings towards the account). Make sure you have the okay to share the news before announcing it on social. 

We could write a full email with more details about each of the question above (and probably will sometime), but for now, you'll know what to expect on a pitch from a high level. Some of your best learnings moments in your career will happen on pitches, so enjoy them—no matter what the outcome.

You got this,