Monday, March 30, 2009

To win you musn't lose

OK so that was an awful headline but the point I wanted to make is that in these unusual times PR agencies and for that matter a whole range of other consulting businesses, need to rethink the way they approach new business. If they want to win more business, they may well be better off pitching for less. This may sound rather illogical but my point is that right now it's not uncommon for the number of firms bidding on a piece of business to be double the normal size. This has happened in part because clients are being really risk averse and want to make sure they are getting the best 'value' but also because agencies are having a hard time saying 'no'. I'd urge agencies to start saying 'no' for several reasons:

1. They can commit resources to pitches they actually stand a chance of winning, instead of having to pitch anything that has a check book.
2. They will suffer fewer losses. A large number of pitches are predetermined during these times and many of the agencies taking part stand no real chance.
3. Staff will appreciate being set up to succeed rather than fail.
4. By saying no they will be teaching the clients that long agency pitch lists are not really needed
5. By saying no they will sometimes make the client want them even more. Forbidden fruit and all that.

So next time you are asked to pitch for a piece of business, ask whether this really is the right one. People can deal with failure in a growing economy without too much difficulty. Successive failure in a tough economy could demoralize some agencies. Pitch less, win more.

18 comments:

Starr Million Baker said...

Nice reminder that we (PR agencies) still have choices too and we all win if we respond to RFPs from companies we are actually a good fit to work with (relationships and all that :-)). The one I don't really buy is #5 (tend to think out of sight out of mind - at least until the chosen firm screws up in their eyes), but 5 reasons makes a handy list. ;-)

@millionbaker

Matt Shaw said...

Tim, this is a pervasive industry issue that we have been monitoring for some time. There is a real need for education and guidance out there. To that end, the Council of PR Firms will soon be launching an online RFP-building tool for prospective clients. The site is currently being beta tested by firms, clients, and third party consultants. Our hope is that we can create a more standardized new business process that is both fair to participating firms while delivering better search results for the prospective client. The all-too-common poorly conceived -and executed - RFP that you refer to is a lose/lose proposition for agency and clients alike. It’s time to change that.

Anonymous said...

Tim has his 'Jerry Maguire Moment'

;-)

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