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Gillian Harrison

Why we need to overhaul the traditional pitch process

One sign of the growing sophistication of marketing services in the region is the increasing focus from clients with their agencies on long term partnerships rather than the traditional one-off customer-supplier relationship.

Training talent and sustaining long-term mutually productive relationships make sense as brands refine their marketing planning in an increasingly sophisticated world.

But building long-term partnerships is a tricky business – it means selecting the right partner at the start and then working hard together to make sure the relationship works well on both sides.

So, this growing commitment to a deeper agency relationship starts for clients with an overhaul of the traditional pitch process.

Historically, the pitch has sometimes been a deep source of tension between client and agency.

At its worst, a poor pitch becomes a beauty parade on creative ideas followed by a cost cutting meeting with client procurement – with a hands-off approach from the marketing department.

And not just that – there are a number of variables within the pitch process that can make it a challenge.

For example, objectives and deliverables are not always clearly defined upfront (or indeed aligned within the client’s team). Or, the actual pitch process can also be poorly managed with too many agencies on an unstructured long list, with little regard for the agency time and cost involved from the client.

And all this at a time when the requirements for agencies to fulfil a complex marketing brief have never been greater. Indeed, there are often so many touch points within the marketing mix that clients can be unsure of the balance they need between specialist agencies and full service players. All-in-all it is not easy to keep the process integrated and cohesive – for clients or their agencies.

Which in turn moves pitches away from being a new challenge for agencies and a fun experience for clients into a chore on both sides.

Cue an opportunity for specialist marketing acceleration consultancy Oystercatchers Asia Pacific, which opened for business – based in Hong Kong – at the start of 2014.

Our aim is simple – to help clients and agencies build long-lasting and effective relationships.

From pitch to partnership, we help their relationships to blossom and flourish. We do this through the implementation of Marketing Acceleration practices from ‘gold standard’ pitching, through our Academy of Excellence training (including Pitch to Win best practice) and proprietary agency evaluation tools (Optimize).

Within an increasingly digital age, it might seem unusual that Oystercatchers place more emphasis on face to face relationships. Even in the era of customer relationship marketing, databases and big data, it is the people that make the difference.

Marketing teams are getting smaller and more efficient – so the right chemistry with fewer people is increasingly critical.

It’s true that here is an increasing emphasis on ROI; as data technology becomes more sophisticated, it is getting easier to quantify effectiveness. Having said that, great creative work starts and finishes with brilliant people relationships.

Gillian Harrison is managing partner for Oystercatchers Asia Pacific.

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