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Time to pitch your agency?

That indeed is the question many marketers ask themselves when agencies aren’t performing.

Given one of our services at TrinityP3 is Pitch Consultancy, and I get paid to be a pitch consultant, one might think I would answer: “Pitch of course!”

But alas, you would be mistaken to think I would say that without asking a few very pointed questions first. The TrinityP3 view has always been that to pitch your agency should be a last resort after all other potential ways of resolving a situation have been addressed.

The grass is not always greener on the other side, in fact sometimes it’s a rather murky brown once the honeymoon period is over.

It is only when a relationship has been truly decimated, that we would recommend a review and pitch.

So if the question is keeping you awake at night, here are some things to consider and some more questions to ask yourself before you spend a considerable amount of time and money on a pitch process.

  • Why is your agency not performing?

List the reasons you are unhappy and do that strange thing people in the communications industry sometimes forget about – talk to them. You may find all sorts of things that are easily and readily addressed.

They may not be getting the information they need from you in a detailed and timely fashion, creating delays and frustration at both ends. They may have been having staffing issues that are about to be resolved and there may be a personality clash that can be resolved by a simple change of team structure. There may be a differing perspective on creativity and the type of communications your brand requires and their agency delivers.

  • Do both teams have the right structure in place to deliver the marketing communications functions required?

Again, a fairly straightforward question but if the teams in place do not have the right experience, knowledge and capabilities it will result in inferior results.

  • Do you have the right agencies or too many agencies on your roster?

This is such a common issue as specialist areas of content, digital, data, publishing, shopper marketing, direct, experiential pop up every week and new beaut agencies vie for smaller projects based on their area of “expertise”.

Before marketers realise it, they have multiple agencies on their roster all doing small projects with no-one taking responsibility for the macro perspective of driving brand communications through all channels. Appointing someone internally to manage agencies is critical for clients who are prone to this and if it has become truly out of hand.

  • Do you have the right evaluation processes in place to formally table and handle issues before they become major headaches?

How do you evaluate your agencies? This is a separate post entirely and worth investigating if you don’t have a formal evaluation process in place –  there are several on this website about Evalu8ing.

You pay your agencies a small fortune for their strategic and creative expertise. But how do you evaluate their performance and the performance of the work they are producing?

If your agency isn’t performing and you are thinking of pitching, if you haven’t been formally checking in with them on their performance, how are they to know you are unhappy? How can they fix things they don’t know about?

  • Are you suffering a 7-year itch?

Okay so it may not be seven years, but are you just bored? Are you looking around at the work of competitors or even those in different categories and wondering why your work isn’t as good, exciting or adventurous? Why is your work not winning all those awards?

Before you blame the agency why don’t you do that strange thing again that I mentioned earlier – talk to them. They may be just as frustrated, bored and wondering why they can’t make a breakthrough.

Maybe they need better briefs? Maybe you need to involve them earlier in the strategic process? Maybe they need to manage your stakeholders better to get better creative solutions approved. There may well be issues on both sides. And maybe both teams need a bit of a shake up and it’s time to reshuffle teams and get some new blood on the case.

Okay. So all that being said, sometimes you really do need to pitch. Here are 5 scenarios I’ve witnessed and actions to take in each case.

Scenario 1:

Situation: Your idea of creativity and the agency’s are diametrically opposed. They want to produce work there is no way on this earth or indeed any planet your organisation will support.

Action: Pitch to find the right fit.

Scenario 2:

Situation: There is a distinct lack of respect between teams, especially the CMO and agency CEO and consistent efforts to fix it have failed.

Action:  Pitch to find a positive partnership. Negativity can never be the backbone of a relationship.

Scenario 3:

Situation: Too many Indians, no chief.

Action: Run a Strategic Alignment process to rationalise your roster and if you can’t find the right mix of agencies and resources from your current relationships to service your business, run a pitch.

Scenario 4:

Situation: Formal evaluation and feedback processes have been in place and the agency is not addressing issues raised.

Action: Find an agency who respects the relationship and is open to change and collaboration.

Scenario 5:

Situation: Three warnings and an agency is still not playing nicely with the other kids i.e. your other partners.

Action: Kick them out of the playground and pitch to find a collaborative partner. You have no time for bullies or bad behaviour, nor should you have to pay for it.

 To pitch or not to pitch

It is not an easy question and one that certainly should not be taken lightly given the financial cost and time involved. However, by asking yourself some more basic questions and acknowledging some situations where pitching is the only answer, it’s one that you can feel confident making.

I love a good pitch but I prefer seeing relationships get back on track with some open communication and formal evaluation more. Give us a call if we can help in any way to help manage your agency relationships and if a pitch is the only answer, then bring it on.

 

The author of the article is Anita Zanesco, senior consultant, TrinityP3.

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