Pitching for new business is something that everyone in an agency should experience. It’s nerve-wracking and pressurised, but also gives the pitch team an amazing sense of confidence and camaraderie. The industry average length of a client-agency relationship is 3.2 years, and although at C8 many of our relationships far surpass this, it is important that as a growing agency we are constantly looking for new opportunities. It is a natural cycle for clients to come and go, and it is exciting to work with new clients uncovering new disruptive tech.
As a PR executive, I was keen to experience preparing to pitch for new business; but thought long and hard about what I could say that my directors can’t. Having a PR executive on the pitching team demonstrates transparency and authenticity to the prospect because they have the opportunity to meet everyone who they potentially might be working with, even those with less experience.
Having just undertaken a new business pitch, here are my top tips:
1. Do Your Research
It goes without saying that you need to extensively research the prospect before you pitch for their business. Take an initial first look in your own time; browse their website, find the key stakeholders within the business on LinkedIn and gain an understanding of who they are, check out their news stories and most importantly what coverage they have gained so far. Then as a team, when you are thinking of campaign ideas or new messaging, you can contribute to the discussion while hearing what everyone else has learnt and taking that on board. When presenting, it is advantageous to reference the people you are pitching to. For example, if one of the prospects has recently posted about a podcast opportunity they participated in on their LinkedIn – mention that and build on it. For example, “Sarah, we noticed that you recorded a podcast recently focusing on AI. We thought you were a natural speaker, and this is a great subject matter to build your profile upon. To extend this, we suggest that we look at broadcasting opportunities”. By adding that human layer to the pitch and extra details, it really demonstrates that you have researched the company well and you have created a bespoke campaign proposal for them, their products, their KPIs and their people.
2. Practice! It’s Your Time To Shine
In the meetings leading up to a new business pitch you will probably be assigned a few slides and topic areas that you will own during the presentation. As a PR executive this is a great opportunity to practice your presentation techniques; owning a few slides will make you feel like a team player who is genuinely contributing to the pitch. When everyone in the team has agreed their areas to present, carry out your own research but make sure you get advice from the team around styles and topics to mention. When you are mapping out your key talking points, you know you will be on-topic. Once you have drafted what you intend to say, practice a few times out loud, then re-write again and again, but this time in fewer words as bullet points. Don’t over work the slides but think of 2 or 3 key messages that you want to communicate with each slide and the necessary points that you want to raise. Write these down on cards that you can bring into the pitch to jog your memory, so you aren’t having to sift through an entire script if you lose your train of thought.
3. Seize the Opportunity
Use your first pitch as a learning experience and absorb as much as you can from the team. In your career you will be required to present and speak with confidence to people who you may not be familiar with. Pitching is a unique opportunity to practice this, with the comfort of knowing if things don’t go to plan, you have a supportive team who will be able to steer you back on track. Participating in these pitches has taught me that I quite enjoy presenting; it can be empowering and places a lot of trust between you and your directors which I think is important. If it goes well, it can also be a great opportunity to demonstrate a skill to your management team which you may not be able to prove very often!
At C8, I have been lucky enough to join the pitching team for two new business opportunities. When I was first told I would be pitching, of course I was apprehensive. I had never really ‘presented’ formally before, and I also didn’t want to let the team down. However, now that I know what is expected, and I have gained some experience of pitching, I can honestly say that I enjoy it. The pressure of the day before, finessing what everyone is going to say, the nerve-wracking moment when it’s your time to speak and all eyes are on you, and even the debrief discussing how the pitch went. If you really want to feel the sense of a team achievement, you need to pitch for new business – it is the definition of win together, lose together.