Art & Commerce: 7 Deadly Sins

Some friendly advice: the dos and don’ts of making a pitch
You want the work. You want the money. You want the client to pick your firm. But selecting an ad agency is a brain-draining endeavor for a client. As a client, I can’t help feeling like someone out there is lying to me; the question is, who? Here are some things you can do to improve your agency’s chances in the simplest of competitive searches:
Don’t show old work or work that isn’t relevant. I don’t care how classic or timeless you think it is. If you haven’t done any good work in the last two years that’s relevant enough to show, you probably shouldn’t be my agency. Equally important, tailor your presentation to the prospect. If I’m a Web firm, I don’t want to see histories on children’s marketing programs. If you need to show this history to demonstrate a point–make sure I understand what that point is.
Don’t let the most boring guy do all the talking. I don’t care if he is your president. If you don’t have the nerve to give him the bad news, hire an outside consultant to come in and hurt his feelings. Once the team is assembled, rehearse! Divide up assignments and stick to it. Let creative present creative. Let media present media. Give me a glimpse of the people who will be behind those big fat invoices I’m going to receive.
Don’t present a great case history for a client who just went bankrupt. Don’t laugh, it happens more than you think. And frankly, nothing makes me more suspicious. Either you were not a good adviser to your client, weren’t truthful about the real business problems at hand or your creative didn’t sell the product.
Show me you are skilled and not just lucky. The most confidence-building moment is when I “see” how you will solve my problem. I’m not talking about spec creative. I need to understand what steps–as an agency and a creative team–you will devise to find the right answers. Getting me to understand this process will make me believe you can do it for me.
Use your powers of presentation. Anybody can throw together slides. You’re in a creative business; I’m guessing you might have a more interesting trick or two. And the more you tell me about your network affiliations, outside resources, etc., the more I know you don’t have the in-house capability to handle my account.
Don’t be late, bad mouth the competition or hedge the truth. In other words, arrive on time and be courteous, polite and honest. One would think these things go without saying, but people forget all the time. Have the conference room ready and have an agenda that allows time for the presentation, a tour and lunch. On the other hand, don’t plan things so tightly that you can’t be flexible.
Don’t appear more interested in my money than in my product. A good agency partner wants to get to know my product, wants to understand it. He or she wants to understand what we do and what we need. Brainstorm with me about my problems and my product from the moment we meet. I’m not asking you to give away your ideas, but show me your creativity and on-the-fly thinking. Telling a prospect how you will work after they sign the contract is presumptuous. K