Karmarama's Sophie Lane identifies the key points from a fun and challenging one-day IPA Business Development course
This was the second year that I have attended IPA's masterclass on finding, reaching out to, winning and keeping clients and each year I have come away feeling hugely reinvigorated about what I do.
In no other environment do you have the opportunity to listen to candid discussions by the industry's elite. To explore the most fundamental, often neglected elements of pitching through the lens of a client, an agency and an intermediary simultaneously. To become friends with the people doing exactly what you're doing, only for someone else.
Each time, we have begun by exploring what's out there. And what's out there is a frightening 17,000 UK marketing communications agencies competing for business.
Last year, the IPA New Business course spanned two days, the second of which had us in breakdown sessions for a practice pitch. Though my brain was certainly wrung through by the close of this year's course, I believe a day is sufficient to run through the programme.
This started with a cursory glance at the business landscape, and an opportunity to understand the sheer volume of competition, moving on to how to pull your agency out of the crowd and get them noticed.
Surprisingly enough, the lesson here did not take us through the never fail tactics of ‘peacocking’, but stressed the importance of making sure the fundamentals are nailed.
There are those mythical new business heads who have travelled through entire careers without filling in an RFI. That's unlikely to be the case for most. Indeed intermediary Suki Thompson and client Jon White, articulated the importance of the care factor; you should pay particular attention to whether you're returning the document with relevant content, a consistent tone of voice, whether or not it is bespoke (copy and paste can highlight some pretty gaping holes in your knowledge of the clients) and, most importantly, does it answer the question?
Only after these boxes have been ticked and re-ticked, should it be subjected to garnishing.
The speakers then moved through brilliant hints to bear in mind when reaching out to prospects and into best practice pitching.
The focus of this was a habit we thought we'd left with our knee socks in primary school – shirking homework. But when you're pitching, it is imperative to do your research.
Some people (such as Kristof Fahy, CMO of William Hill) hate nothing more than jazz hands and glitter; make sure you know that before entering a room with them (him). Use your network, and the time available to you, to pick up as much dialogue with and access to the client as possible.
And once you've teamed up with a client, how can you make sure the spark stays? This was thoroughly covered, with a take home checklist thrown in.
And lastly, that bag of gold under the carpet, so often neglected in targeting new business... existing clients.
When you truly understand your client's business, their people and their buying cycle, you can identify the gaps in what you are providing them.
In our search for new prospects, we expend an immense amount of energy trying to prove how reliable we are, how creatively we can think and the wonderful results we can bring about; when we could use a portion of that energy offering other services to those clients who already know this about us.
Needless to say, I walked away with a to-do list a long as my arm – a brilliant refresh (or introduction) of the basics, and a thorough look into strategy moving forward.
Sophie Lane is Business Development Assist at Karmarama
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Last updated 12/05/2014