Hacking the pitch process

My secret hack for winning pitches

Let’s be honest – no one in advertising likes pitching. Yes, the thrill of winning a new business is incredible, but the process of winning that business is anything but. We’re talking late nights, pressure to perform, stress, sleep deprivation, sacrificing time with your family… all for two hours in front of a new client that you don’t really know. 

Here are my tips to give you that edge in those two hours. 

Pitching

  1. Avoid new payoff lines.
    • Unless they have asked specifically for a new payoff line for the brand, don’t give them one. This is why. You are speaking to people who live and breathe a brand that you have only been exposed to for the last few days. Introducing a new line says that you not only don’t like or believe in the line that they have (which they probably approved), but that you also think that you know what their business needs better than they do. You only have a limited time in the pitch – rather show them the magic you’re capable of that will truly impact their business, than have them thinking about whether your line is right or wrong for the entire presentation. 
  2. Time is of the essence.
    • Almost every agency that I’ve pitched for has overestimated the time given to them in the process and the pitch. My advice is this… treat every slide in the presentation like a tattoo. Most clients understand what a Facebook or Instagram post looks like. Does it really need to be in the presentation? I’ve actually seen agencies work out that they only have 3 seconds to present each slide of their 400 page powerpoint document because it is filled with so much… stuff … and think that is okay. Surely, the client has invited you to pitch because you being able to do those things, is a given. What they want to really see is what unique thinking you will bring to the table. If you walked in with a single piece of paper, put it out in front of them and explained to them how this one unique, brave idea was going to change their brand… which pitch do you think they will remember more? 
  3. Focus on the big picture. But check your spelling. 
    • We’ve already spoken about your work being brave and memorable. But nothing will undermine that quicker than a spelling mistake. So make sure that you get a proofreader to go through everything thoroughly. Don’t ask the copywriters who have worked on the pitch to check it – by now they’re probably exhausted and might not see any mistakes in their own work. 
  4. Eat healthily
    • If you’re an agency, please prepare two meals a day for your teams. When they’re getting home late at night – they don’t have time to make food for the next day. You want them relaxed and refreshed.
    • And if you’re a creative, do yourself a favour and try to avoid all the energy drinks, the caffeine bombs, and that little white substance… sugar. And the other one. All those little highs have big lows and they aren’t really that conducive to creative thinking. 
  5. If you’re a freelancer – don’t pitch for free. 
    • My next insight is this: if you’re a freelancer, don’t pitch for free. And don’t pitch for a reduced rate on the promise that if they win, you will become their go-to guy/girl and get a lot more work. What I have found, more times than I’d like to mention, is that once a company wins the pitch, they land up hiring a junior to do the job so that they can make more money on the account. The next time you’ll hear from that company is when that client decides to go out to pitch again and they need you to do what you did the first time around.  

My last insight might just be the secret sauce or 11 herbs and spices to winning pitches. So please watch the video so that you can fully understand it. It involves ‘Inception’-like concepts on how to plant an idea and it will really equip you for any pitches you have coming up. I’ll also review one of the most incredible non-profit ads ever made. 

With all that said, let’s get into what I believe could be the secret to hacking pitches? The secret is this… 

Know your audience.

What? Is that it? Hear me out. Remember that in a pitch, you’re not actually advertising anything to anyone but the people in the room. You are the product. There is no way for them to measure whether your work is right or wrong, they are rewarding the work based on something else… Think about that. You’ve just spent all your time showing them that you understand their target audience, but that is not who you are speaking to. You are speaking to them. And how much do you really know about the people in that room? What have you invested in getting them to know that you are the authority in what you do.

At this point, if you haven’t watched the video, please do. It really puts everything into context. 

This is the greatest flaw of pitching. Your job in the pitch is to influence the five people in the room who are making the decision. Sure – your creative work will play a role, but there is so much more that you could do to move things in your favour. Am I suggesting that you hire a mentalist to help you land the business? Why not? This is the business of influence. And sure, this is an extreme example, but there are little things that you can do that will shift things your way. Think about the client’s commute to the presentation room. What will they see along the way? Could that help you? What will they be listening to? Is there a way to extend your two hour presentation that it speaks to them long after the pitch… or maybe you can find a way to prime them so that that two hour presentation is just the cherry on top. 

If you have enjoyed this content and would like to see more like it, please subscribe to my channel. I am really trying to grow it this year. I am also working on the conceptual copywriting course, which will be launching soon. As soon as it is ready – I’ll be sure to let you know. 

Until next time. Cheers.