Over the years I’ve prepared, submitted and responded to a fair few briefs. Re-branding, websites, telemarketing, consultancy, mentoring etc..

Typically the agency response requires a demonstration of capability or understanding of the brief. That would enable the responding company to put forward ideas, creative interpretation or project outlines. You’d think it to be a pretty straightforward process, or so it used to be.

Now, I know this will irritate some agencies but I feel it important to set out a “client side” view of the tender process.

If a business requires a new website it is likely to be a project costing several thousand pounds. Similar costs may be expended on a corporate re-brand or advertising campaign. Picking the right partner to work with is therefore essential. If it goes wrong, the budget may be poorly used and a disconnect in objectives and outcomes an unsatisfactory result of this new relationship.

The company should therefore look to minimise the risk of poor selection by tailoring a clear and detailed brief to meet the objectives of the project. The brief should include background of the business, key drivers, customer profiles and objectives. For example a website brief might include details of current headline figures from Google analytics and the target figures you would seek in a set period post launch and number of customers driven from the web.

To help make the crucial decision the client needs to trust that the agency understands the brief and that they have the ability and resources to deliver the desired result on time.

This is the sticky point. The request for the agency to submit speculative work.

Once upon a time that was a common request that almost always received a comprehensive positive response from agencies.

Unfortunately there is a growing body of opinion on the agency side to refuse all such requests for speculative pitches.

I do have some sympathy with this argument. Clients can take advantage of agencies in this economic climate by making unreasonable requests, practically expecting fully formed campaigns or web designs as part of the brief. This is not acceptable. No one would go to a restaurant and eat two of the three courses before deciding if they wanted to stay. They might however be persuaded to book based upon a taster menu promotion.

If you’re spending a significant part of your marketing budget you need to make the best qualified decision possible and in my opinion that includes demonstrable evidence of capability matched to the specific brief. It’s just not sufficient to see a list of previous clients or portfolio of work even if it is in the same sector.

I respect agencies who hold the firm view of no speculative pitches however they should be very clear at the outset and not attempt to respond and pitch without delivering on this key aspect. That only serves to frustrate the client through a protracted process in which the agency seeks to manipulate the brief to suit their own policy. Avoid such procrastination at all costs as in the end no one wins

Personally I take the “speculate to accumulate” view and have lived by that term in my own response to new business pitches. Some you win, some you may lose but without giving too much of your creativity and time you can and will stand a greater chance of success by trusting in the process, the client will certainly appreciate it.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

Briefs, Pitches, Speculation & Procrastination
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