Failure is necessary in life and without failure you can’t succeed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Failure is by no means a rite of passage if you have what it takes or the insight to get it right the first time.
People who have been successful from the get go are not bad examples and certainly not few in numbers, and while failure is not a graduation ceremony, it can be an important stepping-stone just as long as we look back and analyse where we could’ve been better. Thus, from my humble experience, the rest of this piece is going to be about what probably went wrong when you did not win that prized pitch.
In essence, the numbers can be elaborated on or reduced, but I have come down to the point where I believe that there are six main reasons why people lose out. Here it goes —
First, you are being too modest or using few words to express your understanding. I’m not by any means emphasising that you should write a textbook as part of your preamble for any given proposal or pitch. However, it is quite necessary for one to simplify their understanding of the client’s business. Let’s understand one thing, people like to work with people they like and we tend to have a greater liking for people who understand us and everything about us.
One of the very obvious factors within this entire scheme may have been that you failed to demonstrate your understanding of the client’s business. The demonstration can come out of one of many things. It could be based upon research about the client’s company which is not publically available or perhaps an extrapolation based upon an understanding of available knowledge, or maybe even an example of your own experience with a client within a similar industry.
While this may seem like fluff to many ‘to-the-point’ proposal managers at times, I have come to observe that it’s an absolutely essential factor to break the ice at any submission, especially if the proposal is being submitted in absentia.
Another reason for such failure is that you emphasised more on your available offerings as opposed to the brief’s key requirements. For instance, an ad agency has a vertical which sells outdoor media and for some reason all of their proposals will be very heavily dependent upon pushing the out-of-home medium not because it is a key requirement of the brief in question, but because of the fact it’s available in-house. As a businessman I’m definitely not discouraging the power of cross-selling, however, many at times, if pushed without any tangible or number-based reasoning, can come across as a negative for an agency and many brand managers see through it.
Learning from successes, case studies or experiences is absolutely admirable and I believe that is the reason why we go across certain examples from the finer things done like at the ‘Opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics’. Whatever ‘Big Idea’ we propose, it should be based on a methodology, a flawless sequence, the greatest story ever. Your proposed methodology could have the best ‘Hero Idea’, but without a beginning, middle and an end, it comes across as a mixed bag or different disconnects. It is not an interwoven series of ideas and therefore not a convincing motivator for any bid owner to select an agency.
Number four is a classic human dilemma. It is that your objectives were more aligned with what client wanted as opposed to what the business objective needed. Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you should ignore a specific want indicated by the client. However, organisations choose to work with agencies because of their knowledge, experience and progress in identifying what they need so as to achieve their specific objective as indicated in the brief.
Not simplifying over complicated briefs is another carnal sin of submission. Very recently, I heard someone say that the most amount of work execution and the most amount of money are made between the lines. Reading between the lines is perhaps a crucial element within most briefs. For example, some people like to throw all their statistical curveballs on ‘How 23.9–year–old females subscribe more to their product than 22.8–year–olds’. This information can be relatively misleading and unnecessary if the requirement is aimed towards a more macro visibility campaign or event as their core requirement. Simplify the brief because clients feel comfortable with agencies that can shoot straight through and touch upon multiple objectives with one move.
The last one is that you try too hard. Your proposition always has to be ‘out of the proverbial box’ and this fixation of being different sometimes leads to you missing the bull’s-eye. Being different, new and fresh is something that we all strive for, however, this very attribute has been the death for many plans when it has compromised their effectiveness because it was different for the sake of being different. Coming up with the latest technology has become the order of the day, but I have seen great proposals fail because the proposed technology was favouring the agency’s credentials more than the project’s requirements.