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Pitching Digital - The Line in the Sand

I have had cause to proposalate in the last few months. Proposalation is the line that, as an agency of repute, one draws just before dropping one’s drawers and taking it up the Mohave Desert. The ‘before’ part is an important distinction. Pitching is bullying in my mind and so it simply won’t compute. I hate dedicating the resources of the agency for no reward – we have clients who pay for such a service and there isn’t a credible reason I can give those clients for making them pay, and yet give others the same service for free, or ‘speculatively’, or for the ‘potential opportunity’, or however the hell you try to justify it. It’s simply unacceptable.

So, now that that’s clear, what have we got left? Well on the basis that the prospective client has equally staunch views on ‘sampling the merchandise’ and requires more than a lifetime of credentials, case studies, awards and testimonials because, you know, what if overnight you suddenly start delivering shit…? Well, that’s where the agency can proposalate – write a proposal, show an ankle, but whatever happens, keep the drawers firmly in place.

And so I have proposalated for the last few months – with mixed results. On the plus side, almost every client proposal has been approved and progressed towards something wonderful. On the down side, almost every prospect proposal has met with anxiety, procrastination and a nervous twitch.

I’ve learnt a few things in the last few months. The first, and probably the most important, is that in a difficult economic climate and in a rapidly evolving digital space, the trust of an existing client is far more valuable than the potential riches of an uncertain prospect. There are brands that are willing to embrace digital change and those that would prefer to produce the same old, same old in the vain hope that it might work this time (even if it didn’t work last time). No matter how compelling the proposal, nothing changes the basic fear of the unknown.

The digital space for B2B brands is currently one of chance – the chance to change, to do things differently, to evolve. The vast majority of the work that I am currently proposing simply hasn’t been done before. There are no case studies, there are no measures or benchmarks. That’s quite a hard sell for the traditional B2B prospect. Actually, it’s pretty difficult for an existing client, but the at least client has trust. The measures are therefore not what has been achieved for other clients, but ‘how much do you trust me?’ We’ve never done it, you’ve never done it, no one’s ever done it… but it’s cool isn’t it? Trust me. Spend some money on it and let’s see what happens… Like I said, a hard sell.

So I’ve learnt that I’m wasting my time speculating on prospect proposals. Digital brand strategy and delivery is too risky for the majority. Those closest to accepting and embracing change are already our clients so it makes sense to focus on them. They will become the case studies that the other laggards eventually follow.

It makes no sense to continue to educate the market in the art of the possible when the market makes little tangible investment in that process of evolution. They’re interested in it alright – it’s the interest that simulates the proposal in the first place. They’re even excited by the potential – “incredible… that’s amazing… can we really do that…?” Well, actually, no, you can’t, because you’re not prepared to pay for it and I’m getting tired of telling you while you jack-off in the corner.

That leaves a few, a happy few, a band of brothers. Whichever way I look at it, it’s still a hard sell. And so I’m going to stop proposalating. I have better things to do. For a start, I have some needles in a haystack to find. They’re out there, but I’m no longer going to try to write a proposal to find and convince them. Once they’ve narrowed their options, they’ll find me. We should all draw a line in the sand. Not in the Mohave Desert though.

Scot McKee
Managing Director
Birddog Ltd.
+44 (0)20 7323 6666

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