Call it what you will, speculative creative, free pitches, mock-ups, requests for proposals, ideas, it all amounts to the same thing – giving away experience, insights and expertise for free. Sure, we’ve done it before and every single time, we’ve said never again. We’ve lost pitches yet had our ideas used, lost considerable money and time in preparation and lost potential other clients. Yet we continued to do it. Why? Well, the thought of a shiny new client and the promise of more work got our creative hearts all-a-flutter. But really, if things sound too good to be true, they usually are.
After joining the Design Business Association (dba.org.uk) we came across an event called ‘Win Without Pitching’- run by Blair Enns. We listened to his ideas and realised this was how we wanted to do business. A business epiphany within three hours. We applied it and within months, if not weeks, it worked.
The thing is, no other industry pitches their ideas for free, or at least none we can think of. I know some big agencies that do it and are prepared to do business like that. When small agencies partake, paying clients get shortchanged with stretched resources. Do potential clients realise that if they come onboard, that it will happen to them at some point?
Clients also rarely reveals the true brief until the agency becomes a true partner. So why play games? Why indulge in what is effectively guess work? To do effective creative there needs to be a dialogue, an understanding of the business, the market, and ultimately their measure of success. To let clients know that we want to collaborate, to integrate ourselves into their team to get the most out of it for all parties, the best place to start is a conversation and not some beauty pageant.
Past work should be a reliable enough indicator of agency performance. In any creative environment, where ideas are currency, why would you ever give your experience, your expertise and commercial insights away for free and expect to be taken seriously?
For a more lighthearted look at free pitching, check out this video:
Huge thanks to the very awesome Jessica Hische studio for permission to use their fantastic project to illustrate our point.
And finally a massive thank you to Blair Enns, without whom we’d be still in the dark.