Perfecting your pitch

Recently I attended the Account Planning Group ‘Worlds Collide’ event in London. As well the fantastic talk from Karyn McKlusky, I also went along to John Hegarty’s presentation on pitching.

We’re mad busy pitching for lots of exciting new business opportunities at the moment, so it was really useful to get the chance to hear one of the world’s most awarded and respected admen talk about his experiences.

There were a few key points that I took away with me:

1. “I work in advertising; I don’t live in advertising.”

Hegarty discussed the importance of having a personality and being interesting and charismatic. New clients are much more likely to buy into your agency if you can build a relationship and rapport with them; that’s why chemistry meetings are so important.

2. “You’re selling the future — make it exciting!”

Hegarty explained that he wants everything he pitches to become part of social culture in the future. He sees it as getting messages out there into society; it’s not just advertising, it’s inspiring change for the future.

3. “Be a distinctive brand.”

Agencies work on clients’ brands every day, but Hegarty says that the majority are bad at branding themselves. He’s encountered lots of agencies that try and be all things to all people, and that’s never a good place to start. I’m biased, of course, but I think we’ve created a distinctive brand here at Code, and it seems to be something that other agencies are getting better at too.

4. “Have belief in what you’re pitching.”

One of the most important things about pitching is to believe in what you’re saying — if you don’t, then no one else will.

5. “Truth, trust and love.”

In order to make sure you have a long-standing relationship with your client, they need be able to trust and respect you, and you need to be honest at all times. And you can start building the foundations for this before you even meet them.

6. “It’s a lottery — change the rules.”

Think about the problem. Don’t just do what everyone else is doing; think about things differently, and then do things differently.

7. “Serve the best coffee in the world.”

If the pitch is taking place in your office, it’s your chance to make an impression. Hegarty says that he thinks the receptionist at BBH has won them more business than the creative directors!

And one last point he made which I thought was really interesting… When someone in the audience asked, “What mistake have you learnt the most from?” Hegarty’s reply was “I’ve learnt more from my successes than I have from my mistakes”.

He said you always make mistakes when you’re coming up with creative ideas, but you can’t over analyse those that weren’t as successful as others or you’ll stifle your creativity.

We’re big on reflection, feedback and learning at Code, and Hegaty’s comments reminded me of the importance of focussing on the things that have gone right, as well as those that have gone wrong.