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Give your agency better feedback

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The most constructive pitch feedback we ever received was, oddly, for a job we won. Giving good constructive feedback to your agency is incredibly valuable and something we actively encourage every business to do.

Proposals and pitching is the lifeblood of new business in the web industry. The process of writing up your thoughts and then standing in front of another business to convey your ideas, abilities and passion for their project is a huge piece of the sales puzzle. It can also be an incredibly contrived and frustrating process.

I love the act of pitching and, in the past nine months, we’ve done more pitching at Primate than ever before. It’s given me a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction. I do, however, dislike the traditional pitch process. Pitting up to ten agencies against each other and asking them to produce, sometimes, a huge amount of unpaid creative work in an attempt to woo your business seems incredibly inefficient and not at all representative of the genuine working relationship you might end up with.

I’m not the only one who feels the frustration of it all. Agencies have banded together to protest against pitching. Some even refuse to take part in unpaid pitches. It would be very expensive for commissioning companies if paying for pitches was the norm, however, think about the huge amount of combined time – and money – that’s spent by agencies pitching for free.

I’ve won and lost plenty of jobs in the 11 years I’ve worked in this industry and accept the latter on the chin with good grace and an understanding that such things happen. However, one thing that’s bound to irk me is a lack of constructive feedback, or worse, no feedback at all.

But I’m not here to crusade against pitching. I accept it’s part of the job and, as a sympathetic capitalist, I appreciate the ethics of hard work and survival of the fittest. Still, there is something simple you should plan and expect to do if you invite an agency to pitch for your work: give good feedback.

A generic email to your unsuccessful agencies merely stating your decision is not enough. Especially when they may have invested days analysing your project and crafting a response. Of course, I suspect that most lack of feedback is due to social awkwardness. No one likes giving another person bad news. A phone call would be nice but a personal email would also suffice.

Invest some time. Write a proper email explaining your decision. Tell them what they did badly and what they did well. Tell them who won the job in the end and what the deciding factors were. Be honest. Be blunt. Be completely transparent. If you don’t have the time to do this simple thing then you shouldn’t be asking other companies to invest their time pitching to you.

And why stop there? Why not give your winning agency feedback too? Or feedback as you work with them? As I said right at the start, the best feedback we ever got after a pitch was for a job we actually won. The client took the time to write up in-depth, informative reviews of every agency’s pitch and proposal, explaining exactly what they liked and didn’t like. It was the first time we found out – honestly – why we won a project and what we could’ve done to make our pitch better. This simple feedback has helped shape and improve our business, and impacted our proposals and pitches for prospective clients.

So invite agencies to pitch. Expect them to invest time coming up with solutions and creative ideas. But respect their time and give them the feedback they deserve.

Image credit: uncoolbob

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.


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