Pitfalls of the pitching process – and the remedy

Goran Deak, CEO and founder, Top Digital Agency, explains why the pitching process is flawed, and what can be done to improve it.


Every company can tell you how important a good pitch is in making a final decision on which digital agency to choose for their project. They understand how much time and effort it takes to prepare the perfect pitch.

However, digital agencies can tell you that there are some factors – both internal and external – that will affect your ability to enable them to compete fairly when pitching for a project. The pitching process across all industries is flawed, so we’ll be breaking down the issues of the traditional pitching process, some idealistic solutions, and one realistic solution.

Problems with traditional pitching

Business is nowhere near a perfect science. Regardless of the methods of measuring “success,” the preferences of the customers change over time, as do the societies and laws that guide the development of business practices. These changes mean that the tools to measure success must change as well, which is one reason the traditional pitching process is beginning to fail those utilising the processes. Innovation is bringing much-needed change, which has shone a spotlight on the shortcomings and inefficiencies of the traditional process.

Limited network for publishing RFPs

One major shortcoming of the traditional pitching process is that regardless of how big your company is, when seeking work there is typically only a small group of “trusted” digital agencies that are allowed to pitch for the project. This is both because of the rigorous HR procedures involved in sourcing digital agencies for projects, and because of the costs associated with the procedures, and potential risk of not hiring a quality digital agency. The sunk costs in this scenario are mainly related to lost time, as the steps to complete the pitching process and choose a digital agency can stretch over a long period of time. On average, the pitching process seems to run the course of about a month. Sometimes it’s done over a shorter period of time, and sometimes longer.

The first-mover advantage

The first-mover advantage has always been a simple way of staking one’s claim to something, and projects are no exception to this rule. Typically, it seems if there is no definitive end-date on a round of pitching, the selection will be made either when an amazing pitch comes in, or – depending on the urgency of the business sourcing digital agencies to complete its project – the first agencies to pitch will be considered, and all the rest will be ignored. This is patently unfair to the digital agencies applying, and also presents the risk of a detrimental outcome to the pitching business, due to the first pitch being lower quality than a pitch that may have come later in the process.

The pitch Is better than the result

Sometimes, just like in choosing a book, the cover of the book is better than the book itself. This applies to pitches as well. A pitch may look solid, be aesthetically pleasing, and an all-around great pitch. However, when the time comes, the digital agency that was chosen may not deliver results that match the pitch, and this is where the problems truly begin. Depending on how tight the project publisher’s contracts are with the chosen digital agency, they may not just be doing a poor job at completing the project, but may actually be at risk of deceptive advertising, as the pitch was inaccurately representing the final product. This is terrible for the reputation of the digital agency expected to complete the project, increasing the likelihood of bad reviews and industry standing.

A solution – standardising the pitching process

It seems to me that the only simple solution, both for the project publisher and the digital agencies is to standardise the pitching process. This would save time and potentially shorten the pitching process, giving enough information to each digital agency applying and evening the playing field.

Whether as a business you decide to create your own internal standards in the pitching process, or the industry you’re in does, itself, standards help immensely to increase fairness and simplify the process. However, given time, standards become refined and increase efficiency, so standardising is the best solution, overall.

  • Top Digital Agency recently closed a €400,000 seed funding round on Funderbeam, the cross-border fundraising and trading platform for private companies, exceeding its original target by 41% .

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