Ain’t (Agency) Life A Pitch? Red Flags To Be Aware Of When Inviting Pitches
Putting projects out to pitch is sort of reminiscent of Forrest Gump’s famous phrase: ‘life is like a box of chocolates…’ because you really, really do not know what you’re going to get.
Like angry bees converging on an unfortunate kid who has accidentally disturbed their nest, agencies often fall over each other trying to submit pitches to your business - which offers a widely variable level of quality and insight.
For example, some agencies rush to pitch quickly and stand out - while others may wait until the deadline to send a mammoth document that spans far beyond your original request.
Both of those approaches suck. In fact, most pitches suck. Here’s why…
Zero account for real-hours
When scoping a project, your typical agency will price by the estimated hours it takes to complete a project. These hours are generally guesswork based largely on past projects and the comfortable framework in which that agency operates.
What this means is that agencies very rarely take the time to map out your project and include the hours it will actually take. For example, a pitch for a new web development project may only consider the development time and not account for project management, testing, documentation etc.
Spot the flag: When looking at a pitch, if there’s no time accounted for the technical such as documentation or testing, you should be suspicious.
Sure, you may be attracted to the quote - but like most products in our lives, if something seems cheap, there’s probably a catch.
“Win it low, bill them later”
If a pitch quote seems low, there’s probably a good reason for it: such as the agency consciously cutting out some of the hours they KNOW they’ll need to use, but don’t want you to see.
This time may be farmed out to apprentices or overseas freelancers to keep costs down - but either way, the agency takes the hit. They might even approach you after they’ve won the pitch with the dreaded “hey, this project is running above expectations...you’ll need to pay us more.”
While this may be highly unprofessional, it’s more common than any agency will admit. Many agencies will scope projects with the bare minimum to highlight an attractive (and low) price point, and deal with the aftermath later.
Spot the flag: You know what they say: buy cheap, pay twice. If you accept a pitch solely based on price, you are setting yourself up for added costs later. We talk about technical debt in this post here, in case you missed it.
Inflated or ambitious forecasted numbers
A good pitch includes solid numbers - estimates on time spent on the project, ROI and other key metrics that will make you go ‘wow’. Unfortunately, lots of agencies pull these numbers from thin air in order to win your business. For a development project, this might be a data forecast based on an agency’s older projects - which is not even relevant to the needs of your specific project.
Be dubious whenever an agency’s pitch includes exact numbers for things that are not guaranteed - for example, delivering X amount of backlinks in a marketing campaign or X amount of coverage for a PR project.
If the number is not something that is totally controlled by the agency, all this forecast does is help sell you on their service without actually guaranteeing results.
Spot the flag: Look through a pitch and interrogate the forecasts presented to you - if you have any doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Adjust your budget, not the scope
As we’ve already mentioned, an agency might try to win a pitch by presenting a cheaper quote than its competitors. In their minds, they can either negotiate the rate later or take the hit themselves.
Instead, the agency should be able to adjust the scope itself - readjusting and being realistic with you about what they can actually, tangibly deliver for your budget.
When you’re considering a pitch, it pays to scrutinise what an agency is promising - if it seems like too much, it probably is.
Spot the flag: it may be hard to spot this early, as it is traditionally a thing that occurs once you’ve accepted a lower pitch and the project has grown out of control. However, if you just stay honest with yourself and trust your gut, you’ll already have a rough idea of how big a project is - you know deep down if a quote feels too low for what you need.
Beware of shiny shoes
Agencies have some of the most talented, creative and enthusiastic employees - which the majority are fond of showing off. Lockdown life aside, it’s not unusual for an agency to bring a prospective client to their office so they can ‘show off’ their team - and it’s even more common for an agency to pitch entirely through their business development people.
If you’re inviting a pitch and you’re not speaking to the key roles involved in the project, how can you be sure that the project is even viable in the budget and timeframe?
For example, if you’re tendering a new digital product, the agency's pitch process should include members of the delivery team. As a client, you should have contact with senior members of this team and be able to feel confident in their knowledge and expertise, not just the sales guy.
Spot the flag:
Make sure you can speak to the key people who will touch your project before accepting a pitch. Don’t hesitate to ask for their qualifications or experience in their field, and if they’re worth their salt, then you won’t have any trouble getting to know the delivery team ahead of time.
Why KOMODO won’t make You our pitch
Our pitch process isn’t about you. Sorry, but it’s true. We aren’t in the business of flattery. Instead, we pitch based on the project itself and how we believe it can be best delivered.
We’ll fully scope the project even if this makes us more expensive than our competition. We’ll involve our design and development teams from the outset and ensure they’re comfortable carrying out the project in the time we’ve quoted.
And if things go wrong, we’ll readjust the scope to match - not the hours. Never in our history have we had to ask our clients to increase on an agreed budget. When we pitch, we aren’t just trying to sell you something - we’re trying to solve your problem with a real, demonstrable solution that delivers what we say it will, for the price we say it will.
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