Posted on / by ciaran

Offbeat Ideas Used by Global Agencies to Create Chemistry in New Business Pitches

It can always feel unfair after weeks of hard work for a pitch to come down to the ‘feeling in the room’ between the agency and the client. But often it does.

Can chemistry be managed? Is there any science to it?

A lot of the published literature covers fairly obvious and important steps that most agencies do well. This is a good article here from Trinity P3 if you want the basics.

I met the global head of new business for Publicis a number of years ago and they have a number of ‘tricks’, which global agencies do in the ‘chemistry’ meeting. I thought I’d share two slightly ‘off-beat’ one’s with you here:

  1. Hot Start

The purpose of the ‘hot start’ is to manage the moment where first impressions are being formed. The idea is to bring energy to the conversation in the room while laptops and projectors are being set up and the atmosphere can be a bit awkward.

The ‘hot start’ is introducing an arresting thing, fact or topic on an A2 board e.g. something that the client might not know about their consumer, industry, your agency or whatever. In fact, anything at all that is interesting and has some relevance to the meeting.

For example, I pitched for an account on one occasion where we used ‘amusing’ portraits of people from the agency who weren’t at the meeting. Our account director asked if he could introduce the client to people who can’t be here while we were setting up. It avoided awkward silence by introducing a ‘light’ topic and got everyone laughing at the funny portraits. (The A2 board means you have something to hold and doesn’t have to be powered up)

Done well, ‘Hot Starts’ generate a good atmosphere from the very beginning, and set a good tone for the rest of the meeting.

  1. Plan for Banter

At a human level, the client is asking themselves if it would it be fun to work with these guys? An appropriate level of smiling and polite banter between the members of the pitch team during the meeting presents an image to the client of a happy team who enjoy each others company – a group of people that would be nice to be around.

Its natural for everyone to be on ‘best behavior’ so this ‘trick’ is about permitting people to have fun during the meeting – reminding them to smile, relax, enjoy and not to be afraid of making a polite joke – and crucially if someone does crack a joke, make sure the team laugh (politely) in support.

Sometimes it can be good to rehearse a little banter but practice is needed beforehand so it feels natural.

These might seem like simple, even frivolous tactics but I’ve tried them and was surprised how well they worked.