For more than two decades, we have had the privilege of being in the centre of the action as our clients work through choosing the right agency for their needs. It could be a creative agency, media agency, PR firm, activation agency, call centre, production company, or any other type of agency. It could also be a holding company, a network agency, or an independent.
It’s a privilege to discuss each option’s strengths and weaknesses and work through the tangible and intangible considerations. It is also fascinating to discover what a particular marketer is looking for and what resonates with the agency pitch.
We share this knowledge and insight with agencies when we are engaged to advise them on how to pitch themselves better.
We’ve always spoken with agencies and offered informal advice, more often than not, at their request. We’ve always provided, and will continue to provide, proper feedback to agencies involved in a pitch with us, free of charge. And it’s vital that we do so. Agencies are critical industry stakeholders – in some ways, guardians of the industry we’re all passionate about.
More recently, we’ve developed approaches and products that delve much deeper, providing agencies with extensive insight, information and recommendations regarding their approach to pitching and the market. And offer these products independently of live pitches.
Do we charge for these services? Yes, of course, we do. We’re a business, and our time, IP and expertise have value.
Inevitably, all this can lead to discontent about our ‘playing the field’ with (in the critic’s view) resultant and unavoidable conflict of interest.
The truth? There is no conflict of interest. We’d be out of business if there were. But don’t just take my word for it. I want to take some time to explain a bit more about how we operate when we advise agencies and the options they have open to them.
Before I do, it’s worth considering why we advise agencies. While we charge, overall, it represents a tiny – a minuscule – part of our revenue stream as a business. It’s not particularly profitable, relative to other parts of our operation. And we always knew that it would leave us open to criticism.
So why do we do it? There are two simple reasons.
First, agencies want to be helped. We get a steady stream of agencies requesting various levels of advice from us. They recognise that we’re uniquely positioned to bring them outside their echo chambers. And some of the agencies we have helped have directly attributed an improved pitches strike rate to our recommendations.
Second, we want to help agencies. It is in everyone’s interest – agencies, marketers, procurement people, consultants – to optimise and improve the process and output of pitches. It can only lead to more robust processes and efficiency, tremendous success, better decisions, longer and more productive relationships, and improved marketing outcomes.
So, two good reasons to offer the service. But how do we avoid conflict of interest?
First, we maintain the same level of objectivity that has sustained us for over 20 years. Without objectivity, we’d be bankrupt. For a start, the pool of agencies that we could realistically work with would be too small. Not to mention that people can smell dishonesty a mile away. And our process in pitches (which starts with a detailed reverse briefing process from our client and moves to a multi-criteria framework for agency selection and facilitation of clients making every decision, at every stage, about which agencies to select) doesn’t allow for it.
At the same time, our entire industry is run on relationships.
It’s obvious that with thousands of agencies in the market, those who talk to us will be more visible to us. That’s why we note agencies who take the trouble to introduce themselves to us.
We provide an agency register – free of charge – for agencies to complete to improve their visibility.
And it’s why we’re engaged in a continuous process of self-education to understand as many agencies as possible who may not yet have contacted us.
Second, we provide advisory services within tight parameters.
- We do not work with any agency involved with a current live pitch project that we’re running. Any advisory service cannot start, stop or continue until the agency is not involved in any TrinityP3 pitch.
- We do not accept pay for performance, ongoing pay, or retainers. This has always been the case with our marketing clients; it is the same for agencies.
- We don’t advise agencies on ‘how to win’ any live pitch run by us or any other party. Our most in-depth agency advisory product is based on a retrospective assessment of a previously completed pitch – and again, we will not advise on any project we managed as a pitch consultant.
- We do not undertake any obligation or expect any from agencies. We do not market these services as a route to ‘get on to a TrinityP3 pitch list’. We don’t make any guarantees, and this is made clear. And, of course, the inverse is true; agencies who do not contact us for advisory services are not disadvantaged for the reasons already explained. How could we possibly limit ourselves in this way? We’d be unable to offer value to our marketing clients and, as a result, would put ourselves out of business by becoming irrelevant.
Our goal here is simple: for all agencies to be compellingly and relevant to present their credentials, improve consideration, and ultimately win business and be more successful. It leads to improved MROI. And to help our clients achieve this is why we exist as a business.