Beware of the good looking sister in your next pitch

We’ve all been there. Either your firm is the lucky one. Or unfortunately, you’re pitching against them: the good looking sister.

So, just what the heck is that? The good looking sister is a firm that also handles some of your prospect’s business. It may be another brand or division. Or it could even be on the same brand, but a different discipline. You get the idea. They have a chunk of business. And for them, this pitch is an excellent opportunity to grow their scope.

The good looking sister is a very tough competitor. Today, we’ll briefly explore why they’re so tough. And how you might more effectively compete.

She’s tough because she knows the prospect and represents just enough “new” to make it interesting for the decision-makers. They know the company culture, the power, the politics and the business issues behind what you might read in a press release. Having just represented a sister in some pitches, it was a great feeling to leverage the company’s learning in the pitch. This can be a large advantage.

How can you compete? Well, depends on your situation, of course. But for now, let’s assume you are not in the family. You have no existing business with the client. Some quick thoughts:

  • What do you know about the decision-makers? What kinds of people are they? How to do they make their decisions? How might that impact your content and context? This generic “how to win” advice certainly applies here.
  • What news can you bring to the prospect’s business? Ya gotta go beyond what you’ve been asked to do. Any new insights? New kinds of brand customers? New products? New distribution partners? New, win-win partnerships? You get the idea.
  • How can you mitigate the value of the existing relationship? By this, I mean more clearly tying the need for new to the company or brand’s business situation. Or, bring in people to your team that have the existing understanding your competitor has. Social media could be a terrific tool to help identify professionals you can hire.
  • Are you the Leo Burnett of your category? “No one ever got fired for hiring Leo Burnett” is a cliche in the agency business. Last time I checked, there’s only one of these guys – and they’re right here in Chicago. But take that idea – prestige, gravitas – and apply it to your market, a discipline, a business category or a consumer.

What do you think? How might you compete against the good looking sister?