How to make a second place pitch suck less in agency new business

A friend of mine was interviewing for a job and just learned he came in second. What a bummer. Landing a job is alot like ad agency new business. You are one of thousands. Then, through a process of elimination, you can win or lose. There are many similarities that will no doubt spawn a few helpful posts in the future. But today’s ditty is about what an agency can do when it comes in number two.

As you might suspect, one of the things you might want to do is find out why you didn’t win. Learn. Knowing this will ratchet up your effectiveness moving forward. But with this prospect, it also informs another thing you can do…

Stay in touch. We all know that things change. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to continue to build your relationship with the decision-makers. Notice this is plural. Not just the person who told you the outcome of the pitch. Client-side marketers move just as much as agency folks do.

Here are four rough steps to consider as you contemplate second place. These are perhaps more interesting and… unique than “find out why you didn’t win” and “stay in touch.” Fine advice, mind you. But you deserve better! Anywho:

First, get over the loss. Yes, it does suck to lose. Particularly if you really liked the clients or if you had great ideas. Properly mourn what’s happened. But then, dust yourself off.

Second, thank your prospect. Far easier to do once you’ve fully de-dustified. But more than likely, you are still stinging from the loss a you write your thank-you note (because you have to do it SOON after hearing you have lost.)

Third, offer them a tips on managing their new relationship. If you don’t already have it, cobble together some white paper how-to on productive client/agency relationships. No, you probably don’t feel like giving them anything like this. In fact, you might have an idea or two on just where they can put a white paper! But I encourage you to get over it. And then take the high road. Smart agencies – like, why, you – will customize their how-to, adding some context you got from the brief.

Think of it as “pitchalization” more than “personalization.” And it’s an important bit. Because it makes common platitudes more relevant and, therefore, more valuable to the prospect. It demonstrates your authenticity and genuine interest in seeing the prospect succeed. And, but wait, there’s more…it can set up future communication between you and the prospect. And, it can set up parameters to hire you because may have things have changed.

Fourth, continue to make them a part of your outbound prospecting efforts. Treat ’em like your other prospects. But add an extra layer of communication, fed by step three.

All of this assumes, of course, that you know you came in second. Which can be a hard thing to figure out. Because the sharpest clients will make it seem like all the other agencies came in second.  How many times have you heard, “it was so close…” Some signs that you really did have a shot at the prize include the levels of interaction and intelligence you had going into finals, your reading of the room and the emotion seen in the clients who debrief you. Trust your gut.

It still blows that you didn’t win. You are still out thousands of dollars in time and out-of-pocket. But hope these words will help at least a little bit. We have all been there! If you have any other ideas that you can think of to help the cause, feel free to share. Thanks.