In the recent survey on pitch practice conducted by the PM Society, agencies and clients commissioning work in healthcare communications were asked what the most common timeframe was for a £200K competitive pitch.

73% of agencies say they are typically given 2-3 weeks. This is backed up by the clients taking part in the survey. Interestingly when agencies were asked what they thought was a reasonable timeframe, 78% of agencies stated 4 weeks or longer.

It’s worth thinking about why agencies are asking for more time.  In fact, it all comes down to resource.  Like pharma companies, good agencies are busy and run a tight ship.  So, they can’t have many staff with capacity waiting for the next pitch.  And the priority is inevitably given to existing clients, so pitches have to be fitted in around their needs.

If you’re a client and you impose a short timeline, you might risk not getting the best out of the agencies you select.  And consequently, you might not make the most of a golden opportunity; to have three or four sets of clever people rigorously considering your challenges and issues, completely free of charge.

To support this, it’s worth bearing in mind the process agencies go through when they pitch:-

  1. They need to digest the brief and then develop questions for the Q&A.
  2. They may commission some small-scale research with patients or HCPs, which can take 5-10 days to recruit and run.
  3. After digesting the implications, they develop a strategic point of view, begin tactical planning and, if required for the pitch, brief creative teams.
  4. The creative teams work on the brief, their work is reviewed and refined, and final versions worked up.
  5. The pitch team develop the proposal or presentation which is reviewed and refined.
  6. Budgets are developed for all tactics proposed.
  7. The final deck or proposal is refined and completed and the pitch team meet for a rehearsal.

Doing all of that in 2-3 weeks is really challenging.

It all comes down to consideration.  As a client, if you can, build in time for the search and shortlisting of agencies and then still incorporate 4-6 weeks for the pitch. You’ll get a much better outcome and are more likely to see the true measure of the agencies pitching.

Top tips:

  1. Plan time from the outset to allow agencies pitching 4-6 weeks to respond to your challenges and to see their best work
  2. If time is shorter, consider a different process; perhaps something requiring less pre-work by the agency but including a chemistry session and longer time on the day to review credentials and discuss approach and strategy.

Authors: Paul Phillips and Michael Orriss

Look out for our next article based on the PM Society’s Pitch Practice Survey.