Researching the pitch
The reality of pitching for new business is that any pitch that is all performance and no preparation will uniformly fail. To conduct a successful business pitch, meticulous and strategic research is just as, if not more, important than the content of the presentation itself and the way that it is delivered.
Before we discuss how research might be conducted, it is worth remembering that the unique circumstances, characteristics, and market positioning of your clients and the key stakeholders whom they are trying to influence will have a huge bearing on how you handle this research. No two businesses are the same, so effective research must be tailored to the specific needs of your client and their stakeholders.
With that in mind, it is important to establish concrete goals for your research that align with the client’s brief. Ultimately, PR and communications research should fulfil three broad objectives: to inform the communications strategy, to support big communication ideas and to support the achievement of desired business outcomes. In order to properly satisfy these objectives, you must adopt a holistic approach that combines relevant data gathering, a demonstrated knowledge of the client’s market and an ability to translate all that research into an effective strategy.
With the advent of Big Data, agencies and consultancies have access to massive and highly accurate data sets and sources of research that can be used to guide the development of an effective communications strategy. Given how advanced analytical and traffic monitoring tools have become, data can be used to effectively interpret market trends and provide insights which a few years ago would have been almost impossible. In turn, this analysis can be used to advise communication strategies and fine-tune your messaging in your business pitch.
Presenting relevant data demonstrates to clients that you have allocated a significant amount of time, effort, and resources to really understanding their business and that you have the knowledge and understanding necessary to add value to their company.
While Big Data has certainly improved the accessibility of information, it has also raised the bar in terms of what clients expect out of a business pitch. The sophistication of modern data analysis has led clients to expect a more comprehensive presentation of information.
Therefore, in addition to extensive accessing and interpreting of available data, it is sensible to consider spending relevant investment in bespoke research amongst the prospective client’s key stakeholders. This can be done on a qualitative or quantitative basis, or both. Most clients think that they know what key stakeholder groups think of them, but very few have a realistic idea. Therefore, undertaking bespoke research will open their eyes to the reality and position you well for success.
The findings of your analysis should clearly inform your communications plan and selection of creative platforms. In addition, once you have concepts agreed, it is sometimes advisable to pre-test them before the pitch by interviewing consumers or even conducting focus groups.
Inevitably research costs money and in a new business pitch it is money which you have to typically fund. Therefore, you obviously need to tailor your activity in line with the size of the opportunity and the likelihood of conversion.
Another alternative is to suggest research as stage one of the programme to the prospective client and ask them to fund it.
Either way time and money spent on research will pay business dividends for your agency and for your clients.