Thursday, October 29, 2020

Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.

I had my first RFP late last week. 

I mean my first as GeorgeCo., a Delaware Company.

And my first through a search consultant.

My first competing with agencies 500 times or 1000 times my size, with a hundred offices in 82 countries and color copiers that don't work, that kind of thing.

The search consultant advised me that the potential client was fearful that they'd get overlooked by a big agency. But that the demands of their business would overwhelm little ol' me.

Like anyone trained in creativity, I took the client's quandary as a problem I could solve. Being a writer, I believe that good writing--clear, fact-based and persuasive--can usually carry the day.

Even though no one reads anymore.

So, I sat down at my computer and I created an answer. The headline at the top of the page was a simple assertion. It said (using the big bold type I believe in): 

Underneath that, I wrote some copy.

I believe my virtual agency employs dedicated people who are among the best in the business. That I can build an agency of the right people around the needs of a client. And that, unlike 97.9% of all agencies, I don't regard "Availability as a capability." ie I put people on your business because they're right for your business--not because they're only 44% billable elsewhere.

What's more, at least half of our art directors, for instance, know what "hang punctuation" means. And some people harken back to the 80s.

I brought a planner in to help me. I said to her beforehand, "I don't need this business. I'm taking this call because I want to handle proper RFPs from proper search consultants. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm interviewing them, not vice-versa. In other words, __name______, be you. That's why you're on the call."

So, for 90 minutes we were all the things we are. Opinionated. Experienced. Assertive. Even, heaven forfend, funny.

We were honest, too. Which is often the surest way to get in trouble.

In 1759, Dr. Johnson said, "Promise, large promise, is the soul of advertising."
He was quickly shit-canned by Mark Read for harkening back to the 1750s.

My opening foray was this, "my job is to tell you no when you need to hear no." That's in my "Client's Bill of Rights." It's something I've written because I believe, like Dr. Samuel Johnson believed, that "a promise is the soul of advertising." My "Client's Bill of Rights" is my promise to clients. So far, clients have appreciated it more than most agency's silly obsession with manufactured awards.

We didn't pretend. We didn't pull punches when they asked tough questions--mostly about whether or not freelancers can be relied upon ostensibly like staffers can.

What so many people in the business--whether they're on the client-side or the agency-side--miss is what truly motivates creative people. Bill Bernbach famously said to Robert Townsend, (CEO of Avis) when Townsend asked him, "How can I get advertising that's five times as effective?" ""If you promise to run whatever we recommend, every creative in my shop will want to work on your account."

That was true back in 1962 and it's true today.

Real creative people don't need a phalanx of managers and scopers and PMs and timesheet terrorists haranguing them. They need to believe they'll be able to produce work up to their standards. 

That's the secret. Most creative people would work virtually for free if they're building their books.

I always thought part of an agency leader's job--creative, account or planning, was to create the necessary preconditions that lead to great work. If you create those necessary preconditions you don't need to manage people. You need to simply make sure the work is good.

If your staff does great work everything is good. If someone doesn't, you give them less good assignments until they buy their way out of the hole they've dug. If they don't respond, you fire them. If they do, everything is good again.

I dunno if I'll get this business. In fact, I don't really even know if I want it.

I might have made things too simple for everyone.

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