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5 Ways to Find a Trusted Partner During an Event Agency’s Pitch

There’s no denying that the agency pitch process has changed significantly over the past few years, with remote work fracturing the human connection between agencies and their clients. And with connection at the heart of any good partnership, it’s become more challenging to gauge compatibility between an event agency and potential client, particularly in the beginning stages of relationship building. So, if you’ve already issued an RFP and selected finalists for a pitch, congrats—you’re already on your way to success by inviting agencies to tell you their stories. Now it’s up to you to make that process feel more personal.

Of course, every company has its own set of pitch criteria when looking for the best partner, but the most common are what we refer to as the 5 C’s: Chemistry, Comprehension, Capabilities, Concepts, and Cost. So, how can you assess these evaluation principles in a way that prioritizes human connection and, ultimately, leads you to find the most suitable partner? You reignite passion for people and allow room for reciprocity along the way.

1

Chemistry

This is often the most undervalued criteria in an agency pitch, but shouldn’t be. At the heart of every pitch is a team, and that team’s harmony as well as their chemistry with your team, is a tell-tale sign of how they’ll be as a partner. Does the agency seem to like each other and like working together? Do they allow room for two-way conversation or create dialogue amongst themselves to collaborate and support each other, and you, in delivering on the work? Are these people you vibe with? Gut feelings go a long way, but there are also other ways to promote connectivity during an agency pitch to better evaluate chemistry.

Evaluating Chemistry: While most companies require pitch decks in response to RFPs (for good reason), be sure to include an in-person pitch, as well, but frame it up as a conversation instead of a presentation. A live Q&A session is a great way to test a client-agency relationship and give you a sense of how you might work together. It also invites participation from everyone in the room—not just the strong presenters, who you may never see again after the pitch. Then, look for signs of authenticity: Did the agency do anything at the top of the meeting to build chemistry or did they just start talking? Are they making eye contact? Asking purposeful questions? When you set the stage for open conversation, you have a much better chance at gauging chemistry.

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2

Comprehension

All great partnerships require understanding, and at the core of understanding is good communication. Before an agency pitch, make sure participating agencies fully grasp the task at hand by providing them clear, direct information. Get alignment internally around your search brief before sharing it out, and be clear about your scorecard/evaluation framework. After an RFP is issued, before pitching, leave the lines of communication open to allow for follow-up questions that could help responding agencies understand your ask. This way, when it’s time to measure comprehension, you know you’ve laid the groundwork.

Evaluating Comprehension: Measuring an event agency’s understanding of your objective isn’t always easy to determine. Agencies usually approach problem-solving from angles that cater to their respective skillsets and strengths, so make sure their work directly ladders back to your ask and doesn’t just speak to what they can do. Did they spend time concisely defining your problem and deliver a focused response? Do you feel you were listened to? At every turn, ask yourself “does this solve for our need?” and if at any point you’re not sure, ask. Doing this shows you’re listening, invested in the pitch, and it challenges presenters to demonstrate their understanding first-hand.

3

Capabilities

Within almost every RFP is the request for agency capabilities. While the presentation of these capes may take different forms, it’s important to decide whose core competencies align best with your brief. But facts and grids and graphs are only powerful when you know how those capabilities can be put into practice.

Evaluating Capabilities: No matter how capabilities are shared, you should always ask for a story. Whether it’s “Tell us about a time you helped a client further their mission,” or “How have you used your agency’s strengths to better an event?” that capability is going to come through in how they showcase that solve for a client challenge—and it’s a very good indicator of how they’d, in turn, tell your story and act as a trusted partner. Part of evaluating an agency is looking back at what they’ve done for others, but also, looking forward, what they might do for you. Give them the floor to speak openly, engaging different people in the room to diversify responses (and cut down on prepared ones).

 

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4

Concepts

Ah, the big ideas. Sharing concepts is usually the most fun part of an event agency pitch, where creativity, problem-solving, and strategic thinking all come out to play. So, how can you better assess the concept-sharing experience to measure for connectivity?

Evaluating Concepts: Sometimes, the idea of an event agency “getting it,” is simply demonstrated by how well they listened. While the idea of a “good” or “bad” concept may be subjective, it’s important to make sure that all concepts are thoughtfully ideated and directly reflect an understanding of the need. Did the pitch team focus on gathering input and doing discovery? Do the ideas provide an ROI that make them smart and strategic? Give the event agency an opportunity to present their concepts in person to see if their thinking is in sync with yours.

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5

Cost

When it comes to pitches, money can be a touchy subject. Some companies feel that sharing their budget with pitching agencies can eradicate big thinking and prohibit cost-saving negotiations down the line, while others feel it’s crucial to receiving pitches that aren’t too pie-in-the-sky. So, is there a right way? When it comes to fostering a deeper connection between parties, there is.

Evaluating Cost: Help turn the most transactional part of a pitch into something more personal by providing a level of investment for your project. Providing an investment range will eliminate ideas that’ll hit the cutting room floor and give you a more accurate idea of your dollars at work for the best ROI. Sharing a level of investment is a sign of respect which, if apparent from the get-go, paves the way for a healthier partnership. Asking for creative as a part of your pitch? We propose an unconventional move: pay for that work. It proves that you value the people—their time, energy, and effort—as much as the deliverables.

So, when it’s all said and done, remember the importance of connection and how it can make or break a partnership. At August Jackson, one of our core principles is to connect with our clients as people, valuing long-term relationships as much as the work. We believe common ground is a strong place to build a foundation.

At August Jackson, we believe that developing powerful brand engagement begins with mutual understanding and strong partnerships. We value the relationships we have with our clients and, together, aim to develop activations and communities built from the same foundation. 

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