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The Value of a Pitch – a Case Study from the digital industry

At Indigo Consulting, we recently encountered what has been a long-standing dilemma that I know many from the agency side have struggled with over the years. That of placing a value on your pre-sales strategic and creative effort versus sacrificing it at the altar of a skewed and possibly unreasonable selection process. A dilemma between sticking to our Beliefs and pursuing pragmatism.

At Indigo Consulting, we recently encountered what has been a long-standing dilemma that I know many from the agency side have struggled with over the years. That of placing a value on your pre-sales strategic and creative effort versus sacrificing it at the altar of a skewed and possibly unreasonable selection process. A dilemma between sticking to our Beliefs and pursuing pragmatism.

First the Belief. As a digital agency with arguably India’s leading practice in Website Design and Development, clients often ask us to present ‘creatives’ as part of a pitch for a Website Design project. It is our deep-rooted belief that websites, especially ones where users seek function over form, are NOT about ‘creative’ in the traditional sense, but about User Experience. The creative element is part and parcel of the User Experience where the attempt is to make the experience as simple, pleasant and quick for the user, and at the same time, create brand delight. Planning/creating this User Experience is not a matter of pointing mouse to Photoshop or any other software; it is the end result of many other steps and activities which take up significant, cross-functional senior management time, and call upon all our collective experience and intellectual property.

So, we DO NOT present ‘creatives’ as part of the pitch. The only time we MAY make an exception is if it is a long existing relationship, or if the deal size is significantly large to justify the pre-sales effort. In fact, we have often suggested, successfully at times, that the presentation of User Experience Strategy and Design is treated as a paid engagement.

However, under no circumstances we will LEAVE BEHIND whatever we have created and presented. We offer to repeat our presentation as many times as required, of course. The reason is simple: if the purpose of the pitch is to assess capabilities and thinking, then the presentation should be enough to make that assessment. Hopefully, the assessment process is objective enough to have quantitative scores on various criteria for each agency that should form the basis for selection. All too often, we have seen that while the strategy, approach etc may have been spot on, the deal falls through on pricing, and then the agency is not left with a very comfortable feeling about whatever has been presented and left behind. Or, because one has already expended so much effort, one is forced to accept a sub-optimal price for our services.

So, here we were in a situation where we were invited for a pitch by an important existing customer in the BFSI vertical, which is our domain of strength anyway. We were asked to present ‘creatives’ which we did, but were not comfortable submitting these as part of our proposal/bid. The client was categorical that without the creatives, the bid would not qualify technically. The reason cited was that they had “forgotten” what was presented and needed to review the creatives.

The choice for us was between a consistent application of a deep-rooted belief, and the risk of losing an important existing relationship (and let in competition), not to mention what would have been a decent-sized engagement; or to bend the rules under the argument that we have already come so far, why walk away at this stage, and risk an empty feeling if we lost in the negotiation/pricing stage.

We chose the former. But, expectedly, there is no sense of triumph. It’s not easy to walk away from a relationship that has been painstakingly cultivated over years, and a sizable business deal that would inch you that much closer to your quarterly target. Or is it time to revisit our beliefs?

Interview > Vikas Tandon, managing director, Indigo Consulting

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