Marketers need to look inside before issuing a pitch

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As many of you know, I care deeply about the “how” of marketing: how are budgets allocated? How are results measured and tied back to plans and activities? How are marketing departments set up for maximum success? How are agencies contracted, managed and incentivized for their contributions? How is “new news” still allowed as a sentence in marketing presentations?

I care deeply about figuring out how to do marketing before doing the job of actual marketing. And so should all marketers.

Marketers are often guilty of starting with the end, and skipping over the all-important start and middle. What do I mean with that?

Well, how often do you see marketers calling for a pitch simply because there is (a) a new head of marketing, or (b) for whatever reason, the current agency has been determined to “suck”. And while (a) and/or (b) might be valid reasons to go and hunt for a new agency solution, I would argue that there are a number of other things that need to happen first or at least at the same time before issuing RFP’s to (potential) agencies.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was working for a well-known marketing-driven company. It was determined that the agency sucked, and that a very different agency solution was needed. The company had depended on well-known global agency brands for their (highly successful) advertising, but for whatever reason the agencies were deemed out of touch and no longer capable of creating meaningful connections with consumers.

An RFP was issued full of calls for “new” and “different” and “mold breaking” and other words to ensure the receiving parties understood that something revolutionary was needed. The receiving agencies were not the typical big-name agencies but a kaleidoscope of funky names like “Bare”, “Father”, “Glitch”, “Peach Toad”, and others.

After seeing many proposals that were indeed very, very different from what the company would have typically considered, an agency was chosen and briefed on its very first project. And it went horribly wrong, and the why is because of what the marketing organization had not done.

It had not changed the way briefings were written. It had not changed the measurement to reflect a very different approach to advertising. It had not changed the way it was going to evaluate the agency’s ability to deliver against the business. It had not changed the other agencies in the eco-system that were going to take the radically different ideas and translate them to shopper marketing initiatives or sponsorship activations. It had, most crucially, not changed the way the marketing department worked, reviewed “very different” work and managed a “very different” agency.

You can guess the outcome.

Recently, Deborah Wahl, the McDonald’s US CMO and vice chair of the ANA, spoke about the process McDonald’s went through that resulted in the appointment of “We Are Unlimited”. She said about the process that ultimately led to issuing an RFP for a new agency partner that “she’d highly recommend that other advertisers undergo the [internal review] process because it forced McDonald’s to examine its own business and align internally before figuring out what it was looking for in an outside partner”. And that is the best advice we can give you. While a new agency, radically revolutionary or just “new”, may sometimes give you the kick up-the-you-know-what your marketing needs, first look inside to set yourself up for success.

We have a library full of cases that explain some of the work that we have done to help clients like McDonald’s to establish the organizational and process needs ahead of reviewing and (sometimes) changing the agency eco-system. Just contact us and we will gladly share our experience with you.

 

[Maarten is a featured contributor to MediaPost, this article was originally published here]

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