Business owners and marketing executives know when they need help with a rebrand, a new website, PR, social media or a marketing campaign, but they usually don’t know where to start looking to find an agency to partner with.

Allowing agencies to pitch for your business is a great way to ensure that your budget is spent wisely. The pitching – or procurement – process will help you to understand what you need and will lead you to the agency best suited to the task at hand. According to Sylvia Schutte, managing director at award-winning, integrated agency Stratitude, there are benefits to getting integrated agencies to pitch for your business, and she uses four stages of the pitch process to prove her point.

The pre-pitch process

Before you begin your search, work out your objectives and how you think this project will meet them. You don’t need a comprehensive plan – the successful agency can help with this – but setting clear goals will give both parties a good starting point.

“We’ve often had to pitch on a branding project or a new website and then ended up signing a fully integrated campaign with a client. They don’t always know all the elements they need for a campaign, but by talking to an integrated agency, they are shown the possibilities, benefits and ROI they can achieve from an integrated campaign,” says Schutte.

Selecting agencies to pitch

When companies look for an agency they frequently think that “bigger is better”, but if you are a small client in a large agency, you might not get the attention that your business needs. The first step is doing research on agencies in the market, including visiting their websites and looking at their previous work and case studies.

Then consider whether you need a specialist agency or a full-service agency. A specialist PR agency will offer a great service but what if you want to integrate your PR with your website or send a monthly newsletter to your customers?

“We believe that the biggest value to our clients is that we offer an integrated service. We are not restricted to one channel, so when you’ve created a great content piece, it can be used across multiple channels, such as a press release, a blog article, a Facebook post and in a customer newsletter,” continues Schutte.

See if there’s chemistry

You might be impressed by an agency’s website and credentials but consider holding a “chemistry meeting” before asking them to pitch, suggests Schutte. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss goals, ask questions and have a face-to-face meeting with the people you could be working with.

Your primary goal is to find a professional, trustworthy agency that you can develop a strong relationship with. While some agencies have great ideas, if you don’t get along, those good ideas can end up being expensive mistakes.

The pitch

“Create a shortlist and invite no more than three agencies to pitch. Provide as much information as possible and be clear on what you expect from the pitch presentation, otherwise it may result in unsuitable responses and wasted time,” explains Schutte.

If you want a creative solution, you need to ask for creative work and be prepared to pay a fee for the agency’s time. Many established agencies will not pitch creative solutions for free, unless they’ve agreed to do so beforehand. Instead, they will show how they will approach your challenges and how much it would cost.

According to Schutte, “When it comes to the pitch presentation, the agency must talk about your business and their understanding of your requirements, not about themselves, their case studies and all the awards they’ve won. The standout agency will be the one that has done their research and has a thorough understanding of what it is you need and how you are likely to get there.”

“Many of our project clients have turned into long-term retainer clients, so keep that “chemistry” in mind even when you’re looking for an agency to work on a short-term project. If the agency you choose delivers the results you need, then you may not have to look for another agency for future work,” says Schutte.