Interviews

The pitfalls I’ve experienced in winning new business

4 min read

13 March 2018

Mungo Park gives his thoughts on a period in his company’s growth when winning new business has meant losing important time and money.

Request for proposals, or RFPs, can be tricky to assess. Often, winning new business means fierce competition for contracts, budgets squeezed and procurement departments ever-more powerful.

Over the past month, we set out our stall for a large organisation that needed support on an extensive project. We feverishly pitched for it, coming up with creative treatments and a full storyboard.

One of our specialists also knew the ins and outs of the organisation, having worked there in the past. So she had a clear idea about how to improve the messaging and generally add a bit of value and magic to the proposal.

As anyone who’s been through the RFP process, it can be hugely time-consuming. Intense, busy weeks passed by and we were soon into February. However painful and somewhat tedious, we know it’s part of the process of winning new business.

But despite our best efforts, we lost the pitch. Subsequently, we’ve discovered that the organisation selected an agency with which it had worked for many years. Pre-existing relationships are obviously important, yet we can’t help think the organisation was inviting vendors to make up the numbers to comply with the minimum companies required to tender. The organisation found us online as we rank highly on Google algorithms as a leading “London video marketing agency”.

We always determine whether an RFP is worth spending precious time and effort. We use a scorecard for reviewing new business, based on the cachet of the client, size of budget, whether our strengths and skillsets match the brief and the prestige of the project.

Ultimately, there is a risk that you are wasting time. To mitigate this, we invariably insist in talking to the company before submitting a response, asking questions to try to gain a clearer understanding of the attributes critical to success.

Ideally, we attempt to set up a meeting before submitting a response but understand this is sometimes not possible due to certain procurement rules. If they do not take the effort to answer our questions, it’s a good indication that they are probably fixated on price rather than the value. So my advice, if you get zero feedback, is that you shouldn’t go to all the effort to compete in the process. The submitted proposal should also be logged with the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) to protect the ideas and creative.

In sum, when winning new business you should always do your due diligence, assessing each RFP on merit. You’ve got to give it your all if you go for it. In this case though, it didn’t work, we lost time and money, but gained from the experience and refined our approach to pitches and proposals in the process.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.