5 secrets to pitching your design firm to big brands

5 secrets to pitching your small design firm or ad agency to big brandsIn the last 5 years, more and more often, smaller design firms and boutique ad agencies are pitching – and winning – projects with prominent brands and large companies.

Before now, most big brands were content in hiring a large agency to manage all their design and advertising work, and if a small firm was brought in, the agency of record would manage them as a subcontractor.

But now large brands are discovering that many small creative firms have the specialized experience they are seeking for particular initiatives, projects, business units, etc. So in the past if you thought you were too small to pitch a big brand, you may have more opportunities in the future.

So if you find yourself invited to pitch your talents to a big brand, here are four things to keep in mind while making your preparations.

1. Do your homework
Every pitch requires researching your prospect to identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as their past and current marketing campaigns. Many small clients are often pleasantly surprised by such preparation, but for big brands this is de rigueur. They expect you to know what they have been doing and where they are facing challenges (as well as what their competitors are doing), and you need to show them that research and preparation is part of your process.

Simply put … show up prepared and with initial ideas about how you can help address their needs and pain points.

2. Focus on your specialty
You wouldn’t be talking to the big brand unless they thought you could help them in some particular area of need that isn’t being filled by their larger agencies.

In most cases, you are not there to pitch the entire account. You are there to pitch a particular piece of work or area of specialization. So make sure that you talk to why you are an expert in that area and provide an overview of your processes to let them know how you approach your craft.

3. Demonstrate you’ve been in the big leagues before
Working with big brands usually requires following creative briefs; adhering to brand standards; following the lead of the agency of record; working with sometimes complex billing and purchase order systems; and so on.

Moreover, big brands want to know that you have worked within such systems. They don’t want a loose cannon off doing their own thing, and they don’t want to have to constantly corral you or remind you of following standards.

So, if you are able, show how you have worked within larger brands in the past and accomplished another client’s objectives while working within certain standards and guidelines.

4. Discover how you can fit into their structure
Most big brands have large agencies on retainer as well as large internal marketing staffs and even design departments. Yet, with all this personnel, there is still usually too much work for everyone to handle.

This is your cue. In your communications with the prospect while preparing and making your pitch, you should ask lots of questions to discover all the holes in coverage they might have and how your areas of specialization can cover up those holes. More than once in my career has my small design firm forged a long-term relationship with a big brand because we have filled a niche need (or two, or three) in their organization.

5. Offer case studies instead of a big dog-and-pony
Big brands are accustomed to large, impressive dog-and-pony multimedia presentations from big agencies. And you probably don’t have the time or resources to put into creating a massive capabilities and portfolio presentation.

Here’s the thing … you don’t have to. Again, you aren’t pitching the entire account. You are pitching a single area of specialization or project, so focus on case studies that are similar to what you are pitching and that demonstrate how you have help other clients achieve their objectives.

Best of luck pitching, and feel free to comment if you have questions.

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2 thoughts on “5 secrets to pitching your design firm to big brands”

  1. This is great news for smaller design studios. Thank you for the reminder that having a special niche, stellar preparation and professionalism helps us compete.

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