May 14

Living is easy with eyes closed

May 14 - RFP I've been racking what's left of my brain to find a suitable topic to match one of my favorite John Lennon lyrics: 'Living is easy with eyes closed.' Then, it struck me. The words are a perfect description of serial prospects.

Serial prospects are like serial killers. They stalk agencies, tempt them with some sort of offer (i.e. new business) and then leave them in tatters.

Three serial prospects upended our agency in the first quarter. All three asked for full-blown creative proposals, in-person presentations and meeting the specific account team with whom they'd work. All three have subsequently gone silent. Some claimed that key decision-makers were on vacation (Man, that's my kind of vacation). Others said they were still weighing their decision (How many months does it take to choose an agency?). Then, there was the one who simply didn't respond to our follow-up inquiries. Nice.

Living is easy with eyes closed, especially when one is in the power position. These are heady times for serial prospects. They can dangle RFPs, pick at many brains as they like, select the best ideas and then go away on an extended vacation.

Another Lennon lyric from 'Strawberry Fields' comes to mind when thinking of serial prospects: 'It's getting hard to be someone, but it all works out.' We agency types move on and, somehow, it does all work out. But, how do serial prospects live with themselves?

I hope for their sakes they hang onto their jobs. Because, if I happen to see one of their resumes float across my desk, I just may play the role of serial prospect employer. And, that would be a hard day's night for some unsuspecting serial prospect.

Apr 24

You guys do know that’s our competitor’s product, right?

April 24 - Doh I tend to rail about the boorish behavior and mean-spirited treatment we’ve experienced at the hands of some prospective clients over the years. Typically, they involve prospects who demand a proposal within a very tight timeframe and then hang you out to dry. Or, others who pick your brain and then never respond to your inquiries about next steps. Then there are the clients who put the account up for review, tell you not to worry because the incumbent always has the advantage and then fire you.

All
that said, we can be just as dysfunctional as any prospect. We once so badly
mangled a new business opportunity that it’s actually become part of agency
lore.

The
prospect was based in the Midwest so we decided to have our New York and San Francisco offices 'co-own' the pitch. That was mistake number one. No one truly owned it
at all. Then, we had a few key people take vacations while the presentation was
being put together. That was mistake number two. Finally, we didn’t decide upon
the actual pitch team until the night before and never actually rehearsed. That
was the nail in the coffin.

Since
the prospect was at least three connecting flights away from any major airport,
we opted to present by phone. Naturally, the technology froze. When we finally
got started, our ideas were met with stone-cold silence. The silence became
deafening. At one point, we asked, ‘So, what do you think of that idea?’ ‘We
tried it and it failed,’ they responded. Oh.

Then,
we presented a program theme based upon a classic rock song. We hadn’t done our
homework in order to find out another company was already using the same tune.
Ouch.

The
coup de grâce came when we presented an ‘out-of-the-box’
idea that involved having the product ‘show up’ at unexpected places (i.e. rock
concerts, sports stadiums, etc.). Again, silence. Finally, the prospect said,
‘You guys know that’s our competitor’s product on the screen, right?’ Game.
Set. Match.

The
meeting went so poorly that we had to laugh afterwards. Then, we buckled down
and got serious. We installed a number of new processes to make sure we never
again took a lead so lightly. In these times, leads can be like gold
(especially if they’re serious leads). So, I think I can safely say we’re done
showing a competitor’s product in any future new business presentations.