"New models" for agency pitching. My "top takeaways" from the PM Society event

Written by Paul Morrissey on Tuesday 17th March 2020

On Wednesday 26th February 2020, the PM Society hosted an event at The Royal Society of Medicine in London. Attended by over 80 people in the pharma and healthcare industry, to discuss new models for agency pitching, there were presenters and panellists from Bayer, Astellas, emotive, GSK, OPEN Health, Makara Health, The Difference Collective.

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During the event results were presented from a survey on pitching sent out to marketers, medical teams, procurement and agencies, followed by presentations on new pitching models, and two panels to discuss what could the industry as a next step. The output was to think about how we, as the industry, could encourage improved behaviours & culture in this key aspect of winning new business and acquiring the best agencies.

It was a thought-provoking meeting and the key points that resonated with me and are my “top takeaways” were:

1. Cost of pitch

There appears much misalignment with regards to what “pharma think” and “agency spend” on pitches. 40% of Pharma believed spend was under £5,000 (70% believed it was under £15,000). Average agency spend on a pitch was £43,500.

Takeaway: When this data is published we need to ensure the industry is made aware of this.

2. Chemistry

We often hold on to the belief that ‘people’ buy ‘people’ and as such chemistry is of vital importance. However, as Chris Edmonds (Synaptiq Health) raised, there appears to be a contradiction between the survey results and what we believe. What the survey reported was that chemistry represents only 3% of responses when an “agency loses a pitch”, increasing to only 8% for the “reason for winning”. We believe that chemistry is crucial but the data says otherwise.

Takeaway: How important is chemistry within the current pharma pitch process, particularly, if you have the best strategic input / solution? GSK’s work to do this in their recent Global Respiratory pitch was industry-leading and significantly based on “chemistry”

3. Selection criteria

100% of the audience agreed that any objective scoring criteria ahead of any pitch should be shared

Takeaway: Make sure you ask for it! The group could not come up with a reason for pharma to not share it (other than the fact they didn’t have one).

4. On-boarding

In Mike Orriss’ (GSK) presentation we heard that in addition to picking the right agency it’s of equal importance to on-board them properly

Takeaway: What are your pharma clients like at onboarding you when they are a new client. How can you support them to do this?

5. “No work” post pitch

70% of the audience reported winning a pitch but no work being awarded post-pitch. Reasons included marketers changing roles and individuals not actually authorised to select an agency.

Takeaway: Not sure what the takeaway is here, just a frustration that an agency pitches and no work is awarded. Any ideas as to what to do when this happens?

6. Transparency

Agencies reflected that they provide a wealth of information in RFIs/RFPs but often struggle to learn how many agencies are pitching, establish budgets or have the ability to submit questions.

Takeaway: The meeting attendees believed that budgets should be shared (at least “ball park” figures) along with the number of participating agencies. Also, it was deemed unacceptable by the meeting attendees for pharma to not accept questions during the pitch process.<

7. Pitch feedback

Procurement present at the meeting reported that feedback is always provided by phone but that they were happy to share results collected from scorecard criteria.

Takeaway: The PM Society Survey stated that the major reason for not wining was “cost” which appeared to not be the case “anecdotally”. Procurement appear to be often not given great feedback from their internal clients and left at the front-line having to face the agency with sub-standard feedback.

A fascinating meeting all round.


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