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Making Agency Pitching More Effective With Kaizen Principles

Making Agency Pitching More Effective With Kaizen Principles

There wasn’t a ton of creativity when Toyota coined its now famous system for ensuring quality and efficiency.  Case in point – they named it the Toyota Production Method (TPM).

Behind TPM was a principle called Kaizen, literally translated to GOOD CHANGE. Kaizen has been able to do a lot for industrial production.  It helps cut down errors and increase output exponentially.  It has been widely adopted across organizations from Sony to Amazon but the question is what could it do for the service industry in general and the agency world, specifically?

Certainly, in the agency world, process tends to run contrary to the free-flowing spirit of creativity. However, with the increased pressure to show return on investment for marketing spend, perhaps it’s time to see how Kaizen principles can apply?

Being a geek like that, here are two Kaizen principles in particular that I think could easily be rolled out in the agency world:

1) Simplify Pitches Into Two Categories

Agencies tend to thrive on mess in the pitching process.  It’s the continual input of creative inspiration that sometimes spawns the greatest innovation. However, all this mess tends to not only mire an agency in disorganization, it distracts from a central vision for the work product and the pitch. While digital files are easy to organize, experiential learning and feedback is not.

For instance, when an ideas is pitched and rejected agencies tend to discard it or file it away. Very infrequently is there a post-mortem on the creative process.  No one stops to ask why an idea failed to win client approval. Was it the idea itself or was it the way it was pitched? Is there sometime fundamentally wrong in the pitch process that can be identified and corrected to ultimately increase close rates and revenue?

Instead of organizing by client, often the preferred file structure, why not reduce the total number of folders you have to deal with? In fact, you really only need two categories of ideas – pitches that worked and pitches that didn’t.

2) Dive Deep Into The Layers Of “Why?” The Pitch Didn’t Work

This brings me to my second principle.  Now that you have two categories, what the hell do you do with them?

Well, how about going through them and asking why they are in one folder and not the other? In fact, Kaizen talks about asking the question “why?” five times.  It helps to determine the root cause of an issue beyond “it just didn’t work.”

For instance, take this process…a pitch was just turned down?

  1. Q: Why was the pitch turned down? A: Because the client didn’t like it.
  2. Q: Why didn’t the client like it? A: They thought it was too expensive.
  3. Q: Why did the client think the pitch was too expensive? A: They didn’t see how it connected to sales.
  4. Q: Why didn’t the client see how the pitch was connected to sales? A: It wasn’t in the pitch document.
  5. Q: Why wasn’t sales referenced in the pitch document? A: We don’t have data to support it.

Granted this is a simple example but the logical change is apparent – get the data or suggest the data to support a connection to sales.

Many times, agencies fail because they think they can only learn from what they did right. On the contrary, failure is a rich, rich library of insight. Agencies should be mining failed ideas as if they were gold.  Instead of just trying to “churn and burn” why not reduce costs, get smart and examine failures as much as successes?

The answer is pretty easy – agencies like what agencies like.  Kaizen principles are an outside production concept that tends to run contrary to the usually insular world of the agency mindset.  This isn’t a critique, per se. It’s stating a fact that navel-gazing is a favorite pastime of agency leadership.

Maybe if this ever changes the agency world could shed its stereotype of being aloof, averse to intelligence and unable to articulate its own return on investment.

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