This is what marketers really want from their email marketing agency

When selecting an email marketing agency, you want to meet with the different vendors face to face at one point. Especially when looking for an email agency offering services and not only a self-service email solution. These meetings often take the form of a presentation, demo or (creative) pitch. But what do marketers want from an (email) agency pitch?

Just one piece of advice

A recent RSW/US research asked the compelling question: “What one piece of advice you would give to agencies about their pitches and presentations?” The 174 marketers in the survey were from diverse sized companies, including AT&T, Abbott, Volkswagon, Yamaha, Baxter and Premera. In their answers there were some themes that came back multiple times. Note that there is much more to say about selecting supplier out of the large pool of email marketing agencies; this is information compiled directly based on the answers given by the marketers.

Hook us and keep it interesting

The pitching Email Agency should be able to keep the interest of the client. Be dynamic. If they can’t hook the client in the first 2 minutes, how can whatever they do in messaging hook the client’s customers? An agency that isn’t able to marketing themselves, has failed to show proof of competence. It helps if they are enthusiastic and ask for the business.

Answer key areas first

Every agency in a pitch should respect the issues the client has and answer all the questions in the RFP (request for proposal) or briefing, even if it is somewhat of a formality. After the key areas are answered, they can talk about other things that they believe the client should be thinking about. So stay with what the client asked for. If an email agency can’t do that when pitching, what will it do when it has your business?

Keep it short

We can keep it short too. Shorter and to the point is best. The email agency should use less buzzwords, tell less and show more. Because simple and straightforward catches the most attention. Too much information is a no-no so the agency shouldn’t present everything they ever did, but only show relevant materials. Or as one of the marketers said: “Be on time, be quick, and be creative!” Now that is how we want it!

Align with our business

The best thing an agency can do is to ‘show they know’. The more the presentation reflects an understanding of the unique needs of the client, the more trust and confidence the client will have in the presenting email agency. The presentation should be relevant to the products and market of the client. They must show they understand the world a client lives in. Thinking out of the box is allowed, but make sure that a large portion of the presentation is relevant and actionable.

Strategic direction and past work

Strategy is important, an email agency needs to answer the what, but also the why. Furthermore it is important to fully understand and appreciate strategic direction the client has chosen. Do not only present creative solutions but give a full analysis of research and strategy which supports the creative pitches.

The pitchers should also be aware of past work (of other agencies) and be able to build upon the investment made. Any agency can extend the internal marketing team, but they should be willing to thoughtfully challenge the status quo of the current strategies. Most companies are looking for bigger thinking because they are mired down in the day to day of their business.

As one of the marketers said: “I would be more inclined to award the business to an agency
that got the strategy/market understanding correct, even if I was not “wowed” by their initial

People you actually work with

Make sure the people pitching are also the ones we will see day-to-day and introduce the people that you will work closely with. Don’t put the sales team up front and switch to another team after the business is won, bring the real team.

One of the marketers describes how it shouldn’t work: “I had a recent experience with an agency where the “big gun” VP came to the pitch and after we were signed, we never saw or heard from him again. I want to interact with the creative director and my key account rep. to determine if it is a good fit. Don’t sell and bail.”

Make it all about the client

An email agency must be able to show how to address the client’s needs and generate results. Putting themselves in the client’s shoes and present based on what they feel he wants to know/learn/see. So less on the agency background …more on the problems that keep the client up at night. Don’t come in with super slick and shiny or generic presentations, most clients will see right past that. Theme it around the issue / problem and how the agency will help to meet the client’s objectives.

Finish your homework

Understand the business of the client and get familiar with their lingo which you can easily do just by spending some time on their website. The email agency should ask questions in advance and don’t assume anything! Asking more questions with genuine interest, to try to understand what type of relationship the client wants. Be humble. And make sure you call the company you are pitching to by the right name.

An answer from the survey: ”I find it particularly onerous to have to explain our product line to someone I’ve already met with once and have explained it to before, or even worse, when they confuse us with a competitor and call us by the wrong name. Sheesh!”

Email marketing Agencies should still be worried

One of the conclusions of the RSW/US research was that only 44% of Marketers are truly happy with their primary Agency. In 2008, 41% of Marketers were “happy” and in 2009-2010, 47% stated they were “happy” with their current firm. This might be one of the reasons that email agencies can pitch that often .

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and Analyst. He is the Founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch " by Entrepreneur magazine.

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