I work with a bunch of really smart people, which means we can sit around and validly debate whether or not we should chase a piece of business until we're blue in the face. Those meetings get expensive, as senior staff always finds something compelling and equally revolting about an ambiguous opportunity. We became experts at devil's advocating each other into, and right back out of, nearly all projects, whether they walked in the door or we were going after them.

It was clear we needed some sort of scorecard. We are an advertising agency, but pitching business is a big part of almost every entrepreneur's job. You probably need one, too.

Together we created a scoring system, called BRAWWS. Yes, it's supposed to sound like that when you say it out loud: these conversations can get contentious, so we wanted to anchor it in fun. It's worked famously for us. I hope it can work for you. Here's what BRAWWS means.

B is for Brand. Is it a brand we want to work on? Does anyone know who they are? Does it matter? Does that brand carry the kind of clout to open paths into other opportunities? When we opened, people started taking us seriously when we worked on Nike and ESPN. Even though the same minds were working on record shops and online photo albums, those brands carried no weight. We needed weight.

R stands for Real. Is this pitch actually an existing assignment, or is someone wanting free ideas to then go and try to get the project funded? The advertising industry is in a bad spot where some clients will open up a pitch just to get some free consulting on their brand or product. We need to know if the opportunity is real or potential.

A is for Agency of Record. In our business, there is greater value in becoming a long term partner. It takes us just about the same amount of effort to get up to speed on a business problem, whether we're doing a one-time project or a much longer engagement. And although Agency of Record doesn't really mean much anymore, if the intent is a relationship with multiple projects, that gets points.

The first W is for Work. Is the work something we even want? Will our people get people excited to work on it? Is it in our core competency, or are we dangerously stretching our capabilities? Our culture is critically important to our success. We need people engaged and committed. Hard to do if they don't like their jobs.

The second W stands for Win. Can we even win this thing? Sometimes we are a courtesy add because we sport a good reputation. When this happens, we hear we came in second. A lot. Like any other job posting, some companies send out requests for proposals because their bylaws demand it, even if they're plenty happy with a current agency, or worse, their agency is already all but selected. This is tough to gauge, but most people are honest. Just ask.

S is for Situation, both ours and theirs. This would go first if the acronym worked better. Do we simply need the work to stay in business, or is our staff already dealing with an overflowing plate? Do we need a victory? A culture-builder? A confidence win? Do they have the money to accomplish their goals? Is there an existing relationship for us? Once we know our situation, the other factors carry a lot more, or a lot less, relevance.

Obviously we get snake-bit once in a while, and what looks murky can actually be our best project for a year. We're never going to find a foolproof method, but this system saves us time and money every day. Once people know the deciding factors, ambiguity fades and the opportunities present themselves. Unless you sit in front of an entirely reliable crystal ball, give BRAWWS a go.

If you do sit in front of an entirely reliable crystal ball, please contact me immediately.


Published on: Jul 24, 2014