Humanizing the Pitch Process: Tom Steadman, IPNY

Q&A with Managing Director Tom Steadman as published in

The harsh reality of the post-COVID virtual agency pitch process.

What is your view of the current climate in terms of new business opportunities and process? What has changed in the last few months and what is your forecast for the rest of the year?

There’s definitely new business to win but finding it these days is certainly more challenging. “New from new” new business is understandably, way more difficult. The last few months have made it nearly impossible to forge new relationships and we all know that the way to win new business is through strong, positive relationship building. We’re continuing to carry on dialogue with our new business prospects. I’d say patience and empathy are probably the two most important traits needed right now. We need to understand that the client’s decision to switch their AOR or award a project to a new agency during these times will require serious thought and understanding of the both near and long-term environment in which they’re operating.

That said, there’s nothing holding us back from expanding our business with our current clients. In fact, the trusted relationships that have been forged over the years with many of our current and past clients get called into action when clients are thrown into unique, stressful market conditions. Our core clients from the healthcare, nonprofit and financial services sector have all remained active in the market over the past few months. Of course, we’ve maintained dialogue, modified strategy and tactics where appropriate and managed to earn a few new projects along the way. These new projects were awarded based on the strength of the relationship, the mutual respect and understanding we have with our clients and smart, targeted promotion defined to help our clients business stand out during these challenging times.

How challenging was it to develop an idea for a pitch across your creative, research and growth teams, without being able to collaborate in the same physical space? How did you overcome those challenges?

IPNY’s basic philosophy has been to encourage working remotely. Operating as a virtual agency is nothing new. We’re very comfortable working within a virtual business model and have learned how to develop winning integrated ideas while not sharing the same physical space.

Everyone plays a key role in developing our ideas. Strategic insights, Media Planning, Creative, Production, Public Relations and Account Management all share equally in the development of our work. The team is accustomed to working with one another as we’ve known each other both professionally and personally for years. As such we have no issues reaching out to one another in the development stages of our ideas.

One of our more recent pitches challenged us to develop a campaign that had little-to-no media support with the assumption that it would leverage the use of PSA’s. Therefore, it became critical to the success of our idea to understanding the media landscape around PSA’s so that we could instill confidence in the client that the spots would actually air. Our ideas leveraged insights to deliver powerful messaging for the target audience, but also took into consideration that in order to run they would need to capture the attention of the local market station managers.

To help bring the idea to life and to confirm its value, we were able to quickly pull together some market research. The focus groups were all held online and the entire pitch team was able to take part, which furthered the continuity and development of our pitch preparations.