I was talking with a colleague in the UK about the “pitch” process and he mentioned that they do not run chemistry sessions because “they are a waste of time”. I was surprised and curious. I asked him why and he explained that just getting the agency and the marketing team together to see if they liked each other was rather pointless.
But the point is that chemistry meetings are so much more than simply the business equivalent of a date.
Of course there are procurement professionals who when running an RFP or RFT to select an advertising agency do not bother with any meetings, preferring to choose an agency based on the tender response. But this fundamentally ignores the fact that in most cases you are buying a professional relationship. Therefore it is important to test the relationship and the chemistry of the teams.
Therefore the chemistry meeting is an opportunity for the agency and the marketing team to meet and assess the alignment of values, culture and personality. Interestingly, in these situations you find that most people have made judgements on the chemistry fit within a blink and then spend the rest of the meeting looking for evidence to justify or challenge that instinct.
But these meetings are more than just bringing the two parties together. When we run a chemistry meeting we see this as an opportunity for the marketing team to get insights into what it would be really like working with the agency.
The chemistry meeting takes place following the submission of the credentials documents or the RFI. It is usually 45 – 60 minutes in duration for each agency. Although we had a client who wanted to speed date the agencies with 15 minute meetings. And it is usually held at the clients’ offices.
The problem is that obviously the agency will want to give the best presentation of their team and will be putting on their best performance. Therefore we do a number of things to challenge that performance and potentially let the marketing team see the real agency.
This means that within 45 mins to an hour you have gone beyond simply a meet and greet, which I agree is a waste of time. Instead we have tested:
I have heard about consultants and procurement professionals who place strict formats and guidelines around these meetings. But we have found when asked to do this it becomes a barrier to developing any really understanding of each party. While the whole process is contrived, it is imperative to make the process achieve the most effective outcome possible and the chemistry meeting is an important part of that process.
Do you hold chemistry meetings? And what formats have worked best for you? And what has not?