The seven dimensions of pitching – which ones do you recognise?

Is a pitch just a pitch? DBA membership director John Scarrott identifies seven different versions of the design pitch. Which ones do you recognise?


When pitching is discussed in open forums, its definition is rarely – if ever – considered. What do people actually mean when they talk about pitching or the pitch process?

There are several different types of interactions between a client and a consultancy that could be described as a pitch. For a consultancy, developing a better awareness around what can be meant by pitching could lead to more choice and a better overall outcome.

Speaking recently with Peter Pavement of design consultancy Surface Impression, we identified seven such scenarios, and the personas involved in each. I’ve given each scenario a name and a brief description followed by a few questions you could ask yourself.

Take a look and see which persona you identify with, then try the questions on for size and see if they create some more options around how you could respond in pitch scenarios.

What the playing field can look like on any given day:

  1. The Consultant: You get involved in drafting and providing a sample brief, while giving the client advice on the pitch process.
  2. The Persuader: You convince your client that a free pitch is a bad idea. Your leverage may be poor, if it is too late in the pitch process to be able to influence.
  3. The Adapter: You stay in the game by not providing creative but asking and getting agreement to provide something else (For example Tom Foulkes 5ps
  4. The Stonewall: You refuse to pitch at all without discussing with the client. You present case studies only, along with your process and a budget plan.
  5. The Educator: You deliver formal training on how to design the project.
  6. The Partner: You co-apply with the organisation to help them bid for funding to buy from you.
  7. The Columbo: The agreement to pitch without creative has been made and as you are leaving the room, you hear the words “and just one more thing”. This precedes a clients request for free creative, or just the suggestion that they would not have an issue with you supplying some ideas.

What do you think of the above? Does your experience fit into any of these categories? Are there any that you would add?

Here are some questions that may be useful to understand and clarify your experience:

  • Which of the above do you most strongly identify with?
  • What’s your win ratio for those scenarios?
  • What about the others? What is your experience of those?
  • Can you rank the scenarios on a scale from one to ten? With 10 being the most potential to win, to 1 being the least potential to win.
  • Describe one or two positives and negatives of each scenario.

So, what’s the point of asking these questions?

By becoming aware of what happens for you in pitch scenarios, you get the chance to take responsibility for changing it, if you don’t like the outcome. Perhaps you are adopting a particular pitch style out of habit. Perhaps you think: “that’s what we must do because it’s what the client has asked for.” And what’s your answer to the question of who should be responsible for the pitch process?

A useful perspective to take could be for the design community to say: “Its on us. It’s our responsibility”. By embracing this role, they take responsibility for the process and the outcome. And that’s a great first step to creating the right pitch.

When the design industry chooses to take responsibility for the buying and selling of design, it would be at a turning point to accelerating the progress of design towards the status of a profession. And that would be a great place to be.

This is my last post as the Design Business Association’s Design Week blogger as I’m leaving the DBA. I’d like to thank all of the people who featured in my articles over the past three years. Thank you for giving your time so generously and speaking so candidly about areas that matter to you. I hope I’ve done our conversations justice.

I’d also like to thank my DBA colleagues, in particular Hannah, Nareen and Janice. Their expertise in editing, preparing and delivering the posts have made them the best they could be. Together your time and efforts have contributed positively to progress on the issues that we all care so much about.

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