Pitch Perfection: Total Media Group's Winning Formula

Chief growth officer Pedro Martins on how Total Media draws inspiration from the principles of cycling coach Sir Dave Brailsford for its record-breaking pitch success

By Pedro Martins

Why, despite achieving a remarkable 90 per cent pitch conversion rate this year, Total Media Group acknowledges that there's still significant work ahead.

We all know pitching is challenging. The constant urgency, sheer volume of work, and high pressure can take a toll on the entire team. Adding to the challenge is the reality that the industry odds of success stand at a mere one in four. While we acknowledge pitching is the lifeblood of any agency, it can be disheartening to go through countless pitches to only win one in four, or even less!

The goal is to tilt the odds in our favour. This year, our pitch conversion rate soared to an impressive 90 per cent, marking the best year in the company's history. With a strong pipeline extending into 2024, we're still going strong. But we all know the ‘wind’ can change direction at any time so there's always work to be done.

Success is not a silver bullet, and everyone experiences ‘off days’, which, if coinciding with a chemistry or pitch, can have a detrimental impact. How do you secure a fighting chance at victory? Our longstanding mission revolves around continuous improvement and growth, coupled with the persistent evolution of approaches. While setbacks and not-so-great meetings occur, it's through this cumulative learning process that we progress. The recommendation to agencies is clear: view it as evolution, not revolution, and avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, channel the spirit of 'Sir Dave Brailsford’s’ approach.

For those unfamiliar with Sir Dave Brailsford, in 2002, he undertook leadership of the British cycling team, which had minimal victories, having secured only one gold in over 70 years. His task was to prepare them for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where they clinched an impressive seven out of ten golds. The success repeated in the 2012 London Olympics. How? Through the application of a technique applicable to any business: the marginal gains theory. The concept involves making one per cent improvements across the board, leading to significant compounded impacts. In their case, it included painting the floor white to eliminate dust interference with bike mechanics or the seemingly extreme act of shaving arm hairs for better aerodynamics. These seemingly mundane (and slightly random) changes collectively contributed to success.

Now I don’t propose the shaving of any body part for the greater good of winning a pitch. But as an agency, we've embedded the approach of consistently improving even the smallest detail, with every chemistry session or pitch.

This involves preliminary activities before the pitch, which includes the careful selection of opportunities that align with our established set of criteria crucial to our business. These criteria encompass the pitch positive pledge, our core values, the potential for us to make a meaningful impact on their business, and conducting extensive due diligence on brands, markets, and challenges, before committing to pursue the opportunity. Post-chemistry or pitch, we ensure an immediate wash-up, followed by a survey to document wins, learns, and necessary changes. The most important part…making sure all these insights are actioned!

Although our proposition is anchored in behavioural science and supported by our in-house consultancy, Behave, we recognise that excellence in these areas alone does not always guarantee success. Are we content with this year's outcome? Yes. Is it time to rest on laurels and claim to have it all figured out? Absolutely not. As an agency and a partner to our clients, complacency is not an option. Our commitment remains the same – we will persistently strive for better. So far, this philosophy has yielded dividends for both us and our clients.

Pedro Martins, chief growth officer of Total Media Group & Behave; and co-chair of the IPA’s New Business and Marketing Group


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