After surveying 30 of the top 50 UK agencies to find out the true cost of pitching, C&IT found that, on average, event planners had been through 51 pitch processes in the past year and declined to take part in 15.
With the average pitch now costing agencies £10,000, the most common reasons for declining included excessive competition from other agencies, lack of transparency in the client process, lack of relationship with the client, short lead times and lack of operational resources.
"It’s always a tough decision to turn down a pitch but it’s necessary in some situations," said Chris Parnham, managing director, Absolute Corporate Events.
"We’d decline if we thought the client already had an agency in mind to use. Of course it can be difficult to tell, but if you talk to the client or get a meeting you can usually discover more information. If they’ve been working with a partner for a long time and can’t say anything negative about them, chances are, they’re not going to hire a new agency."
He added that if a client was inviting more than five agencies to pitch, it would ring alarm bells. "I would think the client was inexperienced, without a thorough understanding of the industry and how the pitch process should work."
For Lex Butler, creative director of Wolf & White, budget plays a role in the pitch decision. "If we look at the amount of money going into an event and realise we would be at a loss if we went ahead, that makes us think twice," she explained.
"It’s about weighing up relationships. Whilst you might really want to build a relationship with a new client and run that event at a loss, you also don’t want to set a precedent for it and constantly make losses. It’s a tricky balance."
Max Fellows, senior relationship and business develoment manager at TBA, agreed that unrealistic budgets made it difficult to pitch. He added: "Occasions where there is an unrealistic lead time means we don't have sufficient time to fully respond. We'd also decline if a pitch does not allow for the opportunity to provide a real point of difference."
• For more breaking news, as well as in-depth features and case studies, sign up to C&IT Magazine's daily Newstracker here