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  1. #1
    SitePoint Guru hifigrafix's Avatar
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    Protecting Ideas Presented During Pitch From Being Stolen (Marketing + Design & Dev.)

    Greetings,

    This may or may not seem odd being post on a forum primarily about web design and development but a good half of our workload at my firm has grown to include Marketing and Promotion.

    We've been slowly climbing the ladder and have been getting opportunities to pitch to bigger and better clients.

    The problem is that a number of times a lucrative opportunity is thrown on the table and the potential client says "bring me some ideas". My issue is that we spend 10 or 15 hours brainstorming and working through the financials and logistics (everything short of writing an entire strategy). At this point I don't have the clout to require a retainer for the pitch phase which is afforded by some of my much bigger competition.

    How do I step into a meeting and present these ideas and keep the client from making notes and taking them back to their in-house staff (which has happened at least twice now). Some of our ideas are easily reproduced but amazingly the clients fail to discover them on their own but still if we bring it to the table and it gets used we should get compensated to some extent.

    I'd like to hear from anyone with agency experience in how they dealt with this problem.

    Thank You!

  2. #2
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    How big a problem is this for you? How many times has a prospect taken your ideas for free (never to come back) compared to to the number of times this type of pitch has been profitable?

    If it's just a small percentage, you could consider it a cost of doing business. If on the other hand it's becoming a regular occurrence and it's really denting your profit, I can only suggest you start charging for your time and work on a good way of 'selling' the reasoning behind this to all your prospects.

    I mean let's face it, most of what you are being hired for is the 'idea' rather than the donkey work involved in the execution, so it seems unwise to give these guys those ideas for free. If you sell solutions to problems, and you end up solving those problems as part of your free sales pitch, it's inevitable that a lot of people will take the free advice and run.

    I don't personally know of any consultant who 'gives the game away' as part of his sales pitch. I'm not saying this can't work, I'm sure some prospects appreciate it, but it doesn't sit well with me personally.

    You could give tasters, general advice, point to previous work in a similar field, testimonials etc, but if they want specifics, I'd be asking for some money upfront.

    We've been slowly climbing the ladder and have been getting opportunities to pitch to bigger and better clients.
    TBH in my experience, bigger clients are least likely to expect your time for free in the first place. And for me, 'better' clients are the ones who truly value your time and expertise and are of course, willing to pay for it. One other solution to this problem is to revisit your initial qualification processes and work out a better way to 'weed out' the freeloaders and time wasters and instead concentrate on the truly 'better' prospects.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Guru hifigrafix's Avatar
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    I guess you sort of answered my question. I think we'll start testing the waters with some kind of consulting fee.

    Thanks for your insight.

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    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    If you are climbing the ladder, just keep climbing and don't look back. People will steal your ideas from time to time at all levels, but if you are moving fast and are good enough, it's just the cost of doing business. Keep going!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    Quote Originally Posted by hifigrafix View Post
    I guess you sort of answered my question. I think we'll start testing the waters with some kind of consulting fee.

    Thanks for your insight.
    Be careful though, as both I and Sagewing said, if it's only an infrequent problem, it's just a cost of doing business. If you do 10 pitches, and 2 steal ideas, 6 go elsewhere and 2 sign up with you, I'd concentrate on the 6 that got away, not the 2 who freeloaded.

    I guess it's a bit like software piracy - you could spend you life pointlessly worrying about the filesharers taking your products for free, or you could instead concentrate on ways of attracting more paying customers/making more from your existing customers etc.

  6. #6
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Yea I agree with that and also your previous remark about weeding out the tyre kickers in the first place.

    In fact, I have found that one of the great things about dealing with more experienced/mature clients is that they don't really expect you to 'pitch' them as much unless you are talking about advertising. If I decide to invest some time or money into winning new business (for me that is usually plane fare and my time) then I've already decided that the client relationship is worth investing to.

    I've also decided that this isn't the kind of client that will be a non-payer, an idea stealer, or any other such nonsense. So, I think it's a great thing to try and learn to quality and engage great clients and learn to recognize the bad ones and avoid them. But, trying to figure out how to prevent bad clients from doing bad things seems like waste of time. Just move on.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  7. #7
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    Well, from my job before, my boss had let the possible clients signed an agreement that all the ideas shared by the company employees in the meetings would be properties of the company. As they were there no deals or contracts made yet, it is still company property.

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    Quote Originally Posted by apoldeer View Post
    Well, from my job before, my boss had let the possible clients signed an agreement that all the ideas shared by the company employees in the meetings would be properties of the company. As they were there no deals or contracts made yet, it is still company property.
    The problem I see with that is that it's quite aggressive for a sales pitch, plus tricky to enforce and can lead to complications. For example, what if you were to propose something during that meeting that another company had also proposed previously? What if the client went on to pursue that idea - which party would claim 'ownership' of that idea? How would that be enforced?

    Sounds messy.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox View Post
    The problem I see with that is that it's quite aggressive for a sales pitch, plus tricky to enforce and can lead to complications. For example, what if you were to propose something during that meeting that another company had also proposed previously? What if the client went on to pursue that idea - which party would claim 'ownership' of that idea? How would that be enforced?

    Sounds messy.
    That was a potential problem but usually the clients go to us first before trying the other ones. We had an aggressive sales team.

    And if the clients went to another company before us and had the some same ideas as our design team, we always tell the potential clients that these ideas came from our own but we will present them with more new ideas after that presentation. Those ideas then are place inside the virtual bin. A month or so, those ideas in the bin are rehashed, improved or disassembled to form a new ideas.


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