As the idiom goes, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Front Cover.” The reality of course is that most of us do just that. The look of the cover alone is a big factor in the buying decision and even influences our enjoyment of the read.
We ‘should’ be judging on intrinsic values such as the writing, the story and the characters but in the main we respond to the visual clues around style, genre and subject. The look alone is a significant communication. It acts powerfully to raise our expectations and to influence our enjoyment, and experience, of the real thing.
The pitch is just as subject to this Front Cover effect as so many areas where the first impression, based on looks alone, is critical. In a recent documentary Woody Allen said he decides in the first 10 seconds of a casting session, often not giving the surprised actor a chance to speak.
In the very serious world of choosing the right wine selection will, ideally, be based on the many factors that experts deem critical to the taste- the appellation, the year (exceptional) , mise en bouteille, or not. In practice most bottles are purchased by women, often in supermarkets, who make their decision, an emotional one, in around 5 seconds based on the look of the label. ‘I like it.’
So, what does this mean for the front cover of the pitch, the signals a client picks up arriving at your office, or the meeting room ( theirs or yours). Realistically for most companies little can be done to change the physical strucure for a pitch.
First sight will be the office building, and more importantly the reception area which for many professional service firms will be imposing but lacking in personality. Unlike those of many creative agencies, they give no positive clues to character, raise no positive expectation of an engaging experience!
Of course, practical and cost issues restrict options for re-designing your cover for a pitch but the impact of the first look does matter. Do something, however small, that makes the clients feel they are the most important people in the world. Greet them in person, feature their products prominently, take ownership of the meeting room doing the unexpected, but relevant. Be imaginative.
One of the greatest examples of making the initial look count was Saatchi some 20 years ago, pitching Toyota. The client arrived at the agency and the first thing they saw was their latest model in pride of place in a reception- with no visible means* of access! The pitch was won on first sight.
( *As if by magic, a 40 foot plate glass window was removed and replaced overnight with a car swung in by crane over a deep fenced basement well)