News

What Clients Think 2018

May 2018

This year’s report is our fifth and it’s our most comprehensive yet. Based on 500 client interviews conducted on behalf of design agencies, this year’s report provides a fascinating insight into the modern client/agency relationship. Every interview was paid for by a design agency that commissioned Up to the Light to carry out a Client Survey. Therefore, clients are giving considered views in an interview about their current agency relationships, rather than just responding to an online survey or a more general piece of market research. This gives the findings more weight and credibility.

The report is divided into three sections. Firstly, ‘Client World’ looks at bigger picture client concerns and issues. Secondly, ‘Winning Clients’ looks at agency new business activity and pitching. Thirdly, ‘Retaining & Growing Clients’ covers client service and client development issues.

Download the report >>

Pitch perfect

May 2018

One of the most striking figures from our ‘What Clients Think’ report is that 99% of clients believe that a pitch is good business practice for high value projects. I’m not expecting this year’s report (to be launched in May) to differ on this issue. Yes, there are occasions when agencies can go under the radar and avoid a pitch, but the key words here are ‘high value projects.’ Agencies that want to grow and win bigger projects from bigger clients need to excel at pitching.

So how can you sharpen your approach to pitches? Here are a few selected pointers:

Firstly, admit to yourself that this is a game
When you decide to pitch, you enter a game. It is a competition where there are winners and losers. In this sense, it is different from a client project and should not be approached in quite the same way. In a pitch your style, advice and recommendations should help you stand out and be memorable. After all, you are taking part in a new business process. It is not all about cracking the problem. The object of a game is to win and everything you do and say should be directed towards that one aim. Agencies that fully realise this have an immediate upper hand.

Clients want to know what you think
Many of the pitch presentations we see take too long to get to the interesting bit. What’s the alvaro-reyes-507651-unsplashinteresting bit? As far as the client is concerned, it’s what you think. It’s not the introduction to the agency and replaying the client’s brief. If it’s slide 17 and you are still talking about the agency and telling the client things they already know, then it is probably too late. So, start talking about them early, grab their attention with your particular big thought and make it memorable.

What is your strategic coat hanger?
A good pitch is not just a presentation. It is a well-constructed argument. That argument needs to be clearly delivered at the outset. This is the strategic coat hanger from which everything falls. It is the thread that runs through the entire presentation and makes you memorable. When the client has seen several different agencies, they need to be able to say, ‘Ah yes, they were the agency that said…’ However, too many presentations either lack any sort of strategic coat hanger or it is rather buried and not made explicit.

Make it easy for clients to buy
Many agencies like to say that they make the complex simple, yet don’t always follow the same rule when pitching. Leaving the client more confused than when you started is a classic mistake. Yes, some of the issues will be complex and it is good to raise questions. This shows that you understand the problem. But part of the ‘game’ is to make it easy for clients to buy. This is always about clarity not confusion – one consistent argument, crystal clear advice, straightforward next steps.

Remember the softer factorsemily-morter-188019-unsplash
I said earlier that a pitch is not all about cracking the problem. It is interesting that in our post- pitch interviews, clients spend most of their time talking about softer factors not the solution. Did the pitch team feel integrated? Were they strong individuals who sparked well off each other? Did one person dominate? Was there someone in the room who didn’t contribute that much and didn’t have a clear role? These softer factors are vital, and it is where preparation is so important. Most presentation ‘rehearsals’ are not rehearsals. They tend to be more about chopping and changing content and deciding who does what. In order to really master those softer factors, there needs to be more than one rehearsal. That’s how you weave in the seamless links, get the flow right and present yourselves as a united team.

Make sure your internal pitch process really works
My point about effective rehearsals is closely linked to the internal pitch process. The purpose of an internal pitch process is to help give you the best chance of winning, every time. It should be a truly useful set of steps and guidelines because lots of detailed rules tend not to work. One useful way to approach this is to imagine that a new person is joining the agency and will be handling the next pitch. Can you explain to that person everything that happens from receipt of brief through to final presentation? Do you have sets of checklist questions that can help at each stage? Of course, the fact that pitching is a game to be won is arguably one of the weaknesses of the pitch system. Are clients getting the right advice or the advice that wins the game? Sensible clients realise this distinction but still the demand for pitches continues. But that’s the subject of another article. Right now, though, participating in the right pitches and making sure that you excel at them is a key driver of agency growth.

November 2017 Workshops

May 2018

SOLD OUT!

Book now for a limited number of workshops on 8th, 10th and 14th November. The workshops are on a first come, first served basis and will be held at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London.

Each half-day workshop is exclusive to one agency so that it can be as bespoke as possible. A minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 attendees from the agency can attend.

Up to the Light is the leading provider of Client Surveys to the UK design industry. We publish an annual ‘What Clients Think’ report based on over 450 client interviews that we conduct on behalf of design agencies. Every Up to the Light workshop benefits from the most up to date client viewpoint – their concerns, expectations, views on areas such as agency strengths, weaknesses, service levels, added value and quality of agency communications.


World Class Client Service
- 2 workshops

Great client service, over and above account management, is a key differentiator for agencies. In clients’ eyes, great client service can be just as important as creativity or strategic thinking.

  • What are clients looking for? (feedback from client interviews)
  • Differences between account management and client service.
  • Where and how do relationships start to crack?
  • Client service - doing the basics well.
  • What ‘proactivity’ means in practice.
  • How to build trust, added value and partnership - client satisfaction versus client commitment.

Enquire now >>


Winning Pitches
- 2 workshops

With so much time, money and effort involved, it’s vital to ensure that your pitches are as sharp as possible.

  • How pitching and client expectations are changing.
  • How to pitch in 10 key stages.
  • A client’s perspective – drawing up the shortlist, pitch processes and evaluation, what clients look for, where pitches succeed and fail.
  • Structuring your argument, ways to raise audience engagement.
  • Ways to win – practical tips and techniques, do’s and don’ts.

Enquire now >>


Presentation Skills
- 2 workshops

Presentations have become the major client/agency interface so honed presentation skills are vital to winning work and persuading clients.

  • Preparation and understanding the audience.
  • Body language – posture, gesture, facial expression.
  • How to combat nerves.
  • Practical exercises, tips and techniques.
  • Video analysis to sharpen skills.

Enquire now >>


The focus of an Up to the Light workshop is on useful and practical output – new skills and ideas that you can put into action immediately. There is always a pre-workshop meeting/conversation to ensure that the session is tailored to your specific needs and situation. The workshops benefit from the hundreds of interviews that Up to the Light conducts with clients. Workshop content is always directed towards the client experience, their issues and what they look for in agencies.

"Jonathan is a firm favourite with DBA audiences. His expert insight into the client perspective is always pertinent and with topics ranging from business development to framing you strategic offer, attendee feedback is always consistently high. Jonathan has developed a wide range of new content for us over the years and is always professional and approachable in his delivery."

Deborah Dawton, Chief Executive Design Business Association

Winning Pitches Workshops

May 2017

SOLD OUT!

Book now for a limited number of Winning Pitches Workshops on 16th, 21st and 23rd June. The workshops are on a first come, first served basis and will be held at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London.

With so much time, money and effort involved, it’s vital to ensure that your pitches are as sharp as possible. This workshop draws upon hundreds of interviews with clients about why agencies win and lose pitches, as well as the many pitches that Up to the Light sees and advises upon. The ‘Winning Pitches’ workshop looks at pitching from both a client and agency perspective, and examines the most effective methods for success. The workshop is packed with practical tips and ideas.

Each half-day workshop is exclusive to one agency so that it can be as bespoke as possible. A minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12 attendees from the agency can attend.

Workshop content:

  • How pitching and client expectations are changing.
  • How to pitch in 10 key stages.
  • A client’s perspective – drawing up the shortlist, pitch processes and evaluation, what clients look for, where pitches succeed and fail.
  • Structuring your argument, ways to raise audience engagement.
  • Ways to win – practical tips and techniques, do’s and don’ts.

The focus of an Up to the Light workshop is on useful and practical output – new skills and ideas that you can put into action immediately. There is always a pre-workshop meeting/conversation to ensure that the session is tailored to your specific needs and situation. The workshops benefit from the hundreds of interviews that Up to the Light conducts with clients. Workshop content is always directed towards the client experience, their issues and what they look for in agencies.

"Jonathan has invaluable insight into the relationship between agencies and clients. His views are founded in genuine knowledge and he applies them with great skill."

Steve Pearce, Client Services Director, Imagination

What Clients Think 2017

Mar 2017

Our influential annual report, supported by the Design Business Association, is now published. It contains a wealth of interesting statistics, useful pointers and fascinating truths about the client/agency relationship. The report is based on 455 client interviews conducted on behalf of design agencies. Every interview was paid for by a design agency that commissioned Up to the Light to carry out a Client Survey. Therefore, clients are giving considered views in an interview about their current agency relationships, rather than just responding to an online survey or a more general piece of market research. This gives the findings more weight and credibility.

The report is divided into three sections. Firstly, ‘Client World’ looks at bigger picture client concerns and issues. Secondly, ‘Winning Clients’ looks at agency new business activity and pitching. Thirdly, ‘Retaining & Growing Clients’ covers client service and client development issues.

Download the report >>

What it really takes to be a 'brand custodian'

Sep 2016

Read Jonathan Kirk's recent article for the Design Business Association's 'Insight' publication.

‘We love an audience’

Mar 2016

Concise help organisations to connect and interact with their stakeholders by harnessing mobile technologies. The company enhances live events via their award winning event app that helps manage the audience experience in real time. With offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore and Johannesburg, Concise is at the cutting edge of new developments in this field and their client list is an extraordinary collection of the world's leading companies.

Up to the Light developed a new brand positioning and strapline that better reflects the company’s real business and added value to its clients. The new website was designed by Thomas Matthews design consultancy.

'Our new positioning and strapline, created by Up to the Light, is perfect for Concise. The service we provide involves significant technical expertise. However, the end result dramatically enhances audience engagement. We wanted to focus more on this benefit to our clients and 'We love an audience' beautifully crystallises our approach in a very memorable way. Up to the Light really nailed it.'

Phil O'Brien, Founder, Concise Group

What Clients Think 2016

Mar 2016

Our annual analysis of the client viewpoint is based on 435 client interviews conducted on behalf of design agencies. This year’s report is divided into 3 sections. Firstly, ‘Winning Clients’ looks at agency new business activity and pitching. Secondly, ‘Keeping Clients’ covers client service and client development issues. Thirdly, ‘Losing Clients’ examines why client/agency relationships decline and end.

The report is packed with revealing statistics and comment about the client/agency relationship.

Download the report >>

Have you considered a Client Survey?

Mar 2016

Up to the Light is the leading provider of Client Surveys to the UK design industry.

Why conduct an independent Client Survey? First and foremost, it provides ‘from the horse’s mouth’ information and allows you to make decisions based upon concrete evidence. It can provide answers to some important questions: How do they view your strengths and weaknesses? How are you perceived versus competitors? What client development opportunities can you exploit? How can you improve your client service levels? In what ways could you be more proactive?

An Up to the Light Client Survey ensures impartiality and enables clients to speak more openly. We also use a range of question types that are extremely effective at extracting the richest possible feedback. The result is a more honest assessment of how you are really seen.

Take a look at our introduction document that explains the benefits and get in touch if you’d like to discuss it further.

Download the document

Are you planning an agency video?

Sep 2015

There has been a boom in design consultancy videos, both on websites and in pitches. This article in Design Week by Jonathan Kirk looks at some of the best agency videos around, plus examining the different approaches adopted and what makes videos effective for clients.