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Life’s a Pitch: Patrick Smith, Founder and CEO, Zally

Patrick Smith - Zally

Patrick Smith is founder and CEO at Zally, a Manchester-based authentication and security platform.

Zally, founded in 2022, is on a mission to eliminate traditional passwords as part of its plans to revolutionise the cybersecurity space and Smith has big ambitions to build the UK’s next tech ‘unicorn’.

In our latest edition of Life’s a Pitch, we quiz Smith on his experiences with agencies, and thoughts on the pitch process…

What does your brand do in a nutshell?

Zally is leveraging artificial intelligence to redefine the concept of authentication. Our powerful solution enriches valuable behavioural biometric data, to allow companies to know who is behind a device at any given time. This radical concept is flipping the entire process of authentication on its head, removing the need for traditional passwords and facilitating smoother customer experiences with stronger security.

Which agencies do you currently work with?

We’re still working to go to market, so we don’t currently have any active partners, but we are looking to speak with people imminently.

What’s the secret to a strong brand/agency partnership?

Clear and effective communication is crucial to building a strong brand and agency partnership. It’s essential to ensure parties are properly aligned on goals, strategies, and expectations. Ultimately, none of that happens without both parties being able to communicate effectively and openly with one another. This approach helps to foster collaboration and trust between both parties, which is an important bedrock in strong and lasting relationships.

What’s the most common mistake made by agencies when pitching for work?

Some agencies can get a bit carried away and promise unrealistic outcomes in the hopes of winning a pitch. For me, this is one of the quickest ways to sour a relationship. It’s far better to keep things reasonable and to focus on things that are achievable. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s always advisable to under-promise and over deliver in these situations. Trust me, in the long term, your client will be far happier for it.

In a similar vein, I’m always impressed with agencies that have the confidence to stand on their own expertise and make recommendations that the client may not have considered. When I pick partners, I pick them for their expertise and not simply to reaffirm how everything I’m doing is right. When it comes to certain areas of business, clients aren’t always going to know what’s best for them, so it’s important to offer guidance.

What question do you always ask a pitching agency?

I try to keep things straightforward. I will ask if they have done similar work in the space before and enquire about how that went. It’s a simple question but one that can reveal a lot. I’m also interested in knowing who is responsible for delivering on the account, as it’s important to have a visible point of contact that you can build trust around.

What’s the best pitch you’ve ever seen?

Several years back, a design agency approached me to create brand guidelines and digital assets for a project. Prior to diving into the pitch or proposal, they organised a brief workshop to grasp our requirements thoroughly. This approach aimed at ensuring a clear understanding of the needs before attempting to fulfill them. When the offer was presented, we, of course, expressed satisfaction because we had meticulously outlined the expected outcomes during our discussions. This level of clarity and alignment made the collaboration smooth and effective for all parties involved.

And the worst?

I don’t want to call anyone out by name, but the worst pitches involve people who are totally unprepared and, as a result, fail to recognise that Zally’s ethos and way of thinking are totally different from what’s considered ‘standard’ in the industry. I’m not saying every partner must be a veritable expert in all things Zally, but there’s really no excuse to come to a pitch meeting with virtually no understanding of what we do or why we do it.

Another pet peeve of mine is any agency that promises ‘viral’ content. Call me old-school, but I believe that truly viral content can only emerge organically and, as such, can’t be forced. So, when people come to me and include stuff like that in their pitches, it’s an immediate turn-off. Maybe you can produce content that engenders this sort of response, but is that a sustainable strategy for generating real value in the long term? I don’t think so.

What qualities do you value in an agency?

I go back to clear and effective communication, as for me, it’s the number one contributor to building positive client and partner relationships. I want to work with agencies that are honest, transparent, and responsive. More broadly, it never hurts if they have a bit of that Zally uniqueness. I’m naturally drawn to those who look at things from a different slant, and that carries over into my preferences around external agencies.

How could the pitch process be improved?

When it comes to making promises, especially during pitches, it’s crucial to deliver on them. The essence of a good pitch is not just about promising the world but being transparent and honest about what can and cannot be achieved. Acknowledging upfront what is beyond the scope before any work begins is key. Interestingly, the most impressive pitches are often those where there’s an admission of limitations. This approach not only sets realistic expectations but also builds trust and credibility from the start.

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