When winning the competition is not the point

Over the years I’ve observed in meeting rooms agencies presenting their work, competing with each other to get a project. And after all, I can say that competing to get a gig is almost always a bad idea.
This is how it works:

1. A company (with a big budget) needs an agency to do a project.

2. Knowing that agencies will fight for the project, this company launch a competition between them to see the work they like.

3. Agencies invest their resources to develop a plan, which is presented into the company’s HQ (agencies pays every cost.)

4. This company discard everyone and select only one of them.

5. The agency selected is doomed. The relationship between them and the client is not healthy. The agency has signed to obey them at every cost.

The thing is, agencies have to do the heavy work first, and maybe, just maybe, they’d be picked.
Here is where it gets interesting… There are two kind of companies competing: (1) companies that just do a bit of work and see if they get picked, and (2) agencies that put hundreds of hours and praying to get picked.
The first kind is worthless. They know they are not going to get the gig. Of course they won’t (!) There are other companies facing it seriously and making their best work. It’s a stupid idea to waste your resources to do a mediocre job. Even though, they decide to go and see.
On the other hand, the second kind depends on getting picked to survive that year. They put a lot of hours without knowing the results. That means, if they don’t get the gig, they’re going to have a bad year. And if they do get it, they survive and the cycle goes again the next year.
This is the kind of situation you want to avoid. If the game is about being mediocre or working for free to wait and see, you better be out of that game.
Competing for a project is almost always a bad idea.
You can be the kind of agency that companies want to pick without entering into a competition with others. The kind of agency that clients get to compete to get your work.
You don’t go to the best of the best and say: hey, work on this for free and if we like your work, we’ll pick you. No, you go to them and you compete to get them.
You always have a choice. In the long run, being dependent of getting picked by others is not a healthy habit.
Instead, be the one who gets to pick clients.