Assuming you have not watched an episode of Mad Men and think that all agencies adhere to the martini breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule, here is little information from an insider’s perspective that should help you in your quest to find the right agency for you.
Like many other companies, agencies come in all different shapes and sizes. Some specialize in a few specific mediums (TV/Print), while others are able to handle a broader range of services. Do your homework prior to contacting an agency. Check out their website –specifically their portfolio and case studies sections. Google their name to find other results in blogs and other social media outlets so you have more than the agency’s corporate face to evaluate. And don’t forget to ask your colleagues for references as well. Satisfied clients are one of the best endorsements an agency can have.
Try to get a feel for the types of businesses the agency works with: small, large, industry- specific or varied. Learning a little about the agency will help save you time in your search. There is no litmus test for which agency will be the best fit for your company, but knowing some basics about an agency will help you determine if they are a good match for your company’s needs.
Once you have narrowed down your choices to a handful of agencies, conduct interviews. I suggest meeting at the agency so you can get a feel for the agency’s culture. Be sure to ask if the people you are meeting with will be part of the team assigned to your account. If they aren’t, ask to meet with someone who will be on the account team assigned to you. You should also take this opportunity to review the agency’s portfolio and to ask specific questions about how they would handle one of your upcoming projects (this can be a real project or one on your wish list). Discussing the agency’s approach to your specific project will give you something concrete with which to measure the agency’s creativity, technology sense, and industry knowledge. Meeting with the agency and having these discussions should give you a good sense for your compatibility.
- Check the agency’s reputation, either through references or by doing your own online digging.
- Make sure you know the creative philosophy/direction of an agency. Don’t measure creativity on one campaign, tour or website.
- Know the people you will be working with. Meet with your account team to ensure a good rapport.
- Check out team members’ credentials. Anyone can call themselves an expert. Make sure the team has the collective knowledge and experience to make your project successful.
- Investigate the services an agency offers. It may be important to you that your agency is a one-stop-shop for all your needs and that projects are not outsourced. Or you may want to engage several agencies in which case it is imperative to know the agency will play well with others!
- Communicate your goals. This needs to be clear from the beginning, and will help form the strategy for your project.
- Create benchmarks to allow both you and the agency to measure success and to evaluate areas in need of improvement.
- Ask about billing procedures and costs. Knowing what you are going to be billed for and how the process works will avoid confusion when you receive a bill.
Remember, an agency should be an extension of your company’s marketing department, working collaboratively to manage and execute projects. Therefore, you ultimately have to like and trust the people you will be working with. While this may sound obvious, do not underestimate the importance of the relationship between you and your agency account team. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about process, billing, retainers, and other costs that may come up during a project.
And don’t forget-once you find the agency of your dreams. . . let them do their job! Be open to the agency’s ideas and strategies to enhance the overall marketing goals for your company.