How to choose an agency: Do your homework (part 2)

Eenie You’re hiring an agency because you want results.

This is not about making your ads look prettier. This is about doing more business, smarter.

So, how do you choose the right partner?  Eenie Meanie Mienie Moe?

Well, if you read my earlier post you know I don’t think it should be an RFP.  But on the other extreme, it shouldn’t be just because your cousin works there either.

Following a simple process (simple to understand, but will take discipline and time to execute) will protect you from making an expensive mistake.

The phases of the process are:

  • Know what you want  (ask yourself questions)
  • Do your homework (ask the prospective agencies questions)
  • The meet and greet (get together and ask questions)

Now that you have a better idea of what you want and have figured out who to approach, it’s time to think about what to ask.  This is where most potential clients just spit out a generic RFP that won’t really tell them what they need to know.  Let’s not do that, eh?

Instead, let’s look at two different lists here.  What not to ask for and what to ask.

Don’t ask for:

  • Spec creative — why would you want creative based on no input, knowledge or insight?
  • A marketing plan — again, same concept.  No agency can give you good counsel based on some facts typed into a document.
  • A media recommendation — see above.
  • Samples of marketing or media plans.  Those are confidential.  If you don’t follow my advice and do ask — beware of any agency that sends one. Next time, it might be yours!

Okay, so here’s  what you should ask about:

  • Stats.  Size, composition of staff, areas of expertise, etc.
  • Any possible conflicts with your business/industry
  • Process — how they approach a challenge or how they move from idea generation to execution sorts of processes.
  • Case studies — with client contact info for references.
  • Personality questions — have some fun. Explore.  If you choose them, you are going to be spending a lot of time together.   Are they a good fit?

Get the information you need and give them a chance to let their personality show through, but don’t ask them to jump through a million hoops. Not yet. Demonstrating that you’re respectful of their time will go a long way. Remember, the smart agencies are sizing you up as well. They’re trying to see how you’d fit together and what kind of client you’ll be.

Once you complete your questionnaire (don’t call it an RFP — some agencies will just toss it.) send it to the list of agencies you identified.  Give them a reasonable (3+ weeks deadline) and enjoy reading the replies.

Next up — what to do when you’ve narrowed it down to 2-3 agencies.

The rest of the How to Choose An Agency Series:

Flickr photo courtesy of PeeJ0e

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