How to choose an agency: Meet & Greet (part 1)

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)

So, you’ve gotten back the written responses to your questionnaire.   Using criteria you’ve already determined (the "right" answers to the questions you’ve asked) whittle the list down to 3 agencies.  If you have to go bigger, no more than 4.

Pick a specific strategic, marketing-oriented challenge you’re facing.  Invite each of the finalist agencies for a meeting.  At that meeting, give them everything you’ve got.  Research, stats,  stories, sales figures.  Whatever is relevant to this very focused  issue. 

Then, ask them to come back to you in a couple weeks with some ideas.  Here’s where there’s a fork in the  road.  Some will tell you to ask for spec creative, marketing ideas, media plans etc.  If you ask them for all of that and don’t pay them for their time — that’s robbery, in my opinion.

Agency people get paid to think and be strategic.  So be reasonable.  If you are not going to compensate them for their time — then just ask for enough to see how well they listen, what kinds of questions they ask and how they think.

Schedule in person presentations.  At the presentation, you want to be watching for not only how they think but how they translate their thoughts to you.  What are their ideas based on?  How did they explore the issue?  What ideas did they discard?  How would they advise you execute?  How well did their ideas match your culture and your brand?

Here’s another key to this part in the process.  How well did they follow instructions?  If you said no spec creative and they bring it any way — what does that tell you?  How do they explain the deviance from your request?

There’s only one step left.  But it’s probably the most important step of all. 

The rest of the How to Choose An Agency Series:

Flickr photo courtesy of PeeJ0e

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