It’s that time: the time in your company’s life to find a new marketing agency. As you sit down with your colleagues to discuss what your next move is, questions, no doubt, pop up: Do you know what to look for? Do you know what you’re not looking for?
True, it’s easier to identify what you don’t want if you’ve been through the ringer before. That’s why many companies take a less selective, “I’ll know it when I see it” approach. It may work for a short time, but eventually, the process turns into speed dating: each “candidate” campaigns why they’d be the best fit for you and after awhile, they all start to look identical. The same goes for marketing agencies: if you don’t have an idea of what you’re looking for, how can you distinguish which one is best for your needs?
No two agencies are alike, but the right one will have robust traits that stand above the rest. Here’s our list of eight qualities on which we believe every company should grade prospective marketing agencies.
How does the agency lead? There are significant advantages to partnering with an agency that’s a strong thought leader – A.K.A. other market players care about what they have to say. You become part of this sharing of knowledge and reinforce your own position. If the agency’s values align with yours, there’s good potential to forge a meaningful relationship.
Second, who is steering the ship? The agency’s leadership team is a major selling feature. How the CEO, directors, and managers collaborate with their peers speaks volumes about the agency dynamics.
Simply put, what is the agency’s skill level in design, content, and web development? Are employees proficient in the latest platforms and technology? Bottom line, high competencies get you more ROI. Looking at their previous work and certifications/awards/education is a good indicator of overall performance. But also, what about their own website? The best agencies treat themselves as a client, and it shows in the quality of their online presence. Take note of how the agency differentiates itself using its own skill set.
Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing. You rarely see a movie without reading the reviews first, nor buy a car without reading consumer reports. The same applies to marketing agencies. Read what clients, current/past employees, or even other agencies are saying to see if they truly practice what they preach. Strong customer rapport and a generally positive “buzz” around the agency is definitely a good sign.
Checking social media will also provide a clearer window into the agency. Steady followership and interaction on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram increases the agency’s “buzzworthiness” and industry savvy. You don’t want a case of “the lights are on but nobody’s home,” where they have social media and don’t utilize it to its full potential. This does not bode well in the long term.
Response To The Brief
Too many times, agencies falter on delivering an insightful response to the given brief. This could mean they did not spend enough time trying to understand your business or objectives. Poorly executed pitches can result in unrealistic timelines, inaccurate budgets, and misinterpretations of brand image and audience. Before sending your brief, proofread it to make sure it’s as clear as possible about your expectations (especially budget) to leave little room for error. If the agency still underperforms after you’ve done your due diligence, that is a problem.
Motivated agencies are always trying to diversify their client portfolios. See who they’re currently partnered with and their respective projects to get a sense of how the agency responds to client goals. Experience with a wide variety of company sizes, types, and reputations will work in your favor. Even if the agency has never worked with a business like yours before, it’s good to see the kind of knowledge base they have to draw on that can set you apart from competition. An openness and willingness of the agency to become students of your business will also make their team easier to work with and facilitate better communication.
No journey is without bumps in the road. Failure is inevitable, and accidents happen. What truly matters is how the agency responds to difficulty and its ability to come back even stronger from challenges. It’s crucial to have an agency that is transparent with you on all issues. No one likes to hear something’s wrong, but everyone does appreciate a well-planned, optimistic response that will get you results.
The reverse is also true. You as a company should be comfortable being completely upfront on your expectations and any problems you’re facing. The agency will do all it can to help you as long as you remain open. Underpinning all of this is communication: steady communication between agency and client is the key that unlocks optimal outcomes.
What is the agency like when you’re not around? While it’s impossible to be a fly on the wall, you can gather from social media and the agency’s website what its priorities are as far as culture. Plus, when you arrive for your pitch, that’s a great opportunity to notice the details. Are they more casual or formal? Do employees socialize outside of work or participate in volunteer activities? If the agency’s culture resonates with you, it’s valid to pursue.
Most (if not all) the time, deciding on the right agency comes down to the “intangibles,” things you can’t put your finger on but just know are right. The natural chemistry between client and agency is truly priceless: it creates better communication, boosts morale, and gets you valuable results. Never underestimate the power of a polite staff with great hospitality. It’s the biggest win for agencies when clients feel welcome at their office and as if they’ve become part of a family.
This is what we, at Youtech, always strive for and consistently work to improve so that our family continues to expand year after year.