So you need an agency, or a change from the one you’re using currently. Perhaps you feel it’s time for a fresh approach; maybe you feel the agency you’ve used before has under-delivered or perhaps your organisation is simply going through change/growth and you need a communications partner that can help you on the journey.
At first, it seems like a nightmare of a task; there are so many options out there, and new agencies are springing up all the time. Some are specialist, some offer everything under one roof; it can be quite confusing.
Here are nine easy tips to help you to choose the right agency for you:
- You’re Not Alone. This is not something you need to do alone. Get a consultant who knows agencies. There are couple of very good ‘pitch brokers’ who will suggest a shortlist and run you through the process to help you choose. Or you can simply compile a list online, even the interweb helps.
- Do It Right. The ACA (Association for Communication and Advertising) have industry-determined guidelines for pitches and selecting agencies, which can help enormously and prevent misunderstandings etc. Speak to the CEO, Odette van der Haar, she’s lovely.
- Make Sure of Your Needs. Bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s exactly what you want. It’s a fine line between the agency’s offering and what you’ll be charged. Write down a bullet-point list of your objectives and requirements. Then find the right agency to meet those needs.
- Do Some Homework. It’s definitely worth a little extra time and effort to find out what other clients an agency has, phone them, get a quick reference, find out what others have experienced. It’s like a full service history on a car. Get one.
- Negotiate Fees. Most agencies will want a retainer or some kind of fee (flat or as a percentage). The truth is, there is no good reason why you have to comply. Don’t be shy; negotiate with the leaders of an agency. They want the business, trust me.
- Identify Your Team. Every agency will bring their ‘A-team’ to a pitch, but they have expensive back-offices to pay and people already employed. Insist on knowing who will work on your business, a project they have done lately, and then get a reference on it.
- Choose the Game-Changers. Find out about the key players in an agency. What have they done that is remarkable? What do players in the industry think of them? What makes them stand apart from the others? This is particularly important when it comes to Strategy.
- Be Interested in Awards. There is a big stigma around agencies and awards. The truth is that it has been irrevocably proven; the better, the more unique and the more awarded a campaign is, the better it performs on the client’s bottom line. Awards keep an agency at their best, and their best is what you want on your account.
- It’s All About Chemistry. Despite all the bells and whistles agencies will throw at you, it all comes down to people dealing with people. Choose partners that you like, can laugh with and have fun with – choose an agency you ‘gel’ with.
In the end, to get the best service and result from your new agency, remember that you have chosen them for their experience and expertise. An agency shouldn’t be seen as a supplier, but rather as a communications partner, that you work together with, to achieve your objectives.
Or as a CEO I used to work with puts it: “Don’t hire a dog and then bark yourself.” Best of luck.