I present a webinar to new marketing agency clients on how to avoid a marketing agency’s worst nightmare when involved in a marketing agency search.

I tell agencies to remember that in the eyes of the marketer, how you look today could be a reflection of how you’ll operate tomorrow.

It’s true and valid.  And it’s something that you, the marketer, should remember as you look at new firms to support your business.

I reinforce the fact that every agency needs to operate at 110% throughout the courtship process.

It’s when they don’t, that problems start.

I have managed over 40 agency searches for marketers since 2010.  I have written and reviewed over 300 RFI responses and sat in over 120 final pitch presentations.

You spend that much time watching the way agencies operate and you understand what makes for a great firm.

There were two situations where agencies let their guards down and they lost out on an opportunity to win a client’s business: a marketing agency’s worst nightmare.

An Unfortunate Event

When we narrow our searches down to the finalist list of 3 agencies (after starting with well over 100), each agency has a chance to talk to the marketing client in preparation for their final pitch presentation.

We call these Q&A/Chemistry calls.

This is not an evaluative step in our process.  It’s an information gathering step for the agency.  I have run well over 120 individual Q&A/Chemistry calls since 2010.

There were two separate search situations where one of the finalist agencies came in so ill-prepared, talking over themselves, diving down into the weeds – to the point where the marketer said post each of these sessions that “if they are going to operate this way during a 45-minute call, what does that mean if I bring them on board!”

Despite not being a determinative step, the marketer decided to walk away from the consideration of that agency because of how they operated during the call.

Unfortunate for the agency.  They had the chops, but just couldn’t keep it running at 110%.

Pretty, But Not Grounded

The other situation involved three agencies presenting their final pitch presentation to win the business of a food company in the MidWest.

Marketers that come to us are often looking for agencies that can operate as smart, strategic partners in moving their business forward.  That means, in part, that ideas and strategy are grounded in sound insights.

In this particular search, two agencies presented beautifully fleshed out campaigns.

The third agency presented the equivalent of “mood boards” that represented different strategic directions they could potentially pursue to help move the client’s business forward.  Each “mood board” direction was grounded in consumer, industry, and competitive insights.

It all made perfect sense.

When the other agencies were asked how they got to where they got to, they could not provide a meaningful enough response.  If they had only pushed their thinking a bit further, one or more of them would have found their way into the client’s life.

Again, both agencies had the chops, but they didn’t keep it running at 110%.

So, What’s This Mean For You, the Marketer?

What this means for you, the marketer, is you also need to operate at 110%.  You cannot let your own guard down.  You need to keep careful watch over what the agencies in your review are doing, how they’re presenting their thinking, their work, their ideas.

If you need to talk through how to best run your own search and what paces you need to put agencies through – and what you need to be looking for, give us a call.

If you simply need help because you don’t have time, don’t know where to start, or don’t want to pay the big search consultant fees, let’s talk (513-559-3101/msneider@rswagencysearch.com).

We cost you nothing to manage searches.

Every agency we have asked to participate in searches has agreed.  And every marketer we’ve worked with has been 110% satisfied with their ultimate selection of a new marketing partner firm.