Watching a marketing agency search all the way till the end is critical to seeing just how engaged a marketing agency really is.

I am a big believer in a 360 degree review of agencies when in a pitch/review process.

In my opinion, every touch point is an evaluation point and as a client, you need to expect the best from each agency at every point of engagement.

That includes phone calls/conversations with the client prior to a pitch, and anything else that happens leading up to and following the pitch presentation.

Too many search firms don’t put any emphasis on things like the preliminary Q&A sessions or the types and number of questions being asked by the agencies – but in my mind, everything an agency does early on, and throughout the review process, is a reflection of how they might operate if they were to become a partner – and if they aren’t consistent in that behavior, that too is a big watch-out.

We recently completed a search for LeGrand where two agencies made it to the final phase of the review.  The two agencies maintained a high degree of energy, excitement, creativity, and smarts from the very beginning of the review process all the way through the final pitch.

But this is where it ended.

Following the pitch, the client decided that it was important (and we fully support this) to visit each agency and rather than address follow-up questions via phone post the pitch, they supplied questions to the agencies and asked that they have a conversation with the agencies about the questions during the meeting.

This is where the differences fully revealed the importance of watching it all the way until the end.  One agency (the winning agency) pulled out all the stops – made sure every question was well prepared with a thoughtful and organized answer.  They shared research that helped the client understand how they think and why they made the decisions they made (very client like).

The other agency didn’t.

Despite a recognition and call-out in the questions about the importance of understanding the depth of digital expertise, this agency didn’t do a decent job of providing the client with the confidence that they had the depth or could deliver to the level desired.  As a result, the questions got tougher during the visit, the skepticism grew deeper, and the anxiety got higher.  Unfortunately for this agency, they went first – making it even easier for the second agency to shine.

So what does this mean for you, the marketer?
So learning is, see it all the way through.  Pay attention at every touch point.  If your’e not formalizing “touches” early in the process, do so – and use it as a screening/evaluation tool.

With so much great talent out there, you owe it to yourself to look around, see what the world of creative and smart thinking talent holds and find the agency that can match up best with who you are and what you’re trying to achieve.