Aside from finding an agency that has the talents and the expertise that aligns with your needs, chemistry is the next most important thing you need to qualify before you bring in an agency to represent you.

I know it’s an obvious thing to say, but you’d be amazed at how many marketers don’t go through the appropriate steps when qualifying agencies during the search process.

If you’re looking at hiring an agency, here are some steps we take at RSW/AgencySearch to make certain that all the “boxes are checked” before any marketer takes on any agency to manage the all important task of supporting their business.

  1. Ask some preliminary questions in the RFI that challenge the agency – don’t just ask for facts, ask for thinking.  This will give you a preliminary look at their character.  And how did they answer the RFI?  Did they “stay in the box” or did they take some liberties to provide a creative delivery of the questions you asked.  I personally like to see some creativity and “risk taking” at this phase.;
  2. Do a Chemistry/Q&A call.  Give the agency an opportunity to fire questions to you about the project or the assignment.  See how they approach the call.  What kinds of questions do they ask?  Do they start broad and strategic and then dial down to details…or are they all about tactics?  Take note of who is on the call.  Is it just the one lone horse principal, or has he brought others?  And who’s doing all the talking?;
  3. If you use an RFP, really challenge thinking by giving them the opportunity to address the challenge you are facing, asking them to spell out how they would strategically define their solution.  They don’t have to give work away, but they should be willing to share strategic thinking.  You can’t hire on blind faith.  You need to know what you’re buying.  This step can also help you define the character and nature of the team.  Speaking of team, ask who specifically would be working on the business.
  4. Final Pitch.  Does the same level of enthusiasm and passion for your business that started in the introductory calls and may have been carried into RFIs or RFPs play out in the final pitch?  Again, who is there.  If an agency only brings one or two people, ask if they will be working on the account.  If they bring an army, try and understand who out of this large mass of humanity will be the thinkers and doers on your account.
  5. Agency Visit.  After you’ve narrowed your selection to say, 2 agencies, now it’s time to pay a visit.  I’m sure you’re going to come out of the pitches with some questions, so you can either shoot them to the agency before the visit or drop them into their world when you visit.  Key is seeing if that same enthusiasm and energy continues to exist.  And as you take a look at their agency, stop and talk to some of the people and look at the work on the walls of the creative team.  Are you seeing consistency of character and creativity that you’ve experienced thus far?

Hopefully all helpful.  Key is peeling back the basics and getting deeper into who these people are, and how well do they seem to align with your way of thinking, align with the needs of your business, and seem like the kind of people you could partner with for a long, long time.

Good luck on that Chemistry final!