RampsThe last two searches we’ve managed (one for Mercy Health in Michigan and the other for Legrand) – while different in a good number of respects, were very similar in how they ended up.

This agency really knows its stuff!

In both searches, the marketers knew they needed to move relatively quickly, but didn’t want that to cloud their vision as they moved through the process.

They let us work our search the way we typically do: timely, thoughtfully, and strategically to meet the needs of the client.

They wanted the best agency for the job and during the final pitch presentation they got just that – great agencies to choose from.

At the end of the day both marketers told me the same thing when defining their reason for selecting their partner agency:  “I felt like the agency was already in the ramp up mode”.  Fascinating.

They didn’t speak to them or at them.

It wasn’t because of beautiful creative.  It wasn’t because they connected with the team wonderfully.  It wasn’t because they were the most strategic.   While all of these certainly played a role in their decision to select the agency, in the end it boiled down to the fact that the agencies spoke to the client in a way that made them feel like they “got them” and that they could easily jump on board and get moving.

Each of these marketers felt like the winning agency had done enough homework and had thought through the issues well enough that the time to ramp up could be reduced – which again, was never a stated requirement, but certainly would prove a benefit.

The presentations these agencies gave paralleled each other considerably.Tailor

  • Both tailored their presentations to the client’s challenge, their market, their world.  In the Mercy presentation, the agency visited the Michigan market, did their own set of focus groups to glean insights about the market and their creative ideas, and they referenced learnings about the Michigan market’s competitive space, talking specifically about how their recommended direction would differ relative to what was already going on in the market today.
  • Both were very detailed about the specifics of their next steps.  In the Legrand search, the winning agency spelled out very specific next steps that tied to the very tailored recommendations they made to the client.  They studied their situation enough, asked enough good, smart questions during the search process, and brought the ideas to the table that made the client feel like part of the ramp-up was already complete.
  • Both also showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the client’s business.  These agencies were READY to roll.  They expressed a deep interest in the client’s business, shared examples of similar situations they had been in to help bridge the client situation more easily to their own experiences, and they were consistent across all the presenters in how they expressed interest in the client’s business.

In both presentations, the feedback I gave to the runner-up agencies was also the same:

  • Kind of felt like we could have slid any brand into that presentation.
  • Energy level wasn’t strong
  • Didn’t exhibit an understanding of our business
  • Lacked innovation in thinking and strategy

So what does this mean for you?

Expect more.  Don’t settle for hot creative or great personalities.  Look beyond the “show” and find the meat on the bone.  Do these guys “get” you?  Do they get your situation/challenges?  Are they talking about how they’ll solve your problems?  And not just how they’ve solved other challenges?

It’s a highly competitive market out there and there are plenty of good agencies that are ready to jump in with smart thinking and solid plans.

It’s easy for an agency to regurgitate what they’ve done in the past.  It’s a little tougher to talk the category and share knowledge.  It’s most difficult to take the time to get to know you and your specific challenges and then put some thinking on the table as to how they plan on addressing it.  If you don’t see it, ask for it.  I’m not talking “spec creative”, I’m talking “spec thinking”.  If the agency isn’t willing to give that away, I say, not worth your time.  No sense gambling when you don’t have to!