Just finished up with a search for Glanbia, a sports nutrition company with headquarters in Chicago.

One side note (somewhat related) before I jump into this post…the guy that brought me in to manage the search had brought me in on another search at another company.

His boss, the SVP Marketing agreed….but admittedly (so he told me at the end of the search) was a bit skeptical (“how can free be good”).

At the end of the search he said the pitch day and the process far exceeded his expectations and of the three agencies we brought to the table, two were nearly neck and neck.


So there we had it…two agencies that were in a near tie.

So what ultimately separated them apart – and what separates other agencies apart in other searches we’ve managed, are a few things:

  1. Going the extra mile.  The winning agency took the time to go to one of the biggest conferences in the client’s space and talked about what they had learned and what it meant for them.  Taking some added value steps to show the client that they agency cares is big.
  2. Making it relevant.  See #1.  Relevancy can also manifest itself when the agency is asked questions.  If the agency doesn’t turn it around and make it about the client, that’s a problem.  Means they either are lazy, don’t care, or aren’t thinking enough about what it means to show you that they’re engaged with your world.
  3. Sharing their vision.  I always ask agencies in the RFI phase of our searches to talk about the future of advertising (using term generically) and what it means for the client.  Being able to articulate that during the pitch is key.  This is not a stationary world we live in.  Your agency partner has to be two steps ahead of the curve to keep it all running for you.
  4. Showing above and beyond thinking and a nimbleness. The agency needs to give you a feeling that they are always thinking ahead.  Rather than just talk about the importance and dominance of paid media in the social space and the need for you the client to be there, the winning agency talked about the way they test posts organically and when they land on a post that seems to have some traction, then they make it fly – putting money behind it to really drive the heck out of it…just one of a few examples.
  5. The connection.  The third agency (that wasn’t one of the “neck ‘n neckers” brought a couple of millennials into the presentation who said they had been trying the products for the past month – and they looked like they were just playing a part.  The winning agency had two guys that would ultimately be part of the team that were deep into the category and showed a passion and understanding that made the client feel like these guys  could really ramp it up quickly.  Don’t fake it, try and bake it in.

So a lot to digest I’m sure.

But ideally you want to be in a position like we put most of our marketing clients – in a position where you have at least two agencies that are neck-and-neck…so you can start looking at the other things that ideally will really help drive the agency – and their relationship with you – to new and better heights.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.