Finding a best-in-class agency is no easy task.

What is easy, is pulling together a list of agencies that show up in searches.  Or building a list of agencies that come to you from referrals.

Problem with this approach is what might be good for your friend’s business, isn’t necessarily great for yours.

And the problem with this approach is it limits your full view of all the possible agencies that can deliver effectively for you.

If you’re intent on running a search on your own, do yourself a favor and follow these steps.  It will help you improve your chances of landing a best-in-class agency.  It’s built from the same methodology we use when we help our marketing clients find best-in-class firms.

  1. Define your business challenges and opportunities and objectives
  2. Outline your business/marketing shortcomings and needs
  3. Spell out all the things your current agency isn’t doing well for you
  4. Do you best to articulate what you want in a new marketing firm

Once you do this, you cant start into your search.

This is where the tough part begins.  How to pull together a list large enough to give you the full purview of all the best possible agencies, without making it an overwhelming exercise.

There are a number of ways in which you can do this.  If you were working with RSW/AgencySearch, we would tap into to our always growing and ever evolving list of 10k agencies (of all types, sizes, and locations).  If you do it on your own, there are a few resources you can tap into:

Once you build up a list of agencies, the next thing to do is dive deep into their sites and try and determine if they have experience in your sector, if they appear to have dealt with similar challenges you’re dealing with, and if they “walk the talk”.  If the agency talks a bit social media and content story, but hasn’t blogged in months (or years), they might not be worth a look.

We usually start with 100-150 agencies at this early stage of the review.

Next thing to do is narrow your list down to a group of about 30 agencies and send them some pre-qualifying questions to determine:

  1. Their experience and success dealing with issues you’re dealing with
  2. Their category experience
  3. Their technical expertise

From this list of 30, we typically narrow it down to a group of 15 and interview each of the agencies.  Something you should also consider doing – to make sure you’re only moving forward with the agencies that best align with your business and marketing needs.

From the list of 15, we narrow the group down to a list of 7 finalist that all receive an RFI.  From the 7 receiving the RFI, we narrow it down to a group of 3 agencies that are given the opportunity to present to you.

Clearly define what you want them to present/what kind of challenge you want them to address, so the time spent is as productive as it can be.