All of the marketers that come to RSW/AgencySearch (to help them find a new marketing agency), have tried to look for an agency on their own in the past.

While this certainly can prove successful, the time required to properly vet agencies can prove daunting.

What typically happens, is marketers are under the gun to make a change (e.g. because of recent poor business performance, pressure from management, a desire to switch before year-end) and they cut corners to get things done faster than they should – or simply not as effectively as they can.

Here are some of the ways in which our clients have tried to find agencies in the past – and some of the challenges/problems they’ve faced in the process:

  1. Hired an agency at a recommendation of a friend/colleague.   Should work, right?   After all, he/she is a friend and what they like, you tend to like.  Generally speaking yes, but when it comes to agencies, not so much.  There are too many personalities involved in your business and the issues that your business faces – or the category that you play in – aren’t necessarily aligned with your friends’ company’s personalities or category.
  2. Used a list to find agencies.  I always say, “lists are only as good as the day you use them”.  This holds true with agency lists as well.  We are frequent viewers of lists on our agency new business side of our business, and more often than not, lists are not accurate, not complete, and are only helpful if you take the time to get on the phone and on the Internet to do your research.  We have a person full time on staff who does nothing but build and clean lists of agencies for our businesses.  So if you’re going to try and use a list, use multiple lists and get someone on the phone to qualify the information you have.
  3. Only talked with local agencies.  You’re missing out.  Unless you have a small project that requires some less than complex, strategic help.  I’m not suggesting that looking at local agencies is a bad thing…it’s just not a very complete thing.  While this is the natural place to turn because it’s comfortable to do, read this post and see what the pluses and minuses of “going local” can be:  Going Local Post
  4. Brought in agency they have used in the past. This might be the best option to consider because you know what you’re buying.  The problem with this approach is “things change”.   Agency personnel can have a tendency to turn over (just like marketing personnel), so all I’m suggesting is know what you’re buying and make sure it’s the same.  You may have had a great account rep working with your team in your old company, but now not only are you working with a new staff, but the agency team could be completely new as well.  Just keep your eyes open as you move to make this change.
  5. Hired the first agency they met (e.g. at a conference or a trade show).  This also can be a good approach.  You never know…that first one that you’ve completely hit it off with can be the perfect one.  Only suggestion here is to do a bit of due diligence and either qualify them by speaking with references, or interviewing their employees during an agency visit – or by talking to one or two additional firms just to make sure you’ve turned over all the possible stones as you review this firm.  Talking to other agencies will help you unearth questions you want to ask your first choice – which will only make you feel better about the decision you have made – if you end up sticking with the first firm after reviewing one or two more.

So bottom line is go in with eyes wide open (call us if you want some counsel, we’re happy to help).

Don’t rush yourself.

Do your due diligence.

Ask questions.

Recognize that things change.

Talk to a few firms first.

You’ll feel better about your decision in the long run.