One of our favorite lines at RSW/AgencySearch is “good inputs, great outputs.”
The concept is intuitive enough, and our world of searching for agencies for marketing clients is a perfect real world example.
We have to make certain the inputs are spot on.
This can prove a challenge for marketers – because they often are trapped in their world of their own brand and the pressures of their business – which ultimately limits their ability to see the full potential of what makes for a solid input into the process.
With this in mind, one of our primary objectives is to help our marketing clients provide the best possible inputs for their search. What does a “good input” look like in each phase of the agency search process? Let’s take a look…
Know what you’re looking for when sending initial material to prospective agencies. Take the time to define a few qualities that are most important to your company or project, and send pre-qualifying questions to the agencies that you think might be a fit.
These questions will be a good exercise in discovering what you’re looking for in an agency and, more importantly, will allow the candidates to self-select and essentially do the first stage of filtering for you, getting it down to a much more manageable list.
Set up the agencies responding to the RFI for success. If you’re looking to avoid cut-and-paste agencies, you need to do the legwork to develop more than a cut-and-paste RFI.
Consider your current agency’s shortcomings, and use this to inform the document. It’s good to know what you want in an agency—but it’s critical that you know what you don’t want.
And a good “challenge document” (document outlining needs/expectations for the final pitch presentation) clearly states the challenges you’re looking to solve, while allowing the responders some room to show creativity in how they’ve overcome similar hurdles in the past.
This combination allows the cream to rise to the top, giving you an easy look at agencies that might fit seamlessly into your roster of agencies and giving you a big leg up in choosing the top candidates to pitch.
Find the “why”. Make sure that beyond learning about the agency’s work, ask questions about the “why”s behind it. Agencies with prior work that parallels your own are valuable, but even more so if they’re able to translate the thinking behind that work in a way that ends in a solution customized to your needs.
Guiding the pitch to focus on the needs of your business, and how each agency uses previous work to devise creative solutions, will give you an idea of how each agency thinks, both internally and in terms of being a business partner. Using this criteria, along with everything you’ve seen up to this point in the search, should enable you to select the agency you feel will serve as a proactive and value-added partner.
Besides being generally good practices, these inputs each lead to their own piece of the marketing partnership output.
Informed pre-qualifying saves precious time and energy when thinning from the initial agency pool. An intelligently assembled RFI enables you to find the best of the best. Finally, close attention paid to the content of final pitches will lead you to the agency best suited to apply their approach to your real world challenges.
If you’re looking to find your next great marketing partner, make sure you’re willing to take the time to conduct a good search as well. Good inputs, great outputs.