Look under hoodIt’s best to look under the hood when looking for a new marketing agency, as they can be a funny lot.

Most are forthright, but occasionally you run into a firm that is all in for themselves and it can become pretty clear, pretty quickly, that you haven’t made the best decision for your brand or business.

I know you did all you felt you could do to screen these guys when looking for that replacement agency, but there are possibly some things you missed…some questions you forgot to ask…or some steps you forgot to take that could have saved you the heartache of a bad partner choice.

So when looking for a new marketing agency, here are five things to think about…and look for, that will help you look under the hood (or peek behind the curtain) to see what you might be getting from that firm.
  1. Relevancy.  When they respond to the questions you ask (at any point in the search), are they making their responses all about you – or all about them – or just all about nothing?  As an example, a question we ask in every RFI is “Tell me in 100 words or less, why you would make a good agency partner for Company ABC.”  Those agencies that don’t tie their response directly to the marketer’s challenge and talk very generally about how strategic they are and how much experience they have…aren’t thinking much about you.  A warning sign.
  2. Hard Working.  How much work and thought have they put into the search?  This can manifest itself in lots of ways.  Starting with their response to pre-qualifying questions.  Do they answer them or do they just want to “hop on the phone”?  Do they cut and paste case studies into your RFI or have they worked to explain why that case study is meaningful to the response?  In the final pitch, have they shown you that they have done so much work that you almost feel like they’re ramping up on your business?  Little things like this can be representative of how they might work for you. Shortcuts.
  3. Organized.  When they get on a call with you during the search, are they organized in how they structure their questions?  Do they take the time to help you understand the kinds of things they want to ask you during that call.  Does the same hold true throughout the search process?  In the Q&A/Chemistry calls we conduct with finalist agencies, you can tell who’s ready and organized and who is not by how they present themselves and by the structure, order, and types of questions they ask.  Smart strategic first or are they in the weeds?  It can be telling.
  4. Team Consistency.  Do they look and feel the same way throughout the search process?  Are the players consistent from the start of the engagement (1st meeting) to the final pitch presentation?  Get to know “the team” as early in the process as you can.  No bait n’ switches, please!
  5. Depth.  In two of our recent searches, the agencies that won chose not to present creative, but instead presented sound strategic platforms built off of smart insights they had gleaned from the work and research on the company, the brand, and the consumer.  The platforms they presented made sense and all they really did to bring them to life was present a “mood-like” board.  Powerful.  The other agencies in the same pitches presented creative campaigns.  Good, well organized, well integrated campaigns.  Likeable campaigns, but without strategic foundation.  When asked how they got to where they got, there was near silence.  Who is the strategic lead on your account?  Do they even understand what strategy means?

So while no search is fool-proof, there are some things you can do…things to look for that can help you better your chances of finding that perfect firm.

It takes work and smart thinking on your end.  It’s easy to gloss over things in a search.

So just like you want your agency to dig deep and work hard to win your heart (and pocket book), you too need to dig a little deeper to most effectively evaluate who makes the most sense to best represent your business.