In a recent article in AdAge, the author talks about how the velocity of formal agency searches has gone up in recent months…but not for the things you would typically think marketers are looking for.

Historically, a marketer initiated a search when they had a need for a full-service firm, but if the need was for a specialty firm, they would most often rely on referrals or their network to fill those gaps.

As our world of marketing and agencies have gotten more complex and the specialty agency world has grown in numbers relative to the full-service world, there are more specialty agency searches taking place.

Why? Why aren’t marketers just relying on who they know or who their friends know to fill the specialty marketing needs of their business.

I believe it’s because the importance of these specialty agencies has grown immensely in just the past 3-4 years (ever since the pandemic) as the value that they bring to the overall marketing efforts of brands today has risen dramatically.

Back in the day, things like social media were just a nice to have – a filler of sorts. Today, social media can be a dominant force for a brand, so finding the right social media agency shouldn’t be something that’s taken lightly.

Same with PR and digital marketing and influencer and performance marketing, to just name a few.

All of these “mediums” can have a significant influence on the performance of a brand and the selection of any agency shouldn’t be taken lightly.

When designing a marketing agency search, the following steps are all so important:

  1. Defining the scope very carefully
  2. Casting the net wide using your scope criteria
  3. Narrowing the bigger list with questions related to the agency’s experience dealing with issues like yours so you’re talking to firms that can relate to, and have dealt with the challenges you’re dealing with
  4. And develop a smart, well-thought through definition of what you want the final agencies to present to you

Some advice for agencies – particularly the full-service agencies.

On the agency side of things, what they need to think about (probably more so today than in year’s past) is the ultimate value of a win relative to the cost involved in participating in searches.

According to this same AdAge article, “Global creative pitches in January and February of this year brought in 47.6% less revenue compared to the year-earlier period, R3 reported. On the media side, pitch revenue was down 56.3% year-over-year. Paull said it’s been a trend over recent years to have “more pitches for less money,” which has been a “real challenge” for creative shops.”

So, agencies just need to be smarter about what they get themselves involved in. There can be a large cost (both financial and mental) involved in searches for marketing agencies.  They can be a real drain on time and the emotional stability of a firm. Get involved in too many random searches you don’t have permission to be in, and your people will tire, quickly.

What that all means for the marketer is you need to be asking the right sets of questions from the very get-go of a search and make sure you’re taking a hard look at each of the agencies to make sure they’re really justified to be in your search.  This can be a time consuming and daunting task for a marketer – particularly given there are so many great specialty agencies out there – but with some many specialty agencies in total out there, they can be hard to find.

If you’re ever in need of finding a better specialty firm, give us a call or drop us a line.  We’ve been managing specialty and full-service searches for our marketing clients since 2010. And like the AdAge article notes, the number of full-service searches we’ve managed of late, has dropped – and the number of specialty searches has been on the rise.  Treat them both with equal importance regardless of how you ultimately manage the search.

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