What do companies look for in an advertising agency? Surprisingly, the same things that agencies look for in companies. They both want a strong partner that they can relate to and feel a strong intellectual and in some cases emotional connection with. This will help to foster a longer lasting relationship that provides both parties with better problem solving and stronger revenue moving into the future.
As a society we tend to look at companies as a sort of unemotional entity and not what they really are which is a collection of individuals, each with their own knowledge, emotions and belief system.
When you look at your personal relationships you may find that you have certain friends for different reasons. Some you may enjoy because they are very eclectic in their interests and knowledge and open your mind to look at your personal truths in a different light. While other friends you may have due to the emotional benefit of the relationship. With these people you share your day-to-day struggles and joys of life. Then there are those who you have a relationship based on a shared value of interest, such as helping children as part of a community organization or simply enjoying the same sport.
The most important thing to take away when looking at these relationships is that each partner gains something from it. Whether it knowledge, emotional support or entertainment. Business relationships are similar although the benefits may vary depending on the need of the individual. Both business and personal relationships can’t exist and thrive if the following two truths aren’t agreed upon.
- The relationship will be a partnership with each side receiving a strong benefit from it.
- Both partners have a similar belief system that allows for them to have a similar vision relative to business and problem solving.
So I’m sure you are now asking how you can find the right company or agency that fits these two criteria. There are several ways, and if you take the time to do them, you are certain to have a strong business relationship.
The first step is to do your homework. It is common for companies looking for an agency for a large project to send out an RFP (Request for Proposal). These are sometimes sent to a specific set of agencies with the core competencies the company is looking, for but other times it is sent to every agency the company can find in hopes of finding one that will work. This spray and pray philosophy isn’t guaranteed to get you the best respondents and can lead to a great deal of wasted time for both the company and the contacted agencies.
You should instead research several agencies and see which ones may be a good fit for your business. Don’t look at it as removing agencies from your list, look at it as finding the best partner for your needs.
Using your personal network to see if your contemporaries have had good experiences with an agency is one potential approach. Leveraging the web to find agencies is of course a good first step. There are various things you can learn about an agency just by looking at their own marketing efforts.
How they articulate their value proposition. Are they a niche company who specializes in only certain strategies and executions? Are they an SEO or branding agency for example. Are they heavily research focused or creative execution focused?
How large is the company? How many employees and offices do they have? Will your organization be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? Depending on the level of individualized attention you desire this may be a consideration.
Do they specialize in specific industries such as youth culture or healthcare? Not all agencies look to do work for clients across various industries, many only focus on specific niches. Look to see if your brand fits within the agency’s specialization.
What marketing services are you looking for and what does the agency competently offer? If you are looking for an agency partner to assist on a company rebranding initiative then you are probably not going to want to partner with an agency that specializes in direct marketing. It is important to look for samples via case studies to show evidence of their ability to deliver on their stated specialties.
What clients have they worked with in the past? This will generally give you an understanding as to the business types the agency has some experience working in. It also allows you do determine if the types of companies the agency generally work with fit within your company values.
Once you have completed this initial research you should have a good indication as to which agencies you should engage with to learn more. This usually takes the form of an introductory call or meeting with each agency. The goal will be to learn more about the agency’s services, processes and culture. Keep notes on what they tell you about their agency and just as importantly what they ask about your company.
Every agency should be focused on understanding your business problem and finding strategic and creative ways to solve it. That is of course why you should be looking for an agency in the first place. This is not dissimilar to why your company many have strong partnerships with accounting and law firms. At our core we all specialize in different things and therefore need strong partner relationships to meet our business goals. Agencies provide value to their clients and produce revenue for themselves by delivering the best marketing consulting and executions possible.
Pay close attention to the questions they ask about your company and marketing needs. Do the questions really help them to understand your organization and needs, or are they leading questions meant to push you into a tactic without a full understanding of your business problem?
Ask questions about how the agency’s internal processes work and how they match with your organization. If you are large publically traded company and you have very strict processes that an agency must adhere to such as compliance and procurement, a very small boutique agency may not be the best fit. They most likely will not have the resources of knowledge to work through all of the required steps in an efficient manner. After all, no one wants their marketing initiatives to get caught up in procurement for months and end up late to market.
Then there is always the big bad budget question. This question always seems to cause angst on both sides of the table. The client generally feels that if they supply the agency with a budget then the agency will find a way to recommend spending all of it. In other cases the client really doesn’t know what a solution would cost and doesn’t want to shoot too high or low. On the other side the agency wants to know what the client is wanting to accomplish and how much they are willing to spend in order to achieve that objective. If a prospective client is looking to run an integrated multi-channel advertising campaign and has a budget of $2,000, then the agency is going to either tell the client that their objectives are not possible based on the at budget and may be able to provide an alternative solution. Remember that this should be a strong partnership and if expectations are not openly discussed at this stage it should be a warning sign of things to come.
The advice stated above are of course just guidelines to help you get started in selecting the right agency partner for your company. If you go through this process and make sure you provide the agency with the best information possible they are going to be able to get to the root cause of the business issue and effectively solve the problem. Similarly, if you go to the Doctor with a physical ailment and don’t give them a thorough explanation of your problem, what changes you’ve felt in your body and where it hurts, you can’t expect them to give you a proper diagnosis and you may not recover.
At the end of the day both agencies and companies want strong partnerships that will endure. Not only will the work be superior, both with save significant time in communication and education because they know each other so well.