Choosing a New Advertising Agency? Questions to Consider.

Brandon Grosvenor wrote this on Aug 07, 2018 | 0 comments

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There has been much debate over the past few years about the RFP process for marketing projects. Many agencies despise it and many clients are frustrated by it. While we’re not ready to open up the RFP debate just yet, we do want to ensure that everyone has a good idea of what things should be considered when looking to hire a marketing agency, whether using an RFP process or not.

We’ve compiled a list of questions that you and your team members can ask to help you determine the type of marketing agency that will best meet your needs.

#1. Is The Agency Adaptable?

There is a lot of talk today about niching services, especially when it comes to marketing. Many marketers and their customers are finding great success in focusing on certain products, industries or target markets. Certainly, niching can be a fantastic strategy. But, not all products and services lend well to focusing on a particular niche – some target markets lend themselves better to broadly-based marketing strategies in which niching can lessen the impact of the message.

The key is in adaptability. Any marketer or marketing agency worth its weight in word count will be experts in marketing processes and execution, but they don’t necessarily need to be experts in the industry or target market of their client. What they do need is the ability to adapt what they know about marketing deliverables to the desires of their client and to the expectations of the industry being targeted.

Adaptability is honed by excellent communication, skilled research and execution know-how.

#2. Which Business Model Does The Agency Use: Inhouse Or Outsourced?

Anyone who has spent time working for larger teams will be familiar with the ongoing debate of whether it’s better to hire in-house staff or to outsource as needed. Many professionals and businesses assume the answer rests simply in the availability of funds; in other words, is there enough money to hire more staff? When in fact, money is really only a small part of the whole equation. Other variables to consider are:

  • Amount of work now and into the future
  • The team’s ability to meet deadlines
  • Team and individual staff member ability to adapt to new ideas and technologies
  • Onboarding costs and process when hiring additional staff members
  • Expertise of the new hire

Many in the industry believe that a good marketing agency has at least one in-house expert on staff for each aspect of what they deliver and execute for clients. And while that may be a good rule for many agencies, some find that having fewer experts ‘on staff’ and more available in the ‘rolodex’ can provide for a greater level of expertise and adaptability. When marketing agencies outsource parts of client projects to freelancers or smaller agencies, they often do so to ensure that their clients receive the best in innovative thinking and the cutting-edge of available technologies.

However, there is much to be said for having an internal team of solid experts who cater solely to the clientele of a specific agency. A tight team has the chance to nurture its connection with agency clients, and to get to know the client and the client’s needs in a deeper way than outsourcing can offer. Think of a professional-level sports team that practices together every day, for hours and hours, giving the coaches and players a chance to work together in the best way possible as they go for the win. When it comes time to play, they have the ability to do so because they a clear understanding of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and they all work together for a common goal. Like a sports team, having a team of creative experts in-house allows marketing teams to dive in deep for the client and deliver a better, more premium product.

#3. Is The Agency Disruptive?

Let’s be honest: Marketing by its very nature is invasive and disruptive. It reaches the target market in their homes, in their cars, at work, at play, and everywhere they look and listen. While the invasive aspects of marketing products and services is generally well-known and accepted by society, it doesn’t mean that all companies want to disrupt their marketplace or the status quo of their industry. This where a good marketing agency comes in.

An experienced, well-thought-out marketing strategy will include a certain amount of disruption in its very nature; but, such a strategy doesn’t have to carry out that disruption in ways that upset the targets. Disruption can be subtle, such as using new and simple phrases to get a message across. Or, disruption can be bold, such as drastically changing the recipe of a well-loved product. The key here lies in understanding what the target market will bear, and what disruptive strategies will grab their attention. Agencies familiar with disruptive thinking and execution know how to protect a brand’s reputation while pushing boundaries and gaining marketing share.

#4. Can The Agency Show Deliverables In The Media of Choice?

We think this kind of goes without saying, and yet it never ceases to surprise us how many businesses hire agencies who do not have experience executing in the media of choice. See questions #1 and #2 above! Be it an agency with an entire fleet of in-house staff or one that has a large network of experts to pull from, it’s vitally important that the agency has an excellent understanding of the execution process for each project and each deliverable.

For example, while we all know what SEO is, and most of us can Youst our way through a blog post or website page, neither of those things are going to get us to the top of search results and elevate us or our clients past the competition. If search results are a key avenue for bringing in new customers or is a new project that demands attention, it’s very important that your marketers have way more than just a rudimentary knowledge of the strategy.

#5. Is It A Full Service Agency?

There is no right or wrong answer here. Full-service agencies are not necessarily better than plug-n-play agencies. Some, like us, offer both. It’s far more important to ensure that the agency you choose is adaptable to your needs and expectations (see question #1), and that the agency you choose can deliver top-notch talent in the areas that will bring you the best results.

We admit that money if often a consideration here, and that’s okay. While you don’t want money to be what makes the decision for you, we do recognize that budget is an important consideration when choosing an agency and the projects it will execute. If you need full service and can afford full service, great! That will narrow down your choice. But, if you only need a plug-n-play or a-la-carte service package, then you should select an agency offering it.

#6. What Is The Agency’s Strategic Process?

While we all understand what ‘strategy’ is and we all know a good strategic process is important, this point is often overlooked when choosing an agency. It’s important for companies to have a good understanding of what the strategic process is at the marketing agency of their choice. Clients do not need to be part of the whole framework around strategic thinking nor do they need to hand-hold through the entire process; however, clients of marketing agencies should know how the strategic process works at their agency and how it affects the agency’s deliverables and communications.

#7. Does The Agency Provide Data And Analytics?

Again, the need for collecting data and monitoring analytics is not open for debate here. But, what does need to be considered is whether or not doing that collection and monitoring is part of what your agency offers. Most companies can collect their data and can monitor their own analytics, but not all have the time or staff (see questions #2 and #4) to devote to it.

It can be very helpful for many businesses to ensure that data collection and analytics are part of their outsourced marketing projects. Agencies well-versed in these aspects of marketing know how to correctly interpret data that is collected and can use it to guide their clients in making decisions based on analytic trends. A marketing agency that offers data collection and analytic interpretation can help it’s clients understand both what strategies will work with their target market, and what aspects of disruption can be put into play.

#8. Is The Agency Accessible?

In this day and age of constant connectivity and distracting interruptions, we fully understand the need to schedule phone calls and meetings and to keep them brief. However, we also recognize that projects can get held up while waiting for an answer to a simple question. Be sure that you talk to your agency principals about how they communicate with clients and what their level of accessibility is.

If you know you need your agency principals available when you call with simple questions, you’ll need an agency that has a good track record for picking up the phone. But, if you are very organized and prefer to schedule all your calls and meetings well in advance, having an agency that follows a regimented process will be best for you. As we’ve mentioned before, be sure you know what you need and then ensure that your agency of choice can meet that need.

In summary, remember to be thorough when researching and considering marketing agencies for your projects. Ask them these 8 questions, and ask some of their previous clients these 8 questions as well. If you take the time to do your research, you will select the best marketing agency for your company and all parties will have a better experience.


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