Choosing a marketing partner or advertising agency is a lot like buying a car. You want some recommendations. You want a list of must-have features. And you know there are some things you just won’t find out about until after the deal is done.
To help keep the surprises to a minimum, use this list of questions to help you determine exactly what you’re looking for in an agency. Not all factors will apply to your business, but they will help you realize what you want – and don’t want – in a creative services partner.
Will you get along with them?
The advertising or marketing company you choose should be one you can work with comfortably and for a long time. You should be comfortable with their personalities and enjoy their humor – or lack thereof. Do they have a client introduction letter? A blog where you can get a taste of their outlook and style? Yes, it takes some legwork on your part to find the right fit for your company. But it’s better to spend a few hours now to find a fit that will last years than to complete the research process over and over – all while not getting any marketing or advertising done.
Who will be working on your account?
It may seem like a stupid question, but big agencies are famous for the “bait and switch” – you sign up with one person, then rarely or never see them again. Find out how many accounts the creative director manages, who will manage your tasks, and how many projects the company works on at one time. If personal service is important to you, make sure you know who your account manager is and get along well with the marketing partner in question.
What’s their process?
They should really get to know you and have some initial documentation to get all the facts on the table – facts like who you’re trying to reach and why, what your objectives are, and what you’ve tried already. They should ask to see everything you’ve done, every brochure you’re printed, and your website. If they start with more than a couple minutes’ worth of “This is who we are and what we do,” they’re not really interested in helping you grow your business. And if they just want to jump right in without first establishing expectations and milestones, you know they’re not familiar with the processes that ensure projects come to fruition on time and to budget.
How large are they?
Bigger isn’t always better, but a small business has its drawbacks. The big guys have clout and recognition, but you can get lost in a stack of accounts. Smaller firms are responsive and nimble but may not have the staff to handle all of your needs. Choose your creative partner based on their past successes, your appreciation of their work, and their interest in helping you achieve your goals. And get some recommendations from colleagues and friends.
Do you like their work?
An agency may have produced millions in sales for their clients. But if their overarching design aesthetic doesn’t fit well with your company, they are the wrong partner for you. Look at some of their previous work to see if it’s a good fit for your business. And don’t worry about the awards they’ve received; focus instead on how their work has helped build their clients’ businesses.
What are their capabilities?
Determine what advertising and marketing avenues you will likely pursue, and find a company or marketing partner that can meet most or all of these needs. A good creative partner can handle print, web, strategy, and publicity or has partners that can. But if you know you want to focus solely on Internet marketing, find a company that’s current in SEO, AdWords, viral video, and Flash.
Which of the following is true of marketing ROI? Learn their process.
It’s hard to measure ROI on advertising, marketing, and branding. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the money! Sure, sales may increase right after a new postcard goes out or a billboard goes up, but you can’t know with 100% certainty if the postcard of the billboard caused that spike. Your agency should utilize a combination of traditional and trackable programs when helping you – postcards and pay-per-click, for example.