Best Practices for Selecting a Marketing Agency
1. Make a list of the services you need.
Advertising agencies in the past were just that. All they did was handle print advertising and television or radio commercials. But an agency today needs to be savvy with the new media like social media, online advertising, and content marketing as well as the traditional advertising opportunities of the past. So, make sure when you select an agency that they are well rounded and provide more than just design or advertising services. If you can find an agency that bundles advertising, marketing and public relations together, you will have continuity in your messaging, content, and graphic style versus hiring three individual agencies that only are expert in one area. Not to mention save money by combining services.
2. Create a list of potential agencies.
Where do you start looking for a marketing agency? The best way is to ask for a referral from one of your customers or ask other companies in your industry who they use. You can also get a wealth of information on the Internet about marketing agencies. And, don't feel like geography needs to be restricted. I've worked with companies throughout the USA. Now that email, FTP sites, web-based meetings, teleconferences, etc. are available, there is no need to search for an agency that is in your backyard.
3. Set up one-on-one meetings with potential agencies.
Before you even develop an RFP, select a handful of agencies based on your referrals and research and ask them if they can meet with you either in person or via a WebEx meeting so they can present their capabilities and you can get a feel if they will be a good strategic partner for your company. No use in wasting time or money sending out dozens of RFPs if the agency is not a fit for your company, has exorbitant rates, or has no experience in your industry. Remember this is a relationship. It is a two-way street. The agency also needs to feel comfortable with you and your industry.
4. Develop a Request for Proposal (RFP)
Rule no. 1…DO NOT let your legal department or procurement department write the RFP for you. You know what you need in an agency so ask the pertinent questions you need answered. In general, here is an example of information you should include in your RFP:
- Provide a brief corporate overview of your company, industry, and products including a mission statement. Make sure you include the reason you are performing the agency review. And indicate if your current ad agency will also be involved in the review process.
- Don't forget to provide contact information including the primary contact as well as a secondary contact. In case the agency has questions, they will have a resource to contact. In addition, include all of the other people who will be involved in the review and indicate if the decision will be made by a committee or one person in the marketing department.
- Provide the scope of the services you need and any specific project milestones or schedules.
- List the criteria that you will use for selecting the agency, such as specific capabilities, years in business, types of clients serviced, etc. And please get a list of their clients current as well as past. You want to make sure the agency understands your business; however, you also want to make sure that they are not currently working for one of your competitors.
- Also include the terms of service, that is how long you would engage the agency if they are selected. A one-year term is advisable and your company should do an agency review on an annual basis. If the selected agency is doing a great job then, of course, you would renew their contract for an additional term.
- Client references are also important. You do need to do your homework and ask a sampling of their clients what they like and don't like about the agency. Do not skip this assignment.
- Last but not least, ask them for a breakdown of expenses for the services provided, deliverables, and project schedules or other planning information. Specify in your RFP if you prefer a retainer or if your company pays on a project-by-project basis. Also indicate the amount of revenue or budget that is available for agency activities. Remember the agency is interviewing you, too. A large agency may not be interested if the proposition is not lucrative enough for them. So, don't waste your time on agencies that either will not respond to your RFP or don't want to work with your company. But most of all, don't waste the agency's time in the development of a proposal unless you are really serious about retaining an agency.
- Include a section in your RFP how you will work with the agency. Who are the principals who will interact with the account executive? Is it someone from your marketing or marcom department? Do you have input meetings and provide background information or written creative briefs for each project?
So whether you are searching for your first agency or are in the process of an agency review, take these guidelines to heart and your search will be much easier and more rewarding.
Labels: agency selection