Prior to joining the eROI crew, I was a Marketing Manager in charge of finding the right agency partners. This can often be a daunting task, as there are many choices, especially in a creative city such as Portland. Based on my own experiences and a little research, I offer some advice for other marketing managers and directors on how to choose an agency.
How an agency builds its relationship with you, shows how capable it is to manage that relationship throughout the course of the marketing campaign. How does the agency you’ve contacted respond? Are your time and experience respected? An agency should be responding to your information request in a timely manner. Also, just because you are a prospective client, does not mean your marketing knowledge is elementary and your agency contact shouldn’t speak to you in a similar manner. It is off-putting to have someone explain basic tenets of an industry you have been working in for many years. Aside from receiving timely, respectful responses, clear and consistent communication will show you how that agency will operate when you become its client.
I always appreciated agencies that were straight with me. Talking budgets can be tricky, particularly if yours is tight. If I knew my budget couldn’t go beyond a certain point, I stated that and had agencies say they couldn’t help me. It may have bummed me out, but I was glad the agency didn’t waste my time on trying to upsell me. Now that I am an Account Manager at an agency, I understand how critical it is for the agency to understand budget allocations, so that transparency is a two-way street. It allows agencies to develop proposals in the right financial ‘ballpark,’ while avoiding going down the expensive vs. cheap route. At eROI, we try to work with our partners to meet their needs, but we want to make sure that we are providing proposals that will see the best results (the ROI in eROI). On a side note, I have learned that it is always better to consider paying a little more for quality if you can swing it. I’ve gone the too-cheap route, not only resulting with mediocre creative but leaving the experience frustrated because of disorganized project management and ineffective communication.
A request for proposal or some type of discovery meeting can go a long way in communicating your needs with the intended agency. This due diligence can be critical to identifying your goals, challenges, reporting structure, and how you plan to measure everything. This can also help you communicate that scope to the agency, as well as set expectations. You can eliminate options easier because you can determine if the agency proposals are addressing your specific needs. Also, responsive, clear and consistent communication in emails, phone calls, and presentations will demonstrate how the people at that agency may manage your project.
An agency should have a breadth of work that demonstrates it can create an aesthetic that is true to each of the brands it partners with and the work example should demonstrate a high level of quality and understanding of those brands. Perhaps the agency’s portfolio doesn’t exactly align with your personal aesthetic or that of your brand. But, it does show ability to adapt its creative to the company being featured. Does the work you see easily transfer trends or core competencies without actually being too similar between projects, a one trick pony? Also, consider if the agencies have done work in your industry or if they have done the types of projects you are looking at doing? Let’s say you have an integrated digital marketing project that needs outside help. One of your agency options may not have any work shown in your industry, but their work pages are filled with the types of innovative digital marketing campaigns that you are looking for.