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Tony & Jerry Give Advice: How to select the right agency

For many companies looking to hire an agency, whether a start-up or Fortune 500 company, the process can be overwhelming and intimidating. Even more, the thought of outsourcing work may seem nerve-racking and stressful to many marketing managers and executives. Tony Pearman, Chief Creative Officer of Access, and Jerry Dunnavant, Director of New Business Development, address three questions about the process of selecting an agency.

What are some of the advantages that an ad or marketing agency can offer that an in-house team can’t?

I would break the advantages that an outside agency offers into the following points:

  • Subjectivity vs. Objectivity– The cliché – “can’t see the forest for the trees” – often rings true. Often, clients (and their in-house creative teams) are passionately engaged (or sometimes disengaged) in their products and are also dealing with a number of additional internal factors that can complicate the marketing process.  An outside team is in a position to approach a project objectively and offer solutions that may otherwise be overlooked.
  • Autonomy – The creative process needs honesty and the best ideas need to be nurtured, regardless of origin. When they are at their best, great advertising agencies are not afraid to tell a client that they are wrong and refocus the strategy. This is easier done by an outside expert that can be viewed as an “equal” rather than an in-house team that is too often viewed as subordinates.
  • The creative brain is a muscle. — Okay, technically I know the brain is an organ. However, numerous studies have shown that the brain is tissue that can be called to action for any purpose, which is why I believe that if a group of designers are challenged with similar tasks every day for the same product, their creative potential is minimized. An outside agency, constantly engaged on new challenges and new clients, has a more nimble, perhaps stronger creative muscle and is more apt to approach challenges with fresh ideas.

How can a company tell if an ad or marketing agency is the right fit for them?

For the most part, RFPs are not the answer. Clients often put more research into where they will buy their next copier than they do into what agencies they should hire. It all comes down to RELATIONSHIPS and WORK. If a client goes online and sees work from the firm (even if it is for drastically different clients) that exhibits a tone, style and energy that the client likes, this means a great deal. Only interview agencies whose work you have seen and like.

Then, it’s all about the team. Make sure you are not interviewing a bunch of suits and stars that are just there to impress you. Make sure you are interviewing the team that will be serving your account. Spend time with them. Do you like them? Well, then working with them will be easier.

What questions should a prospective client ask and what kind of questions should they be prepared to answer?

Clients should consider any agency partner as an extension of their marketing and communications departments.  And as good partners will, communication about goals, objectives, and resources should be openly shared and paramount in the relationship with the agency. 

  • To establish these goals, the client should be willing to share what they view as a preferred outcome from working with the agency.  Be specific and realistic.  Selling a million widgets in 3 months is not usually feasible, even with a website and a Facebook page. 
  • To make sure the agency is the one for you, be sure to ask the agency how they have helped clients achieve their objectives.  Get specifics.  What were the results of the strategies and tactics that were implemented?  Were the clients satisfied with the outcome?  What changes were made to improve the outcomes?  Remember, you are trying to determine if this agency is worthy of being your partner and learning about the results they help achieve is one component of the process. 
  • Another insightful approach is to ask an agency how many clients they have represented for more than 3 years.  Quite often clients will turn over for various reasons, but if an agency has several long-term partners (more than 3 years), than you can assume that there is a pretty good relationship between the members of the agency and that client’s leadership. 
  • Lastly, look for an agency that will push your view of how to add value to your product or service.  Ask what type of new approaches the agency has implemented that led to positive outcomes.  What’s the most fun and creative way they have been able to assist a client? And as a client, be open to having the agency challenge the usual and customary way of marketing your product/service.  A wise man once said that if you have two people that always agree, then you have one man too many.  The same applies to an agency partner.  Certainly, you want to ultimately come to agreement on an approach, but let the agency help you standout by offering new ideas.  After all, that’s what you are paying them to do and the myriad of competitors you have would love for you to be just another member of the pack.

To learn more about Access and whether we’re right for you, contact us!

Topics: Agency Life