Having worked for multiple agencies over the past two decades, I’ve seen many approaches and styles to winning new business. Knowing how important this decision is, and how difficult it can be to make, these key questions can help you choose the agency partner that is right for you.
Throughout my career, I’ve come to realize that an agency partner is a personal reflection of the decision maker – in many cases propelling or hastening the trajectory of his/her career. But let’s face it, in any competitive business environment, some organizations will do and say whatever they need to win your business. And, once you’ve hired an agency, it’s a significant, but worthwhile, investment in both time and energy to immerse them in your brand, goals, industry and day-to-day challenges. So, you definitely want to make sure you hire the right partner for your needs.
Beyond the standard RFP questions, here’s a handy list of questions to help aid your decision:
Who will be leading your account day-to-day (really)?
Many agencies bring top-level leadership into pitches and presentations, who then vanish once the contract is finalized and leave you in the hands of a team you’ve never met. It’s probably not a news flash, but the agency CEO won’t likely be working on your account. Ensure you’ve met the team that will work and manage your account on a day-to-day basis before making a final decision. You’re investing a lot of time and money with your agency partner, and you should expect a strategic ally who brings the confidence and experience to help you achieve your business goals.
What will the second estimate look like?
Some agencies may low ball an initial estimate to win your business from competing agencies. While the lowest cost bid might be appealing, it’s important to find out why they were able to price your project so much lower than the competition. No two agencies approach a project the exact same way, so you’re likely to see a wide range of pricing. It’s important to get a clear understanding of what you’re paying for and what future costs may arise down the road. Of course, price is important, but fair and accurate compensation shouldn’t disqualify an agency partner that can give you the best results. Avoid any surprises by discussing your long-term project needs and asking for a complete picture of the overall investment.
How do they bill for their services?
Many agencies still bill by the hour for services, but we all know the creative process, and the value it brings to your bottom line, is hard to measure in units of time. A great idea could come in five minutes or five weeks. What matters most is the value of the idea to your business and marketing goals. This is why some agencies, including Borshoff, have moved nearly exclusively to fixed-fee pricing (or cost for deliverables). This protects clients from being financially vulnerable to how long it takes the agency team to come up with your next TV concept. And it makes things more efficient and effective for the agency because we can focus on creating the best work within the agreed-upon deliverables in the scope, and not on the time it takes to make it.
How do they house/manage your data/analytics?
Data is currency. And, we believe it’s your currency. Make sure the analytics data within your advertising platforms is yours, that way you own it should you ever part ways with your agency partner. You can grant your agency access to the platforms you own so the data stays with you, or if that won’t work, just be sure to understand how you can receive all your valuable raw data that’s been collected and if there will be a fee associated with the transfer.
How do they handle website development/hosting?
Some clients want agencies to manage the hosting of their web properties. Having your agency handle hosting can make it challenging to transfer ownership back to you. Your agency should help you establish your hosting relationship on a platform you control. And, from a development standpoint, ask what CMS they use/prefer. Make sure it’s a platform you’re comfortable with in terms of cost and usability. There is peace in having control, especially if you get into a situation where you need to make timely updates on your own.
How does the agency define success?
While awards and accolades are a wonderful way to feel validated for our work, it’s even more critical that the work gets results for your business. In an ideal world, most industry awards would have a results requirement, but many don’t. Find a partner that pushes you to think differently and boldly challenges the “expected” within your industry. This is the type of work that audiences pay attention to, and thus drives results. The right partner will push for award-winning work that yields the desired results for your business.
Are they flexible, and can they scale their approach?
Get a feel for their ability to bring the right approach for each project. For instance, with video – do they have an in-house production team that can scale and work quickly when needed? Not every campaign requires a large production approach and budget to bring a story to life. The reality is that budgets vary and so should approaches. Find an agency partner who thrives on rolling up their sleeves and getting scrappy to solve your problems when needed.
Our goal is to help clients make more informed decisions about hiring an agency – finding the right partner for them personally and for their company. We won’t always be the right fit, but we feel you should be equipped with questions that will help you find your perfect match.
Looking for an agency partner, but not sure where to start? Check out our blog on Finding the Right Agency Partner.
Have more questions? Send us a note.