Blogging Jun 11, 2010

Five Qualities to Look For When You’re Choosing an Advertising Agency

The truth is, there are good agencies and bad agencies. And beyond that, there are agencies that could be good for one business, but a horrible match for another business. So, as a business owner, how do you find the right agency?

Here’s a list of the top five things we think you should look for when you’re choosing which agency to hire. If we missed one, let us know in the comments.

5 – Good References

If past clients love working with an agency, there’s a good chance you might as well.  But all references are not equal.  You should expect more than just a written statement or forwarded email from a “happy client.”  Instead,  ask for the phone number of current clients you can call – and call them. 

Chances are, in a couple conversations with an agency’s current clients you can learn more about that agency than all the pitch books, RFPs and websites in the world could tell you. 

We’ve found that our happy clients are our single most valuable source of new business.  Our pitch books get us in the door, but if we can get a potential client on the phone with one of our current clients, nine times out of ten, we’ve got ourselves a new client.

4 – Costs That Fit Your Budget

The greatest agency in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t afford ‘em – and conversely – if your budget demands more resources than the agency can provide, you’re going to be disappointed. 

The solution is to ask.  Some more traditional agencies have client minimums, e.g. – they refuse to take on clients who spend less than $xx,xxx per year, or more often $x,xxx,xxx per year.  Ask for average pricing on a couple projects you’re considering.  That should give you a pretty good idea if the agency you’re considering is at, above or below your price range.

3 – The Capabilities You Need

Nearly every advertising agency in the world has a focus, something that’s at their core.  Some agencies excel at media buying but have poor creative.  Other agencies can put together a fantastic PR campaign, but couldn’t create a website to save their lives.  Make sure you pick an agency that has a proven track record of creating the type of work you need.

The other side of the capabilities coin is industry experience.  Some agencies only work in one industry.  At Echo-Factory, we’ve very consciously chosen not to.  We’re afraid that limiting ourselves to a single industry could force us into a creative rut.  The downside of this decision is that every time we get a new client in a new industry – we have to invest a significant amount of agency time becoming experts in their field. 

While this can often mean that we might not make a profit on the first few jobs we take on from a new client – we feel that the creative benefits outweigh the practical challenges. 

However – this is something you should discuss with any agency you’re considering.  If they haven’t demonstrated work in your industry, make sure they’re willing to invest the time they need to truly understand what you do. 

2 – Work You’re Jealous Of

If you look at an agency’s portfolio and aren’t filled with longing for some of their work – look for another agency.  Sure – you don’t need to love everything they’ve ever done – but you want to find an agency with a sense of creativity that matches yours. 

All the awards and critical acclaim in the world won’t guarantee that an agency can create work that you’ll be happy with, and your customers will be happy with.  So make sure you see examples of things that make you say “wow.” 

1 – People You Like

Pick an agency you’d like to go out for drinks with. 

Our best client relationships are with clients who are our friends.  We like working with them, and we know they like working with us.  Truth be told, we probably do our best work for them. 

So, if you find a great agency, but don’t get along with the people there – move along.  They’re not the right agency for you. 

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