Explore our Digital Marketing Strategy and Planning Toolkit

Choosing a new marketing agency

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 19 Sep, 2012
Essential Essential topic

Part 3 of "Life's a Pitch"

In previous posts in this series I wrote about my experiences of managing the agency to client pitch process and writing a creative brief. In the final part of the series I look at issues to consider when selecting the preferred agency.

It is not uncommon for clients to go about the pitch process in a less than ideal way, with problematic outcomes including having to ask agencies to re-pitch, or even not choosing any agencies.

Like many, I have experienced such issues on a number of occasions.  A recent example of this would be with a cosmetic surgery brand, who invited us to a 3-way pitch, for their new hair transplant business.

We thought we'd done a good job; were told it was “the best agency pitch I’ve seen in 30 years” etc and then we waited…  And we waited…  And we waited… After 2 weeks of silence, we contacted them – at which point they told us that they’d actually invited more than 3 agencies (more like 10) and were still undergoing the process.  Hardly ideal, but that’s the way these things happen sometimes.  So we waited…  And we waited…  And we waited…

Eventually we contacted them again (because in this instance it would appear, only goes one way).

Here’s the punchline: “Erm… Well… We REALLY liked your work and would’ve chosen you, however…  We’re not sure whether we’re going to launch this business yet.  Sorry…  Would you like to pitch for our website??”  Needless to say I declined the latter offer. This also shows the importance for agencies to select the right business to pitch for!

Be under no illusion, this really should not be so difficult and can be managed by considering just five things:

  1. Be sure of your need for a pitch.
  2. Research your pitch list properly – make sure all agencies are appropriate for your needs.
  3. Talk to a sensible number of agencies.
  4. Provide a great (unambiguous) brief.
  5. Be VERY clear on the objectives and requirements – as well as ensuring that all agencies are marked against the same criteria.

If you’ve done all of the above and you’ve gone through the credentials/short-listing process (yes that’s right – you must meet them first), then you’re ready to see some work.

Some criteria to select the right agency for you

So how do you rate the agencies you see?  I’ve known clients follow all sorts of weird and wonderful criteria, but let’s stick to some simple rules (and mark each agency out of 10 for each category).

  • Creativity: As mentioned earlier, this is not rocket science. You’re trying to appoint a creative marketing agency; therefore creativity is key.
  • Expertise: Alas, this industry is awash with bankers. They can be arrogant, pretentious, pompous, insincere and dishonest. Cowboys. They pretend to be experts when they’re not.  Depressing as it is, beware.  Fortunately, the industry is also awash with some incredible strategic and creative talent.  Ask the right questions to ensure you quickly identify their expertise and experience in your sector.
  • Attitude: Important to some, unimportant to others.  For me, it’s key.  You know that expression “you can lead a horse to water…” It’s dead-on when it comes to ascertaining an agency’s attitude in a pitch.  Arrogant or confident?  Reactive or proactive?  Bare minimum homework or in-depth research?  Settle with the brief provided or call and ask to meet to discuss more?  All of these things matter.You’ll be much more inclined to appoint an agency that’s gone the extra mile in the pitch – visited your attraction, ridden your train, been in your shops, or used your product.
  • Chemistry: Some people say this is irrelevant.  I say good luck, but no thanks.  If you find an agency that has fantastic ideas – and does it without the attitude – and with a smile – then bag them.  If you respect them and they respect you, you’ll get the best results for your brand.Ive never gone in for the whole “they’re a supplier” concept – with any businesses we work with.  It doesn’t make sense to have such an attitude.  Furthermore, in the creative business, you get the best ideas when there’s nothing clouding the creation of ideas.  Great chemistry = great results.  The end.
  • Ability (to do the job): It’s one thing to say they can do it and another to do it.  As mentioned previously, agencies (especially good agency new business types) can talk the talk.  Ensure that behind that, the business has resource, financial security, and a team in place to look after you.  It’s only what people expect of your business after all.
  • References: Remember these?  You may have already had a look at LinkedIn recommendations, but how about a good old-fashioned request to speak to a couple of the agency’s existing clients directly?

Notice that, at no point did I mention cost?  Any agency worth their salt will easily be able to justify their costs.  If you choose an agency based on cost, you’re a fool.  A wise old billionaire once told me “you buy cheap, you buy twice” and I couldn’t agree more.  That’s not to say you should pay through the nose either…

Choosing an agency is not like choosing other suppliers.  They’ll become an extension to your marketing team; a trusted team of people that helps your brand and your business grow – maybe they’ll even help you grow.  You’ll develop ideas together; you’ll fall out; you’ll have fun.  Choosing an agency isn’t easy, but if you do it right, you’ll be with them for a long while.  How long is really down to them.

Author's avatar

By Expert commentator

This is a post we've invited from a digital marketing specialist who has agreed to share their expertise, opinions and case studies. Their details are given at the end of the article.

Recommended Blog Posts