Many of us here at Ridge, a full-service marketing agency based in NJ, have experienced life on both sides of the client-agency relationship during our careers, so we understand how critical it is to find the right agency partner. Choose poorly and the results you seek may never materialize, your budgets could be bled dry by upcharges, or your time could be wasted managing junior resources.
But get it right and your new marketing agency partner will become a seamless extension of your in-house team, leading the way to real results and taking your direction while checking their egos at the door.
Attention all CMOs, marketing directors and managers… here are eight questions you should be asking before hiring your next full-service marketing agency or creative services team.
1 How will they understand the value of your company?
An agency can’t effectively market your products and services unless they understand your company – the value of your offerings, the needs of your customers, your current place in the market, your aspirations, and what makes you unique from the competition. Ask the agency how they’ll come to understand all of the above even better than you do, how they’ll help you to define it, and how they’ll internalize it so well that it becomes the foundation for everything they produce.
2 How does data inform their decisions?
We all want our next agency to make us look like a genius for hiring them. To make that possible, you should embark on your agency search with clear and specific goals in mind – whether it’s increased awareness, greater brand engagement, more leads into the sales funnel or all of the above.
Achieving any quantifiable results will require many good decisions and insightful experimentations along the way, and good decisions come from good data. How will your new agency employ analytics, metrics, A/B testing, user surveys or focus groups to your advantage?
3 How will they manage scope change?
We’ve all experienced it. A project that starts with fair and true intentions on both sides gets bent sideways due to circumstances that neither you nor the agency can control. If managed poorly, this can result in mistrust, incomplete projects or sudden and unexpected overage charges that put your job in jeopardy.
When managed carefully and flexibly, however, scope creep can be overcome with both sides coming out whole and the project staying on track. Ask for an example or two of past project scope creep and find out how the agency handled and overcame it. Do they sound rigid and closeminded or flexible and creative in their approach?
4 Where's their creative talent?
You’re talking to this agency, so chances are you’ve either been referred to them or you’ve seen some eye-popping creative with their name attached. But who produced the creative that you saw? Are they in-house or was the creative outsourced or done in partnership with another agency? How big is their design team? Who came up with the concepts? Are their developers here or overseas?
Request a meeting with one or more of the people who will actually be producing the work for your account, understand their approach and make sure that your visions seem aligned.
5 Will you get their A team or B team?
So, you’ve met some impressive creatives at the agency. The next logical question is who will be assigned to your account and how involved and invested will management and ownership be in your initiatives? Be wary of the bait and switch where you meet the A team, but get stuck with the B team talent as the stars of the agency focus on higher-profile clients.
6 How accessible will they be?
If you’re about to embark on a long project or a long-term relationship, you’ll need to understand how they’ll involve you in decisions and inform you of progress along the way. If you’re embarking on an on-going retainer, you’ll want to know how much time your new team has to prioritize your projects and how easy or difficult it will be to communicate about new ideas and needs. Does the agency have a workflow management tool, account managers, weekly check-ins? If you call them, who will pick up the phone? Are their offices within reasonable driving distance for you and your team?
7 How did they go above and beyond for previous clients?
No one wants an agency that simply checks the boxes and turns out uninspired work. Achieving more requires out-of-the-box thinking and at least occasionally going above and beyond the letter of the proposal in their work. Ask how they’ve invested themselves in their work in the past and ask them to walk you through the work that they’re most passionate about. They should light up at the chance to show you what they’re capable of. Their level of excitement will tell you a lot about who they are and how much effort they’ll invest in you.
8 What references can you speak to?
Once the agency has given you their own spin on the above questions, it’s time to talk to at least two of their clients. Ask them how it was to work with the agency and what results they’ve seen since hiring them. Find out what they consider to be the agency’s weak spots, and whether they think they have enough staff to execute work for both of your companies going forward.
Choosing the right agency partner can be a critical step toward reaching your marketing goals for the year and beyond. Ridge Marketing is a New Jersey-based full-service marketing agency that’s produced award winning work for clients large and small in a variety of industries for over a decade, so we’ve seen it all. If you aren’t sure what type of agency would be right for you, or if you’d like to hear some helpful anecdotes and stories from the marketing trenches, please contact Rob Quincy at (908) 340-4480 x10