You’ve already determined that you need an agency, but how can you make sure you’re choosing the right one for your business, your company culture and your goals? Here are five questions you should ask prospective agencies to ensure you find the best fit.
What Are You Good At?
Some agencies focus on specific services and industries — such as social media for the financial industry, logo design or television ads — while others work with clients in a variety of industries and offer a broad range of services and tactics to reach their client’s goals.
It’s common for agencies to back up their claims of excelling in public relations, graphic design or other areas by touting the many awards they’ve won for outstanding work. Awards for creative work are impressive, but they’re not the only barometer of success.
What you really want to know is how those campaigns performed. The commercial might have been hilarious, but did sales increase? Have Facebook followers doubled? Was the trade show a roaring success? There are many results-based industry awards these days, ask your agency about any they’ve won. And don’t just take the agency team’s word for how great they are; ask for client references.
What Are Your Weaknesses?
You’re looking for an agency that will be upfront and honest with you, even when the news is bad. An honest agency worth their salt will step up and admit they’re a little thin when it comes to a certain area, and they should have information about how they’re addressing the weakness.
It might not even be relevant in terms of your campaign, though. If the agency only has one person handling PR and you need a social media campaign, it’s not an issue. If they’re in the process of finding a new web developer and you have someone on staff they can work with in the interim, you might be just fine until their new developer is hired.
What’s Your Take on Our Company?
The agencies you’re interviewing should have done their homework prior to your meeting. You shouldn’t expect a deep dive with all sorts of charts and graphs or five designs for a new website, but they should be able to converse with a degree of familiarity when it comes to your company and products. They’ll likely also have done some research about your competitors to get a sense of the industry and the marketing landscape.
Don’t immediately discount an agency if their take is a little off the mark. You know your business better than they do, after all. Instead, look at their processes, their tactics and the analysis they applied to reach their conclusions. Do these make sense? Additionally, does this feel like they spent time on this, or is it a canned presentation that’s been updated to include your logo and little else?
Who Will We Be Working With?
This might seem like a strange question, but it’s an important one to ask. You want to make sure you’ve had a chance to meet the people who will be working on your projects. Don’t expect a crew of 30 to be at the business pitch, but you should have an opportunity to meet the person who will be your account manager once the agreement is signed. This individual will be your main point of contact, and it’s crucial that they have a clear understanding of the project’s goals and your expectations.
Does Your Culture Align With Ours?
This is a question you’re best qualified to answer. An advertising agency is your partner, and it’s important that they have the same approach, attitude and values you do. You don’t have to agree on the best pizza place or whether “The Wire” was the greatest crime show ever produced (it was), but you do need to have the right mix of familiarity, professionalism and camaraderie.
You should feel comfortable asking your agency hard questions, and they should feel comfortable and confident in answering them.