10 things you should know about choosing a marketing agency
Before you talk to anyone: think. What do you need – consumer comms? B2B, Research? Digital engagement? Social ads? Branding? And before you email or pick up the phone, be honest: are you sure you can’t do it in-house?
- Don’t call in a brain surgeon for a broken ankle.
Not all agencies are identical. So think specialist: find the best fit for the job in hand, and play to the agency’s strengths.
- You’re the experts.
You know your business, you know your industry. What you need is the marketing expertise you don’t have. While it can be an advantage for an agency to have a good understanding of your sector, channels and customers, does it matter if they haven’t worked in exactly your sector? Maybe you could use some outside thinking.
- Cultural fit.
Before you select an agency take a long, hard look at the main client-facing contact. Could you stand being stuck in a lift with them for an hour? If not: abort! Every agency has a personality from whacky to buttoned-up. So think about your culture and what the right casting will be for your brand, the way you work and the kind of people on your team. (After all, an agency is an extension of your marketing department.) And always remember that you can change the work but not the people. Trust your gut: do you enjoy being around these guys? Do you trust them? Are they flexible?
- Big enough to handle your business. Small enough to care.
In general, big global agencies are best suited to big global clients. If you’re small and you choose a big global agency, who do you think will get the best service – you or the guys spending 10 times more? Size matters.
- Do some digging.
Every agency will sell themselves hard (after all, they’re in marketing). Don’t just take their word for it – ask to speak to some of their clients. Check their track record. Have they done for others what you want doing? If you’re looking for web design – check out their own website. If it’s not great, why would you trust them with yours?
- Avoid yes people.
What’s the point in paying for an expert opinion if the only answer is yes? Find an agency that has a healthy spirit of debate. Decisions shouldn’t be painful, but neither should they pass without due diligence and challenge. Before you put someone in charge of your comms, think about how they communicate. Do they listen? Do they learn? Do they take your ideas further than you’d get on your own?
- To pitch or not to pitch?
Our recommendation is to try before you buy. Test an agency on a small scale project and see if you want to take the relationship further. Pitches can be artificial. The people you meet and the energy put into the presentation might not match your day-to-day experience. Of course, depending on the size of the project and the tendering requirements of your organisation you may decide a pitch is essential. In which case, try and meet the agency on their home turf. Turn up 20 minutes early and just sit in reception. What do you see? How does it feel?
- Do the maths
Make sure the commercial terms work for both sides. Are you putting your agency on a retainer? A day rate? Or paying a per-project cost? Get the agency to quote first. Challenge the first budget. Getting a financial understanding in place at the start saves a lot of pain later.
- Chemistry is Epik
At Epik our client relationships are based on three words: chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. Talk to an agency that speaks your language, believes in excellent service and above all, gets it. Call +44 207 459 4433.