When it comes time to get serious about their marketing goals, most companies hire an ad agency. For obvious reasons, that’s great for us. Agencies, when used properly, provide a tremendous amount of value to a business. But, finding the optimal client/agency fit is essential. Our goal with this post is to show you how to hire the best agency for your business.
Before we get started, it’s important to know that we firmly believe the old-school model of agencies “pitching” for business is dead. We’re huge fans of having good old-fashioned sit-down meetings. Here are a couple of pointers we believe will help you find the agency that best fits your business.
ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
An ad agency’s job is to help solve your business problems. Instead of having them put on a dog-and-pony show for you, flip the script and ask a ton of questions. Ask about their business model, the industries they specialize in, who is responsible for what, what is their history, etc. You’ll be amazed at some of the things you’ll discover when agencies veer away from their typical elevator pitch! Get to know them and ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, too. Probe them about transparency in things like pricing and reporting. Pay close attention to how they respond.
DON’T BE IN A HURRY
Most people don’t get married after one date, so treat this process like you’re dating. Get to know the agency you’re planning on entrusting with thousands of your hard-earned dollars. If you have an immediate need to fix a problem, consider outsourcing a freelancer or that agency to fix the problem first. Don’t rush the process. Trust us when we tell you that you’re way better off taking your time on this decision. A sign of a great agency is one who is not too pushy or desperate to get started. You want an agency that needs to make room for your business, not one that has to have it.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE QUESTIONS THEY ASK YOU
Again, we’re big fans of taking a conversational approach to business development. You’re evaluating us, and we need to evaluate you. Great agencies want to know as much as they can about their potential clients. Pay close attention to the questions they have for you. Are they asking good questions? Do they seem to have a good grasp of your expectations, goals, and pain-points? Asking good questions matters.
DISCUSS HOW YOU WORK
Clients come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. We’ve dealt with the Type-A’s, the egomaniacs, and everything in-between. That’s okay, and we love working with different personalities. Communicating how you work, on the front-end, is vital. Do you check emails once a day or only respond to calls after 2 p.m.? Great, just let your agency know that on the front end. Does your mind start working at 5 a.m. and that’s when you typically have your big ideas? Fantastic, just let your rep know so they can manage your expectations. Everybody works differently, so make sure to explain your communication preferences on the front-end. Having a mutual understanding of how the relationship will work prevents so many headaches in the future.
When it’s time to make your decision, trust your gut. Your instincts will probably be right about whether or not an agency is a right fit for your business. And as painful as it is for you to hire the wrong agency, it is equally as painful for an agency to be the wrong fit. Hopefully, this blog will give you some things to look for when making that big decision. The client/agency relationship can be a beautiful thing that is mutually beneficial. Best of luck searching for the right agency for you!
There is a big difference between selling yourself and pitching for business. Whether you’re a preacher or a grocery store clerk, we’re all salesmen. Being a good salesman is a great thing, but it’s time the advertising world moves away from the outdated pitching process. More importantly, it’s time for businesses trying to hire an ad agency to stop requesting pitches.
WHY PITCHING IS DUMB
When given the opportunity to “pitch” business, we typically decline. Don’t get me wrong, we’re aggressive and enjoy competing against other agencies for business. We just won’t do it in the typical agency fashion, which is an hour-long presentation where we try to explain why we’re the best fit and how we’ll have the best “synergy” between our team and yours. It’s ridiculous to think that you can get to know a company well enough to trust them with a couple hundred thousand dollars (or millions, in some cases) in as little as an hour-long presentation. Let alone get to know someone well enough to decide if they’ll be a good partner 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. It just doesn’t make sense, so we don’t participate. Instead, we have multiple conversations and get to know a potential client. We want to explain how we work, what to expect, and how we believe we can be of benefit to them. We also want them to decide if we’re the right fit given the information we’ve provided.
We want a long-term relationship, not a reward for the best presentation. And businesses should want that, too.
WE PITCHED ONCE…
A couple of years ago we went through the entire pitching process for a big account we wanted to land. Our pitch was great! It just wasn’t as great as one other agency’s. They pulled out all the stops and spared no expense. They “wowed” the client and won the business. We got beat. It sucked because we knew we were a better fit. Word quickly spread around town that the other company was struggling with the account, which is exactly what we predicted. After two years, they finally figured it out. The frustrating part was that the client couldn’t see past the pitch and focus on the implementation. The experience taught us to stick to our guns and never participate in that type of environment again. We’ll never be an agency that pitches, and that’s ok.
WHEN IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
Our experience has taught us that the companies who work tirelessly to perfect their pitch are usually the ones who suck on the backend after they’ve been awarded the business. It’s the “let’s get the business and then figure out how to manage it” philosophy. Fake it ‘til you make just isn’t our style.
When I was in college, I read the book “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, & Outnegotiate Your Competition” by Harvey McKay. The book profoundly changed my life, and the quote below perfectly sums out how we approach the business development process at Agency501.
“Never buy anything in a room with a chandelier.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Like anything in life, if someone is trying so hard to impress you, they probably need you much more than you need them. Relationships should be mutually beneficial…not one-sided. If I have to spend three weeks preparing for a meeting where I have one hour to impress you, then we’re probably not going to be a good fit. The old school pitching process kind of feels like the king who wants everyone to kiss his ring. If that’s what you’re looking for, no judgment here. Again, we’re just not going to be the right fit. Now, if you want to spend a couple hours discussing the pros and cons of working with us, I’m game. We’re not above giving anyone our time, this game just has to be played on a neutral field.
Give agencies an opportunity to sell themselves. Get to know them and spend time learning the ins-and-outs of working with them. In the long run, finding the right agency will save you a ton of money and spare you countless headaches. Nobody wants to be in a bad relationship, so spend some time playing the field and getting to know the folks who will (hopefully) be around for years to come.