09 Aug 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting an Agency Review
As a marketing leader, choosing the right agency partner is one of the most important and consequential decisions you will make. Whether you are looking to replace an agency that is failing or looking for more outside expertise and advice, don’t make the mistakes that other companies make during the agency review process.
Based on my experience, here are 5 common mistakes to avoid.
- Avoid nepotism – If your company is big enough, chances are that someone you work with knows someone who works at an agency or has a side hustle that they pass off as an agency. There’s nothing wrong with including recommendations from people you trust in your agency review, so long as you can keep things reasonably objective. But don’t go with a recommendation because it will make your colleague, or maybe even your boss, feel good. Because if that agency doesn’t work out and you make a change later, all that “feel good” turns into major workplace awkwardness and potentially long-lasting resentment. Not worth it. These decisions are important to your brand and they’re important to your bottom line, so do your due diligence.
- Don’t get starry-eyed – Working with a big-name agency, whether they’re a big deal in your town, or a truly big name in the industry, can be enticing. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner and sit at the cool kids table. And, big agencies don’t get big if they aren’t doing good work, right? Sure, but notoriety isn’t always better when it comes to your needs, and depending on the size of your account and the scope of work you bring to the table, you may end up being a small fish in a big pond and constantly working with a big agency’s C team. Go with an agency that will make you a priority.
- Not meeting the boss (or bosses) – Leadership of any organization is crucial, so when you’re vetting an agency make sure you get to know the person or persons at the top. It’ll give you visibility into an agency’s culture, process, and philosophy. How do they speak about clients? How do they speak about employees? Do you value the same things in advertising and marketing? If they don’t set a tone you’re comfortable with regarding their company, it’s unlikely they will with yours.
- Not getting to know your assigned account people – Like we said earlier, meeting the boss is important, but equally as important is meeting the people who are going to be the “daily drivers” of your account. At small agencies, those roles may crossover, and leadership may be an integral part of day-to-day account services. At midsize and large agencies that’s often not the case, so ask to meet the principals on your account! They’re the ones you’re in the foxhole with, who will make problems go away, and who will be there to make sure your voice is heard during the back-and-forth of the creative process and strategic planning.
- Not asking for references, or failing to follow up on them – Every agency is going to tell you how great they are, and why wouldn’t they? The agency review process is an interview, and most companies don’t hire without references and you shouldn’t either. Ask the agency to list some client references for you, and when you follow up (which you should absolutely do), try to ask the client honest questions and find commonalities to gain information on what your future relationship might look like. Does the client have similar goals to yours and how did the agency address them? How did the agency help the client at the onset, through plateaus, or through structural or branding changes? How do they deal with criticism or bad news? All these things can be a vital to putting together a clearer picture of an agency.
As with any important business decision, do your homework, look beyond the surface, and ask tough questions and you will increase your odds of choosing the right partner for you and your needs.