Selecting a marketing agency is a high-stakes, high-risk process. While marketers often find it exciting and enjoyable to have a cadre of smart people present new ideas to them, the final decision must be made both emotionally and rationally.
In general, it comes down to answering two questions: Can these people do the work? And do I want to work with them?
Of course, compensation is a factor. But rarely does low price outweigh every other issue.
Your agency-selection criteria should come directly from your goals.
The key to a successful alliance between client and agency is a good cultural fit and excellent alignment of goals. If your company is numbers-driven, you want an agency that understands numbers. If you fall in love with an agency’s creative ideas, but they don’t understand the metrics that drive sales, you’ll have issues later on.
You can learn in multiple media.
Consider an agency that works across a wide spectrum of media. The same marketing fundamentals drive success in all media, even if they are applied differently. It isn’t always necessary to start over when working with new relationships and emerging media. The advantage of an agency with a big-picture view is its ability to learn what works in one medium and apply it to another. If your marketing agency executes the overall campaign, those things can be optimized on the fly.
For example, the offer that works best in email can be honed for the banner ad campaign. A tightly targeted audience for a direct mail campaign can be expanded for DRTV.
Should you go for a digital-only shop?
I have a bias – my agency works in both traditional and digital media, and I strongly believe that is the right way to go. However, there are excellent digital agencies out there – and, if you have a standalone online project or if you intend to stay solely online, you should probably have one or two strictly Web agencies on your selection list based on how strong their digital capabilities are.
Every medium now seems to have a digital component. Newspapers and magazines are offered both in print and online. People watch TV online. Even outdoor boards are going digital now.
People – your customers and potential customers – interact with you in both the digital world and the physical world. What they see on the Web is just a piece of the experience.
Your agency should be able to help you provide a holistic experience to your target audience.
Make sure the chemistry is right.
No matter what type of agency you choose, you must like the people you work with. If you’re goal-directed, you’ll work best with an agency that’s aggressive and enjoys achieving results. If design aesthetics are what’s important to you, that’s what your agency should be all about.
One final thing to consider: For the difference between sales success and failure, very little is more important than the marketing agency you work with. Make sure your selection is a sales-driven organization.