Hiring a marketing agency is a cost-effective way to improve marketing quality and consistency. If you've made the decision to source and hire an agency, the next step is finding one that fits your organization's goals, budget and values. Fit is essential. This is harder than it sounds as each marketing agency generally specializes in specific sectors, tactics and/or business sizes - there is no one size fits all solution. So how do you find the right agency for your organization?
The following 5-step process helps you to source, interview and evaluate your top agency picks.
STEP 1: Identify Agencies That May Be a Fit
Identify 5-10 agencies that, on first glance, fit your needs – you can do this by:
- Asking other business owners
- Searching www.yellowpages.ca for advertising agencies
- Contacting local ad agency industry associations (Canadian Marketing Association)
- Google "small business marketing agency" or some similar term
Once you've compiled your list, start by reviewing their websites to see whether they could be a fit for what you do or need.
NOTE: You'll likely need to look at 30 websites or more to find 10 that fit your business.
STEP 2: Submit an RFI to Narrow Your Choices
Send a RFI (Request for Information) to the list of agencies you've compiled in Step 1.
The RFI should Include:
- A title - example: "Request for information for Advertising/Marketing Service Provider"
- Date of request and a submission deadline
- Contact information including website address
- Your marketing goals broken down by sales/revenue, client growth (by geography, by segment, etc) and marketing specific goals (web traffic, newsletter numbers, ROI, etc)
- Your marketing budget (12 months)
- Typical customer description
- Best customer description
- Tactics: The agency should propose the process to define them.
- Preliminary tactics – example: website, email marketing, direct mail and a few ads throughout the year.
- Agency responsibility. This will depend on your internal resources, but likely is: "Develop tactics and execute to deliver on goals."
- Identify the number of agencies that you are sending the RFI to. This helps the agencies to understand how many companies are competing for the project and that you are following a fair and reasonable process to find a new supplier/partner.
- Action requested – example: "Email me (email @ companyname.com) that you are interested in this opportunity and have the skills/resources to deliver on the above tactics. Include a general intro to your company if you so choose."
- Next steps – example: "Interviews/meetings with up to 4 agencies to confirm fit and answer questions prior to receipt of proposal." This is for the agencies, so they know what your next steps are.
STEP 3: Interview Agencies and Rank Your Top Choices
Schedule in-person meetings if possible. When you meet with prospective agencies, you should have a standard procedure for scoring them. Your scorecard should be based on your particular needs, but a rough sample would include these key criteria:
- Ability/plan to deliver on goals = 25%
- Quality of previous work = 25%
- Service/turnaround times = 20%
- Price = 10%
- Fit with you and your company (values, priorities, character, etc) = 20%
As part of the scoring process, you can ask THEM these questions:
- How do you measure success?
- How do you track/report on results/ROI?
- Who will work with me and what are their qualifications?
- What kind of agency are you (creative, branding or strategy focused)?
- What is your philosophy/priority when it comes to marketing?
- How strong is your technology background?
- Where is your work produced (In-house, contractors, overseas)?
To round out the scoring, you can ask YOURSELF these questions:
- How many questions did they ask?
- Will you be a small fish in a big pond?
- How big were the egos in the room?
- Did they seem interested your business, or your money?
- You should also request a list of references or testimonials.
STEP 4: Test the Agency with a Single Project
Once you have chosen your optimal agency, it is wise to try them out before embarking on huge projects. Start small with one key project so you can get a feel for how you collaborate together. Be mindful of their attention to detail, service quality, interest in getting to know your business, the finished product and your overall impression of the experience.
STEP 5: Retest or Engage the Agency in Full
If you were satisfied with the first project, keep going. Engage the agency in a second test project, or hire the agency to take on several projects at once or to take on the full management of your marketing for a specified period of time.
Agency fit is essential to your marketing success.
If you have questions on this or any other related marketing matter, contact one of our marketing experts for a FREE consultation. We're here to help.