The process of finding the right agency can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. 

If you’ve worked with an agency before, your search will likely be different than what your first-time experience will be. And that’s ok. Something to keep in mind, no matter the experience in searching, the agency that will define your brand through strategic insights and innovative executions is one that you will feel aligned to from the beginning. Don’t overthink it.

Much like a blind date, you kind of just know. But first…

Your mind will be filled with ideas, and to do this right, there are a few items to get in order. 

  1. What are your company’s key business objectives?
  1. What problem or pain point do you want an agency to help you solve?
  1. And ultimately, have you determined what key factors you’ll be paying the most attention to, and asking the agencies to provide as part of your decision making process?

Your agency comparison list doesn’t have to be complex; just enough information to help you narrow down to the top three agencies you would like to meet with. Or learn more about.

Part of the phase of narrowing down is talking to them on the phone, seriously. Prior to inviting an agency in to chat face to face, consider the cadence and rapport of an informational phone call. Focus on:

  1. How was your initial conversation? Did your conversation feel energetic, authentic, and was there a connection on both sides?
  1. Did they ask questions too?
  1. Are their core skill sets parallel with what you need?
  1. What did you like about their own business, or values, that may align well with your own?

It’s not always easy to narrow down but trust your gut. Like other life decisions, there’s a relationship connection that has to feel right. With your short list of firms in hand prepare and send out a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP allows you to ask a few questions to determine an agency’s mutual interest, ensures agencies meet your minimum requirements and you’ll get a sense of their responsiveness. And hopefully, a hint to their creativity and thinking!

The agencies should be able to turn around an RFP within two-three weeks and from there, the information you requested will be yours to determine nailing down the right partner; or candidates. 

Here are some helpful guidelines for requesting proposals:

  1. Provide guidelines as to how you would like proposals delivered, and by when.
  1. If you want a detailed proposal, provide enough context for the agencies to work from. Consider sharing: company information, top competitors, target marketing, historical performance, goals, etc.
  1. If you are scoring based on something specific, say so. Outline your evaluation criteria so that everyone is on the same page. You’re also then providing these agencies an opportunity to determine if your evaluation matches their experience; allowing them to determine if they can or should participate in the RFP.
  1. And despite popular belief, include your budget if you have one. It is better to know what an agency can fit into your existing budget, than to see an exciting list of options that blow your budget sky high. Don’t waste your time, or theirs by making them guess. 

For what it’s worth, you may honestly not know your budget because this is your first time going outside your organization for marketing/branding help. So, in general, the more information and time you take to articulate your needs and expectations, the happier you will be with the results. 

* And, please always let each agency know if they have been chosen or not to move forward. It’s simply good manners and no matter the choice, it will be appreciated to have closure. 

PS: Once it’s presentation time, block your calendar to spend time with the agencies. Don’t make the choice lightly. Choose your agency based on their ideas and passion for your business. And above all, choose the agency team that you want to spend time with and get creative with. Every agency partnership, no matter how big or small, is a relationship that could turn into a long-term partnership for your business. 

Like a first date, you’ll know when you’ve found the agency you want to court more seriously.