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How to choose a marketing agency

How to choose a marketing agency

By Martin Jones, head of advertising at the AAR

For some companies, the prospect of finding and appointing an agency could seem a little daunting.  Where do you start? How do you know if you’re talking to the agencies that are right for your business? And what is ‘right’ for your business anyway?

Wherever you are in the process, having the right mindset before you start will pay dividends.

· Before you start the process, ensure you have buy in from all the relevant stakeholders.

There is nothing more frustrating than discovering half way through the review that someone in Head Office wasn’t aware of it and is calling a halt to proceedings.

· Be clear what you will be requiring you agency to do.

Define early on what you need your agency to deliver.  Is it just advertising, or will they need to manage other projects like direct marketing or digital?

· Prepare a timing plan and stick to it.

Work backwards from you campaign launch date and remember the more time you allow for handover to the new agency the better.

· Prepare a press release

The agency world is notoriously gossipy.  The moment you start talking to agencies there is a distinct chance that the story will be leaked to the trade press.  You do not have to issue it, but by having a release prepared in advance avoids your story looking reactive or defensive.

· Choose a manageable number of agencies to pitch.

Don’t be seduced into seeing pitches from 10 agencies in order to get 10 alternative solutions.  Three or four is a manageable number that should allow you to spend enough time getting to know them before the pitch.

· Issue a written brief, and give agencies access to all key decision makers.

The pitch brief needs to include everything that the agency should cover in their presentation.  And if senior board members are going to be part of the decision process, make sure the agencies have access to them before the final presentation.

·  Decide on the type of pitch that you are going to have.

The traditional ‘show and tell’ of creative work is becoming less relevant. Increasingly clients are opting for strategic presentations and/or creative workshops where they can get a feel for the way an agency thinks. 

Also, think about the evaluation criteria you’ll be using during the pitch itself and whether there is any weighting to be considered.  For example – dies the chairman get the casting vote, or is everyone’s opinion equal?

· Discuss remuneration in advance of the final presentation.

It can be very disappointing to fall in love with an agency only to discover that their fees prohibit their appointment.

· Never forget that it is a very subjective process.

In the end, most clients will give their business to the agency with whom they feel most comfortable.  Ensure the process allows sufficient time for the key personnel to get to know the agency.

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