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How to find the perfect creative agency

How to find the perfect creative agency

By Simon Wheeler, Account Director at

Finding the perfect partner is something which has consumed men and women for generations. With the advent of online dating, speed dating, singles’ clubs and dating agencies you would think the task would have become easier.

But in fact, whichever method you use, the core issues remain the same; how to find someone who can match your criteria, exceed your expectations, deliver what you need, excite and challenge you and with whom you can forge a long and mutually fulfilling relationship.

Finding the perfect design agency can be a bit like finding the perfect partner!

There are numerous agencies out there of all different shapes and sizes. Some are lean and athletic, whilst others are more... bulky. Some agencies are young and exciting, others older and more mature. Some are more flexible with their creativity whilst others play it safe. Some are ‘high maintenance’ and others play it cool. Some will cost you an arm and a leg and some are distinctly ‘cheap’! There’s a place for all of them – but which one is right for you?

1. Know yourself.

It’s reasonable to say that unless you know what you are looking for, how will you know when you find it? Take some time to think about your requirements, what you expect from your agency and how that could manifest. For example, everyone throws around the term ‘value for money’ but how do you know if you are getting good value for money? What are you going to judge it against? Are you just looking for the cheapest solution? If so, are you prepared for the ‘buy it cheap, buy it twice’ scenario?

2. Check them out.

Just like photos on a dating site, it goes without saying that an agency whose portfolio of work is three years old might have something to hide. Check out their website and make sure you read the news pages. That’s where you’ll find information on their latest projects. And if there’s not been anything new in the last month, ask why.

3. Communicate.

Tell them what you want, expect and need. Agencies aren’t telepathic. If an agency is worth their salt, they’ll tell you up front what they can and can’t deliver. And be suspicious of anyone who says yes to everything. You would be better off finding a design team who are experts in what they do, rather than one which is a ‘jack of all trades’.

4. Be open and honest.

 The key to a good relationship is honesty on both sides. For example, if you are going to ask your agency to manage your print buying, then it’s fair to expect them to charge for that service. But they should be honest and open and tell you what that charge is going to be so there are no hidden surprises down the line. Be realistic in your expectations, but don’t compromise.

5. Prepare to be challenged.

A design agency should share your basic beliefs and values but they shouldn’t be afraid to challenge you if they disagree with you. Your aims and objectives should become theirs and they should help shape and direct your marketing strategy too. But to do that, you need to let them in.

6. Above all, recognise that this is a two-way relationship.

 If you want great results from your design agency, be prepared to put something in yourself. Take the time to write a proper brief for them. Talk to them about your strategy – not just for the next leaflet or newsletter but for the next year or longer. Be honest with them and tell them what you need to achieve and for how much. Then, equipped with this information, they can make sure the solutions they propose are suitable.

I wish you a long and fruitful relationship with whoever you choose. Just remember - GSOH essential!

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