Making a perfect match of agency and client is a little bit of Match.com, The Bachelor and the old-fashioned happenstance meeting. That is to say it’s one part science and one part romance with a just little touch of pixie dust.
There is no doubt that happy, long-lasting agency/client relationships are a lot like a marriage. And, in my experience, clients and agencies kiss lots of frogs before finding the right match.
When a marketer is looking for an agency there a few obvious things to ask yourself:
- Does the agency have experience in my market?
Having an understanding of your market, your audience and your competitors is a shortcut to success. If the experience is not a perfect match, does the agency have other relative experience that can transfer to your category?
- Does the agency have a track record of success?
Agencies come and go. Make sure you team up with an agency that has traction and a good record of business success. You are trusting them with your company resources. You need to know they will be good stewards of your business reputation.
- Do we share similar values and views of marketing communications?
Does the agency want to do award-winning work, or do they want to do what will work best for your company? Hopefully both, but the two don’t always go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, work that pleases the agency may not be in your company’s interest.
- Do they have a strong interest in working with my company?
Have they done their research? Are they genuinely excited about what your company does, and do they have ideas about how to help you stand out in your market?
- Does the agency have strong processes and the project discipline to keep our projects on track?
This may not be the most dazzling part of the review, but it is “make or break.” Nothing ends a relationship faster than unclear and inconsistent expectations, weak communications and uncertain outcomes.
- Do I trust them to give me good advice whether I like it or not?
Being able to have frank discussions and argue the merits and weaknesses of strategies and tactics is critical to a good relationship. Clients should invite candor, and agencies should not be afraid to tell the truth, and vice versa.
- Do I like my contacts and the culture of the agency?
A successful client/agency relationship requires a lot of time together. If meeting with the agency is a pleasant and rewarding experience, you are on the right track. If you are thinking they really know their stuff but you’re not crazy about their people, move on. It will not work long-term.
Pursue the perfect match in four easy steps:
- Develop a long list of suitors.
Get recommendations from colleagues, friends and media outlets in your market. Do an online search that includes your market and service interests.
2. Review the options and follow up with three or four that look like good matches.
Take a deep dive into their websites. Have they worked with clients that are similar to your company? Do they have the experience, staff and portfolio that instills confidence they can execute in your market.
3. Go meet them.
Spend time telling them about your company and goals.
4. Ask one or two for a high-level approach. Select the one that resonates with you and then work out the details of a relationship.
Just like the dating process, it can seem daunting. But when you meet that special someone, you’ll enjoy the magic for years to come.