10 Tips for Finding an Agency
By Jackie Walts
The by-product of a sagging economy, managers are being asked to produce results with significantly fewer resources than before. Even with budget cuts and leaner staffs, management expects top performance. At the same time, perhaps your agency is not performing well. Smaller staffs, fewer resources and a revolving door of junior account people add up to less responsiveness.
It may be time to find a new agency. Here are 10 steps for picking the right agency.
1. Assess the situation.
First, determine if hiring a new agency is the best solution. You may only need to re-evaluate and redirect the agency you currently have. Examine your reasons for a change. If compensation is the only issue, ask your agency to reconsider its contract. Or, if responsiveness or personnel are the issue, have a frank discussion with your agency management about expectations. A specific list of goals will help you get what you need.
On the flip side, if the creative is never up to par, the agency is always over budget or can't make a deadline, it may be time for a change.
2. Think ahead for an interim solution.
Decide how you're going to continue your marketing efforts while you conduct your search. In the best case, it takes a minimum of three months to find a new agency. Once your existing agency knows the account is in review, don't rely on it to complete any work. Stop assigning it new projects and consider staffing up internally to get work done while you're looking. Consider using an agency that will do projects in the short term, but may not be a fit for long-term use. Have a workable solution in place before you proceed.
3. Plan how you will manage the search.
Conducting a search is a full-time job. Consider using an agency search consultant to maximize your time. They have the agencies screened, the experience and processes in place to run a search smoothly, and their advice can be invaluable. Pick your search consultant carefully. If you're looking for a direct marketing agency, hire a consultant with experience there. Be sure to ask about compensation—some search consultants are paid by both the client and by agency "listing fees" and only recommend those agencies that participate. This considerably shrinks the pool of talent for your search.