Top tips for selecting a marketing agency

There has been a lot of debate recently about in-house vs agency marketing. There is no doubt there are pros and cons to each.

Using a marketing agency can often totally transform your approach. But do you ever get the same in-depth brand knowledge that you would do from an in-house team?

As a marketing professional I have always worked client-side. I’ve been the one hiring and firing agencies, so my first foray into agency life has been a real revelation.

Here are my top tips on what to look for when selecting your perfect partner:

1.      Be clear on your objectives

There is absolutely no point in engaging with any marketing agency unless you know exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Do you want to increase sales? Build brand awareness? Launch a new product? Or are you looking to nurture and protect your existing customer base? Whatever your objectives, be as specific as you can and always document the brief.

2.     Do you get on?

One of the key factors in maintaining a successful client/agency relationship is communication. It’s like all relationships. Something that only slightly irritates you at the beginning can really get on your nerves after a while so be picky. If the first meeting goes well and you like the person you’ve met, ask to meet the team you’ll be working with on a day to day basis. You might get on like a house on fire with the big gun they hauled out on day 1, but if the rest of the team don’t live up to that first meeting, you’ll only be disappointed.

3.     Are they listening to you?

There’s no doubt you will have spent a long time thinking about your objectives and have carefully crafted a great brief but, there is nothing worse than spending a good few hours talking to a potential agency only to get a response so outrageous that you’re left thinking ‘were we even in the same room?’ Yes, agencies are there to challenge, and no you won’t always like their suggestions, but if they don’t deliver what you’ve asked for PLUS some challenging alternatives, it could be the start of a very frustrating relationship. A good agency that really wants to work with you will provide some industry insight free of charge, so ask for it. That initial insight piece will often reveal if you’re on the same page and the relationship is worth taking to the next level.

4.     Clarify what will be delivered in-house

You will be surprised by how many agencies take on a brief that they can’t actually deliver in-house. You might be cool with that, but clarify upfront exactly what is being outsourced and how this is going to affect cost and delivery. If the whole point of you engaging an agency is to access expert advice or utilise the latest technologies that you don’t have in-house, then make sure you get that at your disposal.

5.     Location, location, location – what a load of %@”*

Having appointed both big London and independent regional agencies in the past, I must say I’ve always had much better experience with an independent agency. I find they generally listen to my challenges and will develop an appropriate solution, rather than letting their egos get in the way of my objectives. There are loads of really great regional agencies, sometimes on your doorstep, so try them out. You will get significantly more bang for your buck.

6.     Results!

Don’t even think about engaging with an agency unless they can show you exactly how they measure success, and are prepared to give you access to all your data and insights in a clear and simple report. A decent marketing agency will have data analysis at the heart of their strategy, and will be able to show you exactly how consumers are interacting with your brand and what activity is actually contributing to your marketing objectives. An even better agency will deploy an agile approach that will not only report on these trends but also continually suggest alternative ways of doing things that will change consumer behaviour and generate even better results.

7.      Ask for references

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t ask to speak to existing clients. An agency should be willing to let this happen and alarm bells should be ringing if they don’t. Don’t be put off if an agency doesn’t have a client similar to you. That can be a good thing! One of the major benefits of working with an agency is that you get an outside perspective, and you don’t want to lose that. Finally check their credentials. Credible agencies will be recognised by professional bodies like the IPA. 

So, if you have recently been engaging in the ‘in-house vs agency’ debate and have decided an agency is worth a look, my number one piece of advice would be to never restrict yourself on where to look. If you want fresh thinking from your agency, start with fresh thinking from within.

Claire Parkes, Marketing Manager

Talk to Claire about how we can help you create an immersive connection with your customers - 01902 714 957