When you decide that it’s time to innovate and get the word out about your business, you’ve entered into what can feel like a paralyzing-difficult decision. After all, you are trying to pick a marketing firm that will put a public face on your business for the next 3-5 years, and this is the time to choose wisely. You’ve probably got a laundry list of things you want to ask a prospective marketing agency, but here six questions you should be sure to ask any advertising agency you’re considering hiring.
- Do you genuinely, personally, like the principals at the marketing firm? Would you like to hang out with these folks after hours? This is an important consideration because if you don’t like them, it’s unlikely that they will actually “get” your brand and your company. And if they don’t get it, they can’t build a brand around it.
- Are they representing another company in your category and region? Most advertising and marketing agencies won’t bid on new business if they are currently serving another company in the same category and region, but it’s always good to check. As a business choosing an agency, you have the right to expect that your business is the only business in your category and region that agency is representing. It’s important to understand; you get to choose the definition for category and your definition of the region. Define carefully! The reasoning to insist on category and region exclusivity is simply that no agency can do their best work for two clients in the same category. They ultimately have to choose who gets their latest coolest idea – and you want that choice to come to you.
- What’s their idea of a fast turnaround? This question is bound to give any perspective agency heartburn because they don’t want to work against the clock anymore than you do. But let’s face it, sometimes you need a radio ad or newspaper ad on the weekend and it’s Tuesday. You need to know whether they’ll be able to help you out on an exception basis. Most agencies prefer 2-4 weeks lead time, but for an occasional “emergency” can move much more quickly. Talk it through with the agency before you hire them (and if you know your company operates in “emergency” mode more often than not, be sure to disclose that now rather than later.)
- What’s their vision for your brand? It’s OK to ask them to provide conceptual ideas of what they imagine your brand can become. Understand, it’s not written in stone, and it’s very likely they haven’t had a chance to collaborate with you on developing it, but they’ll have rough ideas of different directions they can take your brand in. The important thing here is not that you fall in love with the concept, but that it’s something you can imagine for your brand and not out of left field. If it’s out of left field and doesn’t feel genuine for your brand, it’s not likely to ever get better. Move on now.
- What do they imagine your marketing budget is going to need to be to be effective? The answer here is critical; budgets are tight these days. Agencies have different thresholds they consider to be the minimum effective spend to accomplish the goals of their clients. Make sure their budgetary expectations are in line with yours.
- How unique is their work? Ask to see their portfolio. What you’re looking for here is to see if they are designing unique work for each client, or if they are taking a cookie-cutter approach to their marketing. There are reasons you might choose both avenues. If your budget is small, and there’s no regional crossover, you can save money by going with a cookie-cutter agency. But if you are spending even a moderate amount of money, you should expect to see unique work for your investment. The best way to discern this is simply to look at their portfolio. You’ll be able to tell.
Getting these questions answered will help to make sure that you choose the right marketing or advertising firm for your company and avoid an unhappy relationship down the road.