This article featuring our Executive Creative Director, Kenny Eicher, originally appeared on Forbes.
Finding a digital agency that you can work with is key to the success of your business. You may have along-standing relationship with a firm, but it just might not be providing your company what it needs to reach its marketing strategy goals.
According to a report by the Association of National Advertisers, as few as 2% of agencies actually strongly agree that the client approval process works well. This may be important to your company, and without the level of service that you expect, you can be left with a poor taste in your mouth about the agency you are working with.
Eleven members of Forbes Agency Council share some of the most important but often overlooked characteristics that businesses should be looking for (or avoiding) when picking an agency to work with. Here is what they had to say:
1. Team And Expertise
I can't stress this enough because these days, it often happens that when you hire an agency, the people selling to you are not the ones who will be handling your account. And, oftentimes, you get handed off to junior people who don't deliver, leaving you disappointed. - Suttida Yang, Fastmarkit
2. Effective Onboarding Process
During your vetting process, be sure to inquire about the agency's onboarding process and communication systems. A seasoned agency should be proactive in sharing how they will engage with you, including the agenda for the kick-off call, how they will immerse themselves in our business, and how they handle day-to-day communication and project management. - David Lewis, DemandGen International, Inc.
3. Shared Values And Work Ethic
When picking an agency, businesses should look for a company that shares the same values and work ethic. Working with an agencyis a collaboration and partnership, and should be a relationship that is vetted thoughtfully. - Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social
4. Being A Resource Fit
When selecting the right agency to work with, be honest about your company's budget and look for "resource fit." Traditional agencies can be costly or slow to produce, or have too many processes and approval layers built in for your high-growth department, while lighter-weight agencies may not be able to scale up in the way you need. Make sure to choose partners on skill, access, scale and speed. - Megan Groves, InterimCMO
5. Responds To Your Inquiries In A Timely Manner
How soon do they respond to your inquiries or needs? If they're not responding to you in a timely fashion or not responding to what you've specifically requested, get ready for more of the same as you work with them. Does your agency hear you when you reach out? Do they listen to you when you state your concerns or have questions? Also, do you have access to senior management? If yes, great! - Daniel Lazarz, Life of Dad Agency
Transparency is crucial. If an agency promises a deliverable that sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Ask difficult questions, and remember that you get what you pay for. - Amanda Stein, EXPAND
7. Knowledge Of Technology And The Niche
Many digital folks lack knowledge of classic traditional advertising and the role of creative and the science behind it, and many traditional advertising agencies do not keep up to speed with the fast-evolving digital world because they are uncomfortable with technology-intense projects. Finding the creative folks with knowledge of classic advertising and good understanding of technology is key. - Nikolai Mentchoukov, LIQWID(R)
8. Creativity And True ROI
An agency should be able to develop beautiful, creative campaigns and deliver a return on advertising spend — the right brain has to meet the left brain. Look for an agency that clearly understands data-based analytics and how their marketing efforts can be quantified for every dollar invested. If they can’t demonstrate true ROI, they’re not the right fit. - Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne.
9. Access To Your Future Account Execs
Don't just talk to the "closer" when meeting with potential agencies. In most small firms that is usually the principal of the company, and larger firms have a business development team comprised of salespeople. Speak to the account execs that would potentially work your account. Ask how long they've been with the firm, what motivates them and what their passions are. That will tell you a lot about the firm. - Dan Kahn, Kahn Media Inc.
10. Proprietary Tools And Methods
Businesses should look for agencies that have proprietary tools and methodologies, based on best practices, new technologies and an innovative approach to communications. - Teresa Villarreal, Newlink
11. Ability To Listen And Understand
A key characteristic that businesses should look for in an agency is their ability to listen and understand first. Agency partners that listen to their clients’ marketing challenges and understand their clients’ business landscape are only then able to recommend well-crafted creative marketing solutions. Beware the agency that knows all about your problems before you have had the chance to brief them. - Kenny Eicher, The CSI Group