An expert’s guide to choosing a creative agency

For business owners, choosing a creative agency to partner with can be a daunting task. You may know you want help with a rebrand or marketing campaign, but where to start looking is another matter.
Allowing agencies to pitch for your business is a great way to be sure your budget is spent wisely. The pitching – or procurement – process will help you to understand what you need and lead you to the agency best suited to the task at hand. There are essentially three parts to it.

1. The pre-pitch process

Before you begin your search, work out your objectives and how you think this project will meet them. You don’t need a comprehensive plan – the successful agency can help with this – but setting clear goals will give both parties a good starting point.

Next, ask your network for recommendations and research each lead carefully. While you may wish to use a local agency, modern technology means you can work with agencies from anywhere in country, or even the world, so don’t let geography limit your choices.
When you’ve narrowed down a list of agencies, your research should consist of:
Looking at previous work and case studies
Have they worked on projects of a similar size and scale in your sector? Is there any mention of return on investment? Perhaps an agency’s previous output looks great, but does it work?
Looking at the agency’s resources and financial background
While smaller agencies may serve you well, if you need full-service support then be sure they have the skills and resources to deliver all work competently and effectively.
At this point you will have started developing a list of agencies you would like to approach based on the work they’ve done previously. However, a more important factor to consider is how well you’re likely to work together.

2. Developing relationships

Before you ask an agency to pitch, it is useful to hold a “chemistry meeting”. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss your goals and answer questions from their side, while you work out if you meet with the people you might be working with in the flesh. These meetings can save you a huge amount of time in the long run.

Invite a maximum of three agencies to pitch at the chemistry sessions. When you invite them, decide if you’d like to see their creative ideas to judge how they propose to answer your brief, or if you just want them to offer a top line of how they’d approach the brief.
If you want creative ideas then you may have to offer a fee for their time. Your budget will determine this. When inviting the agencies, even if you’ve met them before, be sure to provide as much information as possible. If you’re vague about what you want it may result in you wasting your time with unsuitable responses.

3. The pitch

Unless you’ve asked for creative work to be provided and paid for any time used to develop it, you won’t be given creative solutions to your challenge. Many tried and tested agencies will not pitch offer creative solutions for free unless they’ve agreed to do so beforehand.
Instead they will suggest how they will approach your challenges and how much it would cost. The standout agency will be the one that has done research into what it is you need and how you are likely to get there, and also one you feel the most comfortable about working with.
Your primary goal is to find a professional, trustworthy creative agency that you can develop a strong relationship with. Some agencies will have great ideas but if you don’t get along, or there is poor communication and understanding, then those good ideas will end up being very expensive. Even if you are looking for a short-term project you need to keep a long-term relationship in mind. If the agency you choose delivers the results you need, then you may not have to look for another agency for future work.

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