Working with an advertising agency can prove to be a difficult task. Unless you have an unlimited budget to work with, like agencies that handle Global 1000 companies such as Nike, Apple, Nestle, or Toyota, finding an agency that can work within your parameters takes time. With low barriers to entry and a litany of technical jargon, understanding if you’re working with the right agency can be difficult to measure. It can prove to be a profitable partnership, or a complete financial disaster. Here are a three fundamental ways to ensure you’ve made the right decisions.
First, and foremost, you need to make sure there is a cultural fit between the organization and the agency. This cannot be stressed enough. It’s far more productive to work with an agency (or any vendor, for that matter) that acts as an extension of your own team. The best agencies will be able to succinctly define the culture of your company before you can. From an account management prospective, it lends itself to creating a trusting relationship with the understanding that everyone is working towards the same goals. Let’s face it: the faster a company can react, the faster it can gain a first-mover advantage. Having a level of trust lends itself to making decisions fast when time counts.
The cultural fit also extends to creative development. If the agency has a difficult time leveraging the essence of an organization, the more difficult it will be to articulate the advantages of that organization. In other words, if they don’t completely understand what you do and what you stand for, they won’t be able to help others understand either. You know there’s a good fit when the agency can finish your sentences and send you JPEGs of what’s in your imagination. Date a little bit to make sure you’re compatible with a prospective agency before you get married, however.
Next, make sure they are better than you are. Seriously. Several “agencies” can certainly talk the talk, but when it comes time to put a campaign in motion, they lean heavily on the organization. If you find yourself having to regularly supply collateral (outside of pricing when it’s relevant), it’s OK to ask yourself “what am I paying these people for?” You should never be asked to fire up PhotoShop. If they can’t tell you, with authority, what search terms to use for Adwords, then it might not be a good fit. If they’re asking you what taglines to use without pitching three of their ideas first, then it might be time to bring it back in-house. Watching the entire series of Madmen doesn’t make an agency.
Finally, make sure an agency has a track record of success in a market that resembles your own. Most agencies won’t hesitate to share references, and by all means follow-up on them. Above and beyond those customers that will sing the praises of the agency, request references from organizations that closely resemble your company, down to the same deliverables, geography, and demographics, when possible. If you’re an urban single-point franchise in North Carolina, your results may vary dramatically from a multi-point franchise surrounding the major metros of California. Don’t get glammered.
Speaking of results, an agency should work with you to utilize your indicators for success. While they may use metrics that are relevant to them, your KPIs are your KPIs. They should be able to translate their metrics into something that is relevant to your business, not just the big guys or companies that are irrelevant to yours. The end result of working with an agency isn’t to work with those attached to the best: it’s to do more than your business is doing right now. Leave the cookie cutters to your competitors.
The majority of companies don’t have inexhaustible resources to throw at advertising. Finding the right fit is critical to making the most of your marketing budget. Take steps to ensure that your current or perspective agency understands the culture of your business. The blurrier the lines between your own employees and the agency, the better. However, don’t let the lines get too blurry. The agency should be leading the creative charge, and deploying the various marketing assets at the right times. Lastly, make sure your agency understands the fundamentals of markets such as yours. One size fits all should be limited to free t-shirts.
Author: Chris Price
Born and raised in the car business, Chris started detailing cars at the tender age of 12. After spending many successful years selling, managing and running other dealers automotive operations, Chris bought a Ford store outside Memphis, TN, starting with 3% Ford market share of the Memphis MP. This store quickly grew to nearly 20%. Chris was the guest speaker and presenter at the 2007 National Ford Dealer Meeting in Detroit sharing “Ideas That Worked” to the nation of Ford dealers. In 2008, he sold his store to a dealer group and set out to follow his passion of merchandising and assisting dealers with their aspirations and growing their businesses. After 6 short years and over 70 dealers assisted, Chris has found the formula to become the New Age Full Spectrum Ad Agency. They specialize in creating a full vertical image across traditional and digital mediums.