The 5 Key Steps to Hire an Agency Suitable For Your Business
As readers will know very well, digital marketing is a vast field with many different elements and nuances. From media planning and strategy, to SEO, CRO and UX, digital marketing is constantly evolving and keeping up with all trends can take a long time.
Many companies choose to provide internal marketing experience, which can be advantageous to control resource costs, maintain control and create a solid team for the future. However, there are also difficulties for this approach, mainly around the attraction of creative talent and the lack of an external and independent perspective that agencies bring to a creative summary.
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Having worked both in the agency and in the client throughout my career, I think there are many benefits to working with an agency to partner in strategy, campaign planning and capacity development. However, the decision should not be taken lightly and before embarking on an agency selection process, always ask yourself the following questions:
How Will The Agency Fund?
While some of the answers to this question will depend on negotiations with the agencies themselves, know in advance what type of rate structure would best suit your business.
Who Will Administer The Agency?
You must identify a core team and a key contact responsible for managing the agency and clearly understand how the relationship between the different teams and departments within the company will work.
What Is The Scope Of Work?
While this may evolve over time, it is important to know from the beginning the main areas of focus that the agency will be responsible for supporting and for what period of time
Five Steps to Follow
Once you have decided to proceed with an external agency, the next steps in the process will begin. Some companies may have a dedicated marketing service or a purchasing team to take primary responsibility for many of the following steps, however, if this is the case for you or not, it is worth knowing and where it can influence the process.
Define Your Writing
From the beginning, it is essential that you have a really clear vision of how you plan to work with an agency and what kind of projects / campaigns. The initial scope of the work will help here; however, the summary will distill it further and include additional details, such as project times, budget ranges and background information about the business, brand and products / services.
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Research: Know the Agency’s Landscape
There are literally many hundreds of agencies of all shapes and sizes, so it is worth conducting an initial investigation based on the report you have written. A simple Google search is always useful as a starting point, but be sure to be as specific as possible to be able to filter agencies that do not fit your report:
In addition to your own research, take advantage of your professional network and get recommendations and references from other business acquaintances. Cross reference your suggestions with your own findings and then begin to investigate further, refining your restricted list along the way and closely observing the online presence of each agency.
At this stage, note the red flags / warning signs:
- Lack of clear history
- Limited / non-authentic testimonials
- Bad digital presence
Short List and Send A Request For Information (RFI)
Once you have a solid idea of the agency landscape and the type of agencies that are probably the most appropriate, it is time to define your restricted list. I would recommend a reduced list of 3-5 agencies at most; as this will help you stay focused and also ensure that you can devote the right amount of time and energy to each of the agencies in the next stage of the process.
It may also be necessary to submit a formal request for information (RFI) at this stage before involving any of the agencies on your restricted list. An RFI is a way to gather information and intelligence about particular agencies before talking formally with them about a proposal or agreement. Depending on your report and the agencies involved, this may not be necessary, although the process itself is a useful way to standardize the information, so it is consistent for everyone. DMT has produced a useful RFI template that can be adapted based on your specific report.
- Download our commercial resource: managing an agency tone
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- Access the presentation Management of an agency: marketing agency selection scorecard
Launch or Not Launch?
The next step is to formally involve the agencies once you are sure that you have all the information you need and feel it is worth having a deeper conversation to discuss your report.
Depending on the campaigns and projects you have planned for the year, it may be necessary to run a presentation process to help decide on the agency you would like to work with. A presentation process can take a long time for all parties and be expensive from an agency’s perspective, so quickly decide if this is something you think you should undertake. Some agencies may decide that they do not want to participate in a launch process, so you should have an alternative plan in case this happens with one or more of the candidates you have selected.
Name and Start!
Once you have decided on the winning agency (and have informed the other agencies with written comments), it is time to begin formally.
The initial steps will be to sit down and review the work statement and summary in more detail, describing exactly what the agency’s role and responsibilities will be. The devil is in the details, so be sure to cover the following areas during this discussion:
- Prices and rate structure
- Terms and Conditions
- Established team
- Non-disclosure agreements
Hiring an agency is very similar to hiring a new staff member. It takes time, effort and a clear approach to find the right fit, but the more you put in the process, the greater the likelihood of finding a successful partner to work for.
The recruitment process will be different for everyone, although I have tried to summarize in this publication the key steps that I believe all companies should follow to ensure that the correct level of due diligence has been followed. This will make the process fair to everyone involved and help prepare you for success!
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