Six Things to Consider When Selecting an Agency
Whether or not your business has its own in-house marketing team, working with an agency can be a strategic way to grow brand presence and your customer base. Just like any hiring decision, selecting the right agency is often a complicated process with a lot of factors to consider. Having worked with several agencies over the years in multiple capacities before starting our own, we made a lot of mistakes. That experience has provided us a great deal of insight and we’ve come up with our own list of things to consider when you’re agency shopping.
Marketing encompasses a wide variety of disciplines from digital advertising and social media management to graphic design and search engine optimization. There’s also the extremely critical task of developing a strategy to ensure all the pieces are working together properly. If you’re not looking for help orchestrating multiple efforts in an overall strategy, but just support in one or two areas like social media management or SEO, it might be most cost effective to seek out freelance experts or ask if the agency will do hourly consulting vs. a monthly retainer or high up front fee.
If you don’t know what you need, then it’s likely you need a strategy. To say that marketing is more fragmented than ever is quite the understatement. It seems there is always a new social media platform to learn, along with search, display, video, blog, podcast, email, app, smart speaker, connected TV, and music streaming (not to mention all of the traditional forms of advertising like print and direct mail). Understanding how each of these elements work independently is hard enough...and also relatively ineffective. Developing a strategy that sends the right message to the right audience at the right time across a spectrum of platforms is how marketing succeeds consistently. An agency offering this level of strategy should be willing to perform a deep dive into your business and, if necessary, challenge the way you think about it.
Some experts characterize today’s consumer behavior as “selective consumption” when it comes to marketing. This means they control when and how they interact with brands and as a result, often only pay attention and respond to marketing that is somehow valuable to them. In other words, your marketing content becomes part of your brand’s value proposition and if a potential consumer finds it valuable, they are more likely to take advantage of your product or service than if they’re, say, just hearing your jingle one more time. For most brands this means developing a sophisticated content strategy including compelling video, informative articles and case studies, immersive experiences and more. Conceptualizing this strategy and delivering best-in-class creative content is arguably the most important role for a marketing agency to fill. If you are at a point where you are still formulating your approach to marketing, or looking to take it to a new level, chances are this is something you need from your agency.
Agencies should never shy away from measuring their progress with a client; not only for the sake of transparency, but it’s also a necessary part of discovering what’s working well, and what isn’t. Great agencies are marked by successful campaigns of course, but the best agencies are able to identify when they need to return to the drawing board, and can take accountability when a campaign didn’t go to plan. Combining art and science to come up with a strategy, and then using analytics to determine whether to stay the course, or pivot, are all conversations that clients should be a part of. Whether it be for SEO, digital ads, or social media content, analytics are crucially helpful indicators of progress.
In today’s fast-paced, viral environment, most brands must be positioned to capture the energy of trending topics. That doesn’t mean chasing down every trending hashtag, but it does mean being ready and able to take advantage of something that makes sense for your business. Unless an agency is only focused on long-term campaigns that require months of preparation like television, it’s best if they are able to react and respond quickly to organic opportunities that present themselves at the spur of the moment. As a client, you can’t realistically always expect your agency to be able to drop everything they’re doing at any time to jump on an opportunity. But if something really compelling presents itself, it should be within the practical realm of possibility that they are able to respond.
We live in an age of an abundance of information. No matter what service you are seeking, always beware of providers that promise a technique or technology that is so cutting edge and sophisticated, they can’t be bothered to explain it to you. This is especially true of marketing. There is virtually nothing in modern marketing that is not in some way accessible to everyone. No technology is so complicated or proprietary that it can’t be explained. A good agency should be able to explain, in very simple terms, what they are doing, how they are doing it and why. The value they are providing is not some esoteric expertise that is only the providence of a chosen few, but instead experience that allows for fewer mistakes and for you to focus on the big picture of running your business.
As an agency, Fortress Creative is fostering a culture that prioritizes the client’s needs, strategy, content, measurement, agility and transparency, along with creative excellence and other important values. If you’re currently exploring an agency relationship, we’d love to talk. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org