How to choose a new agency or creative consultancy

4 minutes to read by Peter Sayburn

Your new project is important. Really important. This is your latest chance to make an impact.  You’re confident that your in-house team can do an OK job.  But will they really smash it out of the park…? Haven’t they got one too many other things on the go right now…? Maybe, just maybe you’re gonna need a little extra help.

Bringing a new agency into your team can be a bit scary.  A little like inviting a new flat mate into your home, or adding a new member to your favourite What’sApp group!  But it can also be just the catalyst you need to take your idea, your product, even your company, to the next level.

So how do you improve the chances of success? How do you appoint that perfect agency?  

First of all, there are a few big considerations. The stuff that you only learn from experience...usually a few years too late.  The stuff that guides your shortlist and makes sure that you’re fishing in the right pond.  Secondly, there are the things you need to look for in your potential new agency partner.  Their winning traits, AND those warning signs!

Before we get onto the order-winning criteria, have a think about the type of relationship, role and the agency attributes you value most.  Think about it as a series of options.  Do you want deep industry expertise, or are you looking for new ideas and fresh thinking. Do you want a local shop that ‘knows your culture’ or the ‘best agency in the world’ from that pioneering city you’ve always wanted to go to?  Do you value a safe pair of hands, a long track record, or are you keen to back raw talent, hungry for early success? And do you want them to ‘blend in’, becoming a seamless addition to your own team, or do you want a creative lightning bolt to jolt your company into action?

These are all possible and any option along the spectrum can work in the right circumstances, culture and situation. You just need to be clear on what you want!  

Now you’re ready to think about the specific attributes of your candidate agencies; your agency shortlist.  We usually suggest talking to three companies for any new work. Enough to give you options, but few enough to move fast, make decisions and avoid the usually inefficiency and time-wasting that benefits nobody.

Here are 5 essential characteristics for selecting your new agency. These are the questions to ask yourself when choosing:  

1 - Do they get me and my business?

* Can they demonstrate that they understand our brand, our culture, our industry?

* Do they care about our goals and our purpose as much as we do?

* Have they been recommended / referred or in some way ‘hand-picked’ for this?  

2 - Can they show me the money?

* Have they considered the commercial impact that our work together might have?

* Do they understand our budget and how to deliver the best value and return on our  investment?

3 - Have they got a ‘founder’ mindset?

* Are they willing to go the ‘extra mile’ to deliver our desired outcome?

* Do they see the bigger picture and can I see them taking on a role beyond that initially stated if needed?  

* Are they able to set aside ego and personal ambitions for the sake of the project?

4 - Does their team comes first?

* Does the agency founder nurture and build their own team?

* Are we meeting the actual project team, or just the partners?

* Does everyone in the agency give me the same feeling?  

5 - Can they bring something extra?

* Does the agency have some unique point of differentiation in an area that we are weak?

* Have I got that feeling that we’re going to do something special?

* Can I see them bringing out the best in our wider leadership team, helping to make new things happen?

So now you know how to improve the chances of success, go ahead, take a leap and appoint that perfect new agency?  What have you got to lose?

Studiospace is THE global marketplace for creative, marketing and digital services.  We help connect ambitious brand owners with the specialist independent agency talent that they need to deliver their business objectives. Check out some highly recommended pioneering agencies here. Or learn more about the selecting and briefing process here.

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