Hiring an advertising agency or public relations firm to help you with your marketing and communications does not need to be a confusing or intimidating process. It involves doing a little research and giving each agency the opportunity to meet with you and get to know your specific goals and objectives. Agencies vary in their service offerings. Some work exclusively in web marketing or serve only a certain industry type. Other agencies are generalists.
By looking objectively at your business you can create a short list of your current and potential needs. Conveying these important requirements consistently at each meeting will allow you to evaluate each agency in a uniform way. But this process should not be excessively rigid. Leave room for open discussions that explore the unique combination of services offered by each agency.
Follow these guidelines to find the firm that is a suitable match:
1. It’s important to consider agencies who have clients that are similar to the size of your business and have comparable marketing budgets. Why? Because large agencies are known to turn over the service of “smaller” accounts to junior staffers. Naturally, agency heads are interested in their largest and best paying clients and will often personally service a large client. Hire the agency that will commit to the level of service you need today and for years to come.
2. Do your homework and check the agency's client references. Unhappy clients are a sure indication that the agency is not performing. You also have the right to expect that your work will be prepared competently and delivered on time and within budget.
3. Get a full disclosure of client fees and billing arrangements up front. These should be in writing and submitted by the agency and approved by the client prior to agency engagement or the commencement of any work.
4. Ask the agency for a capabilities and portfolio presentation. The quality, originality, and effectiveness of the work is the agency’s benchmark and stock in trade. Be sure to ask “Specifically, how did the agency’s work meet the client’s marketing goals and objectives?”
5. Finally, check out the agency with the Better Business Bureau and your local Chamber of Commerce. A good report further assures you have selected a solid agency that will serve you well for years to come.
These two professional associations are excellent research resources:
The American Marketing Association (AMA)
The American Advertising Federation (AAF)