Working with a marketing/public relations agency is fundamental for businesses looking to boost their brand and reach their target audience, and putting in the work to select the right agency for your business is a valuable endeavor. When evaluating potential agency partners, it’s important to look for an agency with a proven track record of success, a clear understanding of your industry and target market, and a tailored approach to meeting your specific goals. Additionally, effective communication and a strong, collaborative relationship are key to ensuring a successful partnership.
Look for an agency that values transparency, maximizes integration, nurtures curiosity, and is dedicated to delivering results that drive real business impact. Here are some ways to help ensure your agency partner meets all those requirements.
Start with a conversation. Have a candid discussion with the agency you’re considering. Lay out any challenges you might have, your business’s overall goals and objectives, and what you need help with. Get an understanding of the agency’s capabilities and how they might be able to support other areas of your business. Be clear with your budget and recognize the costs to hire a professional marketing/PR agency as well as the return on investment this new partnership can provide.
Don’t fall into the RFP trap. Really. Don’t do one unless you absolutely have to. RFPs are tough on everyone – clients and agencies – and they often unintentionally omit some critical aspects of the client/agency relationship. Instead of spending time crafting an RFP, use that time to connect with potential agency partners through referrals, research, reviewing websites, etc. The most efficient way to get a good understanding of the best agency partner for you is to make a personal connection.
When meeting with a prospective agency, find out who your account team and day-to-day contacts will be. Often the group involved in the “sales” process isn’t actually the team you end up working with. Meet the crew you’ll be working with most often and get a sense of their communication style and approach to problem-solving. It is also helpful to find out about their past experience and success working with similar clients or in similar industries. This helps ensure that you have the right fit and can build trust in your partnership moving forward.
It’s also important to ensure you have some chemistry with your team. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on the phone, in Zoom calls and in person with your agency team, so there should be a good rapport and you should enjoy their company at some level. Here’s a good temperature check: can you imagine sitting next to them on a five-hour flight to NYC?
Another important aspect of the client/agency relationship is how the senior members of the agency team treat the most junior members. An agency that treats its newest, youngest staffers with respect, and lets them contribute is likely an agency you should consider, assuming they check all the other boxes.
The Industry Experience
While not necessarily a make-or-break factor, it is beneficial to find an agency partner with pre-existing knowledge and connections within your industry or vertical, even if the experience is elsewhere within the supply chain. This attribute can help shorten the learning curve and possibly open the door later for new partnerships and synergistic opportunities.
Try to get a sense of how connected the agency is with your brand, product, service, or category. Are members of your prospective agency team in your target market? Do they seem to know the language, jargon, expectations, other brands, closest competitors, and trade shows in your industry? This knowledge can be incredibly advantageous for helping your brand stand out in your industry and resonate with your target audience.
The Business Acumen
When getting to know potential agency partners, note whether they offer incremental ideas and recommendations beyond the original scope of work discussion. An agency that is legitimately looking out for your brand will proactively look for ways to deliver real impact that grows your business – even if those ideas fall outside traditional marketing, advertising, or PR. This relationship transcends the typical client/agency arrangement to become a true collaborative partnership.
The right agency for your business will help solve your problems and meet your business objectives strategically and with a plan. Don’t fall for flashy promises and unknown guarantees. If you are transparent and open with them about the goals and objectives you’re trying to achieve with a budget, the agency should be able to give you a scope of work that aligns with the main points you’ve discussed, develop a plan to help you achieve your goals and objectives, and drive results that make a positive impact on your business.
One key factor for maximizing marketing results is cross channel integration. Agencies that only consider implementing their specialty without knowledge of your brand’s entire marketing and communications landscape will always be limited in their success. If the prospective agency does not seek to leverage integration, this is likely how they will perform in their agency role and may not be the best fit for your business.
While not always the most important factor, get a sense of the agency’s availability and any limits the team may put in place. In today’s 24/7 marketing climate, a good agency partner will have your back on nights, weekends, or even holidays as needed – but setting expectations early will guide the workflow and allow the agency to maximize results for your brand.
The Good & The Bad
To get a good understanding of how your prospective agency might work with you, take a look at its other client/agency relationships. Ask your prospective agency to provide you with contact details for at least several current clients who can give you the real scoop. What do their other clients say about them? What value have those clients found in partnering with the agency? What challenges have they helped to solve? Were there any obstacles too big for the agency to overcome?
Marketing is a rapidly evolving field, and while many tactics are tried-and-true, others require experimentation. That’s especially true of PR and social – sometimes an agency needs to try multiple tactics to see what works, and they won’t always succeed. Is your prospective agency willing to talk about its past failures? Expertise is gained by trying and failing as much as it is through success – and a good agency partner should have the humility to share its process and approach as readily as it discusses past wins.
Selecting the right marketing/PR agency partner requires careful consideration and evaluation. Look for an agency whose proven results, curiosity, and culture meet your specific needs and one with which you can establish open communication to build a strong, collaborative relationship. Taking the time to get to know the team and their experience helps ensure you are partnering with an agency that is equipped to deliver results and drive real business impact. Choose wisely and watch your brand soar to new heights.
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