How to find the right agency to produce your marketing material

Whether you are looking to produce a brochure, advertisement, website or undergo a complete rebrand, with hundreds of agencies out there vying for your business, how do you find one which you can really trust with your brand and hard-earned cash?

Having worked both in agencies and within in-house marketing teams, I have seen it all.  From clients who go through the pitch process just to gain ideas, agencies who offer services outside of their remit then hastily employ staff to work on the account, clients who change their mind about the new company name right at the end of the rebrand. Most importantly, and more encouragingly, I have seen some amazing and incredibly successful projects unfold.

Choosing an agency can be a sticky and challenging process. Here are a few honest tips on how to be a strong swimmer in a custard bowl full of agencies.

Here are a few definite ‘do nots’.

Do not be vague or unsure of what you want

You wouldn’t expect a construction company to build you a house without a plan, so try to think of design agencies in the same way. Designers need to know what you are trying to achieve, in what time frame and why. Remember that only you know your business objectives so simply asking an agency to help you, or your website, to be more successful is an impossible request.  If this is really what you need, start with a business development consultancy and come back to a design agency at a later stage.

Do not use an agency that doesn’t understand you

An agency should be enthusiastic about your product or service and understand what you are trying to achieve. You will need to meet with a few agencies and I would recommend going to their offices and asking to see their design studio. Look at the projects they are working on. Do they excite or interest you? If not this is probably not the agency for you.

Do not be too specific about what your finished material should look like

If you are employing a team of talented designers, do not do yourself an injustice by giving them a paint-by-numbers description of how you want your material to look. If you have a very specific idea in mind, a good agency will produce a version to your specification and give you two or three alternatives.

Now the dos.

Have a clear brief

1. Work out how much you are willing to invest

A reputable agency will not waste your money. They will give you a realistic idea of what you can achieve within your budget. They want your business and will try their hardest to cut costs for you.

2. Work out what kind of results you want to achieve

Expanding your client base is a good start but not enough information to work with. Think about which sector are you trying to target and why. Have you expanded your offering? What has worked / not succeeded in the past? What kind of feedback do you have from your current customers? What is exciting about your product or service? What are your USPs? How would you define your business in 10 words?

All of this information will help an agency to understand your objectives.

3. Have a realistic timeline

A design process needs to be right, there is no point in rushing an exercise which requires such a great investment of time and resources. Expect a complete rebrand to take about 5 months from the time of agency selection to roll out.  Brochures usually take upwards of a month, depending on length and content, websites from two to six months depending on their complexity. Advertisements are quicker because your brand and objectives are usually already defined. RedWorks’ clients sometimes give us a very short lead time to turn around an ad, this is achievable when the agency already has a good understanding of your business and your objectives.

Shop around

Request a number of agency credentials and decide if their work is engaging, impactful and interesting.  You can read about agencies on industry websites such as Campaign or Marketing Week, or you could employ an intermediary agency to handle this stage, such as Oyster Catchers. If you are running the process independently you should choose around five or six of the agencies, which had good credentials submissions, to issue your brief to. Be prepared for questions, in fact, be concerned if an agency does not have any questions.

Set timelines 

Have set deadlines for each stage:

1. Receipt of credentials
2. Delivery of pitch documents
3. Decision of agency selection for pitch presentations
4. Pitch presentations
5. Results of pitch

Involve a team to read submissions

Ideas are often subjective so ask a few of your team to be involved in the pitch process. You will need help deciding which agencies to invite to pitch and finally which agency to hire.

Choose a few agencies for the pitch presentation

Select at least three agencies to invite to present their pitch ideas. You need to keep your options open but, similarly, don’t give yourself too much work by choosing too many agencies. The pitch process can be lengthy and time consuming.

Visit the agencies

As mentioned previously, you need to see your potential agency at work so go to the agencies’ offices for the pitch process. Being in a creative environment is a fun experience and the agencies will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

Hold pitch presentations on different days

It is a good idea to hold the presentations on different days as you will be travelling to the agencies which is likely to be tiring. Also, you do not want to be overloaded with information as you need to keep a clear head for this final, crucial stage. Don’t rush the process at the last hurdle as you have already invested a great deal of time in it. You can expect to be well fed and watered too so it is more fun if you spread the experience out.

Enjoy yourself

If you are not enjoying the experience strike the agency off the list immediately.  Your working relationship should be easy and pleasurable and the pitch presentation is a direct representation of things to come. Expect to be well cared for during the presentation process so indulge in it and just have fun!