Off the Radar - Insights from Stealth Creative

Puddle Jumping With Mindy: How Do I Hire the Perfect Ad Agency?

So you’ve decided an ad agency could help you. Now what? Where do you turn to begin your search? What type of agency do you need? How do you know if it’s a good fit?

When I was on the client side of the business, it crossed my mind a few times to hire an agency. The thought was just as quickly extinguished because it was frightening! I immediately thought: Too expensive! More people to manage! Interviewing time and hassle! If only I’d had someone back then to help me realize it doesn’t have to be any of those things!

So let’s walk through these steps one by one to understand how you can easily hire an ad agency that’s the right partner for you and your company.

Building the case

A long time ago in a faraway land, I was a beginning marketing person. I had no staff and was responsible for a pretty big marketing budget. The first thing I wanted to do was hire more help, but even more important was ensuring diversity of thinking within the marketing team.

My product was telecommunications, and my target market didn’t want it. We needed to perform some foundational work and reposition the product in the customer’s mind. And it would’ve been great to enlist the help of an agency for that heavy lift.

Many times the first battle when thinking about hiring an ad agency can be within your own company. Leadership asks: Why do you need an ad agency? How much will this cost? Why can’t you handle the marketing yourself?

Here’s my checklist to build your case for hiring an ad agency.

1) Review and understand which marketing tactics you use.
Copywriting, design, coding, events, digital media, PR, direct marketing and traditional tactics, SEM/SEO, video, website, email, social media, oh my! There are so many tactics today, and each tactic requires specific expertise and perhaps tactical software to manage.

One marketing person cannot possibly have expertise in all these things, as many of the tools in marketing require different skill sets. And even if you find an amazingly talented person, there is still is a limit on how much one person can do effectively. You may have team members with expertise in the majority of these disciplines, but chances are there’s a resource gap or two that an agency can help fill.

2) Save time.
Most business owners are busy running their business and at best have lean marketing staffs. By hiring an ad agency, you get the tools and experience of experts in specific disciplines without needing to hire, train and pay benefits to a new staff member. It’s generally more cost-effective than building your own in-house agency.

3) Consider your budget.
Understanding your current marketing spend, revenue and overall budget is a good place to start when deciding how much you have to spend on agency services. Keep in mind the revenue numbers might vary depending on if you are marketing to businesses or consumers. Remember, even a little help can be a huge benefit to your marketing resources.

4) Diversity of thinking.
Marketing is not black and white, and it really helps to have a few different brains coming together to offer different ideas for projects, tactics, creative and more. Hearing different perspectives can also help you get inside your customer’s viewpoints, which is crucial for your marketing efforts.

5) Measurement
When you hire the right ad agency, it’s pretty easy to measure success when the correct KPIs are put into place. It’s critical to have that discussion up front to ensure your agency partner understands your business goals and objectives to work with you to develop a strategy that can accomplish those goals.

6) Do more with less.
By hiring an agency who is truly a partner to help you with your marketing tactics, you can do more marketing without needing to hire more staff! You’ll have more arms and legs to help who also serve as an extension of your team.

7) Learning happens. 
As you work together more and more, the ad agency learns your business, which enables a good agency to expose you to new ideas and constantly share the learning.

Picking the perfect partner

Chemistry is key.
Like all relationships, chemistry is probably the first criteria to focus on. Meet with the ad agency team to understand their personalities, and if they’ll mesh with you and your team.

Make sure you meet and like the head of your account as well as your day-to-day account manager. Some marketers are so wowed by the ad agency; they become intimidated by them, which does not make for a good working relationship. You and your agency should be in a true partnership.

It’s important for there to be good respect both ways. After all, you’re hiring them for their expertise and experience in specific marketing disciplines. Put that expertise to good use! Likewise, they’ll learn from you and your business to make the partnership the perfect combination.

Budget is definitely a factor.
Cost is important at the end of the day. Fewer agencies today use hourly rates and instead charge by the project itself – often with a monthly retainer in place to help you balance out your expenses. But after a discovery session with the agency, it’s wise to talk about your budget. Ideally, you, as the client, should assign the budget amount, and then the agency should divide that budget into a tactical plan. Because agencies work with multiple clients, they can often use negotiation with vendors to get better pricing for all.

The bottom line.
You and your agency of choice should ask: How can we best achieve my goals on this budget?

Final thoughts

Working with an ad agency should be fun and energizing. It should be based on two-way trust and help you achieve much more than you and your team could do internally with current resources and expertise.

It should be a relationship that improves as you each get to know one another, and it should be mutually beneficial.

Coming up next, we’ll talk about how to work effectively with your ad agency! There are certainly tricks to that trade.

As always, feel free to reach out to talk more about working with an agency or to set up your own discovery session.

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