How to pick the right agency

Get the most bang for your buck. Learn how to pick the agency best suited for your challenges.
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A successful agency collaboration is about more than just the agency’s ability to produce an intelligent, creative, and effective solution. It’s as much about creating the right setting for a successful collaboration that ensures the right result, value for money, and that you don’t exceed your budget.

No matter whether you are selecting an agency for your first communications or marketing job or whether you are an experienced CMO with a long history of agency collaborations, there’s an understandable level of uncertainty that comes with picking the right agency.

Typically, you will need help with a job that requires qualifications other than the ones you master inhouse, and naturally, that makes it difficult to judge who is right for the job. Internally, it’s your reasonable expectation that the final result hits the mark, so you need to find a qualified partner than you are confident in.

Luckily, there are a few rules of thumb that can help you ensure that the agency collaboration is both a positive experience and produces a satisfactory result.

Outline your challenge

The most important premise for a successful agency collaboration is defining exactly what you need. Naturally, that’s easier said than done.

That’s why you need to set aside plenty of time to outline and define your task as precisely as possible. If you haven’t defined the challenge and made some tough choices in advance, it’s going to be very hard for others to help you. You need to have an open dialogue within your team so that everyone with any influence on the project gets a chance to express their opinions.

Internal stakeholder management is a significant and often overlooked part of successful agency collaborations. It’s important to include every relevant stakeholder from the beginning. If their input is only included later on, it can complicate the process and have negative consequences for the internal buy-in.

If you haven’t defined the challenge and made some tough choices in advance, it’s going to be very hard for others to help you.
Mette Hejl CEO & Partner

Generally speaking, an agency is never better than the briefing they receive. Make sure to be clear on what you expect of the collaboration and what goals the project must live up to. You need to be realistic. Even the best agencies can’t solve all your issues with the wave of a magic wand, so limit your challenge and you will have a much better chance of success.

Choose the right partner for the job

There’s a dense undergrowth of agencies with widely different areas of specializations and operations. Some primarily operate with strategy, some handle more operational jobs, and then there’s the ones that master both. The question is, what type of agency best fits your challenge?

No matter the job, it’s always sensible to choose a specialist agency that is among the best at what they do. There are plenty of so-called ‘full service’ agencies that claim to master everything, and while there are many great ones, it’s really difficult to be a jack of all trades. Take it from an agency that knows all about it: we’ve been there ourselves but we moved on.

If you pick a specialized partner, you avoid many common, rookie mistakes and you can be more confident that their process is thoroughly tested.
Mette Hejl CEO & Partner

Then there’s the matter of personal chemistry. Even if your agency is an external partner, the collaboration will most often become so close that the agency’s team end up serving as temporary colleagues.

It requires the same open dialogue and trust that is reserved for the ‘inner circle’. In most companies there are invisible demands, agendas, and considerations that you need to involve your agency in. Even the ‘sore’ parts where thing aren’t all roses.

The key to the final solution is often hidden behind a wall of invisible dynamics and inappropriate business practices. The kind you only show to people you trust.

So, it’s important that you probe the market and take your time to meet with potential candidates for the job, and gather references from your network. It’s time well spent if, for example, you need help with a big job that has implications for the business strategy and core services for years to come.

You help build the desirable process

When you have selected your agency, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. For the collaboration to stay a collaboration, it’s important to define when individual parts of the overall solution need to be done. This helps drive the process and aligns everyone involved, and it’s your guarantee that your requests will be transformed into concrete initiatives that are ready when you need them to be.

It might sound trivial, but none the less, it’s an important point. A process is rarely as linear as it seems on the initial project plan. That goes for agency collaborations as well and so, there will likely be questions and unexpected challenges that call for adjustments.

A thorough brief minimizes the risk of ugly surprises during the project. It’s also crucial for the timetable that the people feeding the agency with information about the business and service, are available as needed. Alternatively, the plan will slide, and your budget will suddenly look a lot different than it did starting out.

It goes for any agency collaboration that the finished work is not a success in itself. You need to make it a success.

Take the reins when your agency lets go

A central part of the successful process lies in successfully implementing the work, you just bought. Many companies have a tendency to think that when the agency delivers their solution, the project is finished. The truth is, however, that it has only just begun.

It goes for any agency collaboration that the finished work is not a success in itself. You need to make it a success. And to succeed, well thought out implementation and distribution is pivotal.

Basically, your ability to take the reins when the agency lets go is what decides whether your new strategy will live out its life in the drawer or become a launch pad for future success.

Unfortunately, implementation and activation of the agency’s work is often deprioritized or underestimated when everyday life kicks in. That’s not only disappointing – it’s a waste everyone’s time and your money.

Luckily, with appropriate planning, stakeholder support, and hard work, your agency collaboration will be the launch pad that takes your B2B company’s marketing efforts to new heights.

How you go about it is up you.