A Client’s Guide to Appointing a Marketing Agency

The very start of a client and agency relationship is important, it can set the tone for how any future projects will go and ultimately whether it will be a long and productive partnership. At Workhouse, we dedicate a lot of time to improving our relationships and the way we work with our clients. However, we thought an agency perspective for clients who are looking to appoint an agency could be handy, especially for those who haven’t had much experience of outsourcing marketing and creative work.

The Shortlist

It’s always good practice to shortlist a number of agencies for a project. However, beware of shortlisting too many as it creates more work for you in whittling them down. Firstly, figure out what it is you want to achieve then look for agencies that offer that skill. If you feel it’s important that they’re located close to you (which is not always the case) then look for some of the top agencies nearby offering that service.

The first things you should scrutinise is the website. Take a good look around and try to get a flavour of the agency. In particular, if its online take a look at their case studies and past work, any agency worth their salt will have a range that you can look through, you can see ours here, for example.  

The Brief

It’s important that you really scrutinise the brief you submit for a proposal. Whilst many agencies are great, they’re only as good as the brief they receive. Too strict and it doesn’t allow for creativity, too loose and it’s likely you will get something different to what you expected in response.

Also, many good agencies will want to spend some time questioning a brief instead of just blindly accepting and interpreting them. This is a good thing and shouldn’t be seen as an inconvenience, it’s this extra attention to detail that could make your project work and you would be surprised how often key details are found out during these initial meetings.  

From these questions, a great agency will try to add value to your brief and maybe even suggest more suitable alternatives. Don’t be offended if this is the case, it’s simply the agency doing what you’re already considering hiring them for.

The Budget

We often find that the budget can be a tricky one for clients. Like many agencies, we ask for an idea of the budget up front. We must stress that this is not so that we can make sure we get the most money possible, it’s simply so that we can tailor a marketing plan specific to your budget and ensure it’s spent in the most economical way. Our only goal is to provide our clients with the most value possible for their budget, never to fleece them.

In the creative and marketing sector, much like any other, you do often get what you pay for. If you have a number of agencies listed and one submits a quote that’s way below the others it’s not always a good thing. Before accepting a lower quote it’s worth doing some due diligence to find out why.

Finally, beware that some unscrupulous agencies, and luckily there isn’t many, that submit lower quotes with the intention of asking for more later on when the works already half done. For this reason, always make sure you get in writing what you expect to receive for your money to ensure that this price doesn’t change unless the brief changes.

The Pitch

The pitch is one of the most critical elements of choosing a marketing agency. Of course, what’s presented will depend entirely on the brief you have provided. Pitch work for an agency often requires hours of work upfront with no guaranteed income, so it’s important to consider this. The best agencies will always present a fully formed idea and possibly even some speculative creative.

It’s at this stage that the agency may propose a return on the investment. Whilst it’s impossible to accurately judge what the results of the campaign are, you should seek to get some tangible returns agreed upon. Hiring an agency without any agreement on what’s expected from both sides is simply a recipe for disaster.

If a pitch is sloppy and incoherent without a solid structure and no mention of the results, this should serve as a warning flag.

And finally…

It’s important to remember that embarking on a relationship with an agency is a two-way street. We want to work with you, not for you, as an extension of your wider team. Good agencies will only ever seek to add value to a business’s marketing efforts and provide insights and expertise. The search for your ideal marketing agency isn’t one you should take lightly if you choose well it could be a relationship that spans years. And we should know, our oldest client has been with us for over 25 years!