Choosing the right marketing agency can be just as stressful as finding the right hire for an internal opening. However, instead of paying an employee over a period of a time, you are often paying for that hope of excellence upfront. Needless to say, it can be a very overwhelming but necessary decision.
I won't go into the pros and cons of working with a marketing agency. You can read a little more about that here. But, I will say that the right marketing agency can give brands the arms and brains needed to do more at a better pricepoint without impacting internal resources.
In the article mentioned above, I talk about a four-quadrant approach (as seen below) on how to stack agencies against each other but what this doesn't tackle is the human decision that goes into choosing an agency once you've noted the differences.
This is where match ranking comes into play.
What Is Match Ranking
Part of my job is to guide brands through the agency selection process so I've had the pleasure of seeing what amounts to a successful relationship. It always starts with the four-quadrant and ends with match ranking. Match ranking looks at a couple of factors within the quadrant, compares the factors against a company's own approach, and finally ranks those factors in order of importance to the company. Below are a couple of those factors we review to find the "right fit".
Company Culture vs. Agency Culture
Reviewing your internal company culture and business operations/preferences is just as important as reviewing an agency's. Culture match can head off creative and performance-related issues that you may encounter with an agency once the project kicks off. For example, if you are a "buttoned up" company that is highly reliant on following rules or processes, you may be tempted to try the agency that takes a "fun, out of the box approach" thinking it will help you sidestep the usual marketing approach. And, it just might. But, the challenges and conflicts you may face with your executive, legal, and/or sales teams may delay time to market or worse, water down the end output. It can also potentially sour the relationship before things even get off the ground making it even more difficult to produce award-winning material. By weighing your company culture against the agency's culture, you can better prepare for the pros and cons of aligning your businesses.
Agile vs. Process-Driven
There are benefits to both agile agencies and process-driven agencies. In the best-case scenario an agency may be both agile and process-driven but one quality usually takes precendent over the other. Smaller agencies are often able to act quickly, adjust to change, and try new innovative techniques without hesitation. This agility can improve customer satisfaction as they can adjust to customer needs on the spot. Client loyalty and experience is critical to these boutique or small shops so going above and beyond becomes second nature. Larger agencies have a little more redtape to get through but they've been able to prove out their process-driven approaches, which can add an extra layer of confidence before even starting the relationship. Finding alignment in this area can lead to more productive conversations, faster approvals, and faster execution.
Internal Communication Style vs. Agency Communication Style
The right agency should be an extension of your business not just another vendor. As such, you should be confident in their communication style and frequency. If you need constant contact, then find an agency who displays this approach during the proposal process. The right fit will be the one that can mirror how you expect to be communicated with.
Rank Your Findings
After matching, do a final assessment of what's most important to you. You can rank the above factors however you want (from 1-5, least important to most important, etc.). This will help you narrow down your choices to whoever is the best fit.
As you embark on your next journey to hire an agency or vendor, keep match ranking in mind every step of the way. If you do, then you can be confident that you've selected the right marketing agency.