Finding the right ad agency for your company’s needs can be a challenging task. Type the words “ad agency” into a Google search, for example, and you’ll get more than 2 billion results. From here, you’ll see everything from giant media conglomerates and high-profile advertising agencies to small shops specializing in digital or social media. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to end up with an agency that’s the totally wrong fit for your mission, budget and objectives.
Here are six signs that it might be time to look for a new agency that’s in a better position to help you achieve your goals — and what to look for when you’re on the hunt for a new partner:
1. Expertise and Skills Don’t Align with Your Needs
Think about your big-picture goals. Are you looking to up the sales on your e-commerce site? Do you need to funnel more leads to your sales team? Is awareness of your new product lacking in the marketplace? Does your reputation need a makeover? Are you launching a new brand? With these overarching goals identified, you can focus your search on agencies with relevant experience. You’ll also want to do your research on the agency’s experience in your specific industry. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, an agency that has worked in your space before will be able to hit the ground running, with a better understanding of the market, competitors, the media landscape and relevant language and lingo.
2. Billing is Over Budget or Full of Surprises
When it comes to money, nobody likes to be surprised. Ever. Yet unexpected expenses or extra charges aren’t unusual in the world of advertising. Creative work can lead to more time or resources spent on a project than what was anticipated at the front end. To avoid this, follow some simple rules of the road. First, establish the main goals you have for your advertising and assess how much you are willing to allocate to achieve them. Next, ask any prospective agencies you are considering working with exactly how their pricing works, and how they handle the billing of extra time.
Agencies can structure their pricing in different ways. For larger engagements, such as agency of record (AOR) agreements, an agency may propose a monthly retainer. This is a set fee each month with a dedicated bucket of hours to be performed. Another pricing option is project-based pricing, where an agency will quote you a price for the project and that will be the flat fee regardless of the hours used to complete the work. When the scope of an engagement is uncertain or open ended, many companies will opt for hourly billing in which the number of hours the agency works are billed to the company. In this scenario, a cap can be set to ensure the work stays within your budget. Most agencies will work with a client to find the pricing structure and budget that best suits their needs.
3. Senior Staff is Nowhere to be Seen
Some agencies bring out the big guns for a pitch, and after winning the work, they staff the account with junior team members and the client never sees the pitch team again. Ask any prospective agency to identify who will be working on the account and in what capacity to ensure your account is serviced with senior-level strategic thinking. During meetings with the agency, get a feel for the team to see if there is good chemistry that can form the foundation for a fruitful business partnership.
4. The Ad Agency has a Narrow Set of Skills
Your campaign may call for a mixed bag of skill sets and capabilities. In cases like these, more work done in-house means more quality control. Having better authority concerning these deliverables can stretch your budget further since it won’t have to subcontract a third party. Ask about in-house capabilities relevant to your needs, such as design, development, videography, animation, editing, coding, photography, media buying, search engine optimization (SEO) and public relations.
5. Promises Don’t Live up to Reality
A good agency will deliver on its promises. Make sure that the agency you’re looking at is credible and fully capable of the work you will be paying it to do. A deep dive into research won’t hurt. Check out work samples and case studies, read client testimonials and ask for client references. Sometimes reading reviews on Clutch, Expertise and even Yelp will give you a good idea of the agency’s work and reputation. There are a lot of offshore agencies making big promises they aren’t qualified to fulfill, so do your research and get insider views from clients who have worked with the agency before.
You’ll also want an agency that practices what it preaches. How does the agency advertise and market itself? Is the agency using best practices on its website and social media channels? In the long run, it pays to do your research to ensure you’re investing your time, energy and budget with the right agency.
6. Company Cultures Aren’t a Good Fit
Last but not least, it’s important to make sure the agency of your choice is a good fit for your company’s culture. When your ideas and philosophies align, working together will be easier and ideas and inspiration will be more in sync — which leads to better results. At the end of the day, would you want to go get dinner with the people and team you’re working with? You have the choice of who you surround yourself and your business with. Relationships and understanding each other on a creative and professional level can be one of the most important factors in choosing an agency.
Need help? We might be just the right fit. If you’re struggling to handle a marketing, public relations, graphic or any other creative project on your own, we’re here to help. To learn more about our services, feel free to contact us. We can discuss your needs and dreams in depth and determine the next steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.