5 Tips for Hiring Creative Agencies

5 Tips for Hiring Creative Agencies

Marketing plays in a totally different sandbox these days. Conversations between customers and companies are happening in real-time, and across multiple platforms. Technology makes it easier for new companies to enter—and rattle—established markets. Marketing is taking on a sales role as our digital world enables customers to make their own buying decisions.

These and many other changes can make it more difficult for organizations to clearly communicate their brand or create benefit-driven connections with their customers. To slice through the noise, companies often turn to creative agencies.

Now that technology makes collaboration across distances easier, more companies are working with remote agencies.

Like their traditional counterparts, these flexible agencies offer strategic counsel, creative direction, and production at scale. Because they’re virtual, they’re often a cost-effective way to receive the same high-quality work.

How to know when you’re ready for a creative agency

Parker Channon of Duncan Channon observes most clients go to agencies for the following reasons:

  • Scale: You’re looking for a level of marketing that’s integrated with other channels, or your staff can’t keep up with the workload.
  • Expansion: You know it’s time to reach a broader audience.
  • Perspective: You’re so close to a product that you can’t see what the outside world sees.
  • Clarity: You don’t know how to clearly and quickly explain your story in a compelling way to your audience.
  • Expertise: Especially with rapidly evolving technology, it’s nearly impossible for any single company to have all the specialized skillsets in house.

If you match one or more of these scenarios, keep these tips in mind…

5 tips for your creative agency search

Prepare for your creative agency search with these techniques.

1. Be ready for a partnership

If you want a quick, one-time campaign, don’t hire an agency. Successful agency relationships are a partnership. Agencies require time from you and your staff, commitment to see projects through, and a reasonable budget. You may also share internal data. If you’re not ready for that level of commitment and trust, then it may be better to engage freelance specialists.

2. Don’t freak out about freelancers

It’s not realistic that any single agency has every expert on staff. What’s more, the best talent may not be available locally. That’s why nearly every agency, no matter how large, relies on a go-to bench of freelancers. Instead of focusing on who’s doing the work, it’s more important to focus on receiving quality work that performs well.

3. Create detailed RFPs

The more details you provide about the project scope and about you, the better quality of responses you’ll receive. Agencies expect to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), so don’t hold back on getting one signed, then telling them what you need, timelines, budget, and what you have.

Will Phung of M&C Saatchi Mobile cautions that quality agencies usually won’t reply to vague RFPs. Reputable agencies are looking for partnerships, not one-off projects.

Good RFPs don’t need to be well-written or well designed, just detailed. Don’t say: “I need to run an acquisition campaign and my budget is unlimited.” Get specific: “I have to drive $X dollars. I want you to run paid social and paid search, but I’m going to do display in-house. I have these creative assets already, but I need you to make one video.”

4. Look for fit

Fit is as important as communication. If an agency’s work is too bold or too bland for you, move on. Choose an agency that fits your budget, has the specialties you need, can scale for larger projects, and creates like-minded work. Before sending an RFP, consider prequalifying an agency by talking to them over the phone.

5. Make sure you can communicate with them

During the RFP process, ask to meet the team who you’ll work with day to day. An agency may not be able to introduce you to the full team, but they should be able to present one or two people—preferably the leads. Spend time with them. Make sure you can get along well enough to communicate easily.

If you’re interviewing a remote agency, meet via video through services like Google Hangouts, instead of phone.

Don’t let distance affect your choice either. As a virtual agency, Richmond Concepts uses HipChat, Asana, Skype, email and phone to remain responsive and communicate clearly throughout the project “It’s really like we’re in the same office or in the next cubicle,” says creative director Melody Richmond.

We’re all just human

Many first-time clients feel intimidated talking with their agency team. Richmond reminds us that in the end, you’re one human working with another.

You’ve got to feel comfortable enough to have the tough conversations too, such as when a project is veering off-track or over budget. And don’t be shy about establishing 30-, 60-, and 90-day benchmarks and a schedule for deliverables to show it’ll be a fruitful relationship.

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Author Spotlight

5 Tips for Hiring Creative Agencies
Brenda Do
Copywriter

Brenda Do is a direct-response copywriter who loves to create content that helps businesses engage their target audience—whether that’s through enticing packaging copy to a painstakingly researched thought leadership piece. Brenda is the author of "It's Okay Not to Know"—a book helping kids grow up confident and compassionate.

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