Choosing an agency: Short list interviews

This is part three in a series of three blogs about searching for a creative agency.

Interviewing an agency

Last month I suggested you do some pre-planning before you interview your list of creative agency candidates. This month I’ll coach you through the interview process.

I highly encourage companies to take the time to meet with a short list of agencies before asking them to develop a proposal or pitch your business. How you two work together, relate, think etc. is so important that it overshadows everything else. Period. If you are on the same page from the beginning, expectations are understood, work processes are comfortable and any proposals you get will be more insightful.

So how can you use the interview to find out who’s the best fit for you?

Check for chemistry – ask to meet with more than the front man. In fact, meet the whole team if you can. It’s like speed dating – you’ll know in the first few minutes if the fit is there or not.

Ask about their work – When you study the agency’s sites or blogs jot down a couple of questions or notes about work you liked. To get a feel for their rates, ask them about the campaigns or clients similar to you and what they cost.

Let them interview you – A good agency is also looking for a good fit. They should ask you questions, too. Some of my favorite prospect questions are: Describe your last agency relationship –what worked and what didn’t? What is the primary goal for your company over the next 12 months? What do you want marketing to accomplish for you?

Interview your short list of four or five firms using this method. Then, if you need to, ask select candidates to develop a plan or proposal around a specific project or need.

After having built a rapport with you, agencies will be able to provide more accurate proposals. And they’ll be working hard to win the business of a firm they know they like and fit.

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Choosing an agency? Do your homework first

This is part two in a series of three blogs about searching for a creative agency.


Last month we talked about how to review websites to shop for a creative agency. But before you start interviewing, take some time to do your homework and consider your actual needs.

1. Set objectives. What do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months? What is the one or two things that must be done?

2. Set a budget. How much can you afford to spend on marketing this year, or quarter? True, you’ll get what you pay for –but you also pay for what you get, whether you’re using it or not. Don’t secure a firm that’s more than you really need.

3. Set expectations. Will you write the marketing plan? Will the agency follow your strategic direction? Or are you looking marketing expertise with creative ideas that are also hard working?

4. Consider the process. The more complex your needs, the more complex your support may need to be. Match the agency talents to the tasks. Can you work with more than one firm, allowing you to hire for specific skills? Or are you more comfortable having one firm that can handle everything?

Having this information in mind will help you select a firm that fits your needs and style of working.

Watch for next month’s post when I talk about how to get the most from the interview process.

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Looking for a new agency?


This is part one in a series of three blogs about searching for a creative agency.



In finance there is a common disclaimer – past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns. But, we know that past performance– though no guarantee – is a pretty good indicator of skill and insight.

It’s the same in the marketing and design industry. Past results—or experiences—indicate a firm’s chances to deliver that same result for you.

So how do you assess a creative agency’s ability to meet your needs? Here’s what to look for in a creative agency website.

1. Look for quality AND quantity in their awards. Firms that receive national and international recognition year after year are proven performers.

2. Watch for length of use. If a campaign or branding effort is successful companies stick with it. Does the firms portfolio include work you recognize? Chances are it’s because its been successful enough to remain for use for awhile.

3. Check on the company they keep. Look at their client list. Do you recognize any of the names?  Are there any companies who match yours in terms of size of budget or scope of project? If so, chances are you’ll be a good fit for them.

4. Pay attention to their work style. Browse through the agency portfolio. Do you like the look? The copy? Does the strategy make sense to you? Would you notice the marketing if it came to you?

5. Get a feel for their methodology. Read their “about us” page, and review any case studies they have. Can you tell how they think? Would that work for you?

6. Do you like their personality? Read their blog posts and check out their social media pages to get a feel for personality. Are you looking a fun-loving team or a serious soul who’ll be comfortable with your board of directors?

After studying sites for these factors, you should be able to develop a short list of the firms that are a potential fit for you. Then a face-to-face interview will be essential to determine who has the ability to deliver “results” for you.

Watch for my post in February. I’ll give you tips for how to prepare for the short-list interview.


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