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Filtering Agencies & Agency Criteria Framework

With over two decades in Marketing, Growth and Product leadership roles, you typically develop your own internal framework for filtering agencies or criteria you use when working through onboarding an agency.

This framework and series of questions are going to help you to filter through potential agencies and help to select your right partner for future success.

Skills-based

  • Internal skills gap – Are there skills gaps or missing knowledge where an external agency or consultant can set up and drive the business forward?
  • Headcount – Is there a headcount struggle? Are there restrictions on hiring or a need to keep headcount low? If yes, an agency might be the only way forward.
  • Agency fees – Does the agency charge much higher fees? Will the agency fees stay static?
  • Agency skills – Does the agency have unique skills or understanding of your market? Does the agency have the skills to fill the requirements?
  • Important Question: Will the external agency help to train and develop the skills gap within the team

People-based

  • Will the agency align with the team?
    – Important to understand upfront and use company culture and department subculture as a guide.
  • Will the agency team add value to the existing team?
    – This is important as a close working relationship will be important, especially if the agency is taking on acquisition.
  • Will the agency team or account team be able to ramp up within two work sessions?
    – Agency onboarding can be challenging, this should not take more than a couple of sessions to hit the ground running and improve numbers.
  • Can the agency own a line as if they were an internal team member?
    – Your trust of your agency should be on par with a new staff member, you are hiring for them to fill a role and objectives. If they will not own the stream of work, these are likely the wrong partners.
  • How good is the actual agency team vs the pitching team?
    – The pitch team often is very different to team working on your account, the account team is the fairer representation of the agency vs the pitching team. Ensure you virtually meet the account exec or manager throughout the pitch process.
  • How good is the account management?
    – If account management is poor or constantly reactive how will they address this?
  • An important question when you will rely on working closely with the new agency partner. Would I hire the account manager or director if they were available on the market?
    – If the answer is no, are you adding to the existing team? Are you improving the output of the team? Really dive into this the first few weeks of the relationship.
  • If there was a problem would they own it and let me know before I knew?
    – This is essential in teams of any size, you will want the agency partner to act like they are part of the team and owning the line. Ensure you manage expectations up front and list as a requirement.

Budget based

  • How much will it cost?
    – Cost should never be a surprise, especially with follow up pricing, extra charges or work that is outside of the retainer, these have to be called out up front.
  • Are they worth the extra vs another agency?
    – This is hard to judge unless you really ask the right questions and understand the output. Cheaper doesn’t mean more value, more expensive doesn’t mean better results. Understand the cost and value of both.
  • How much is their agency fees?
    – Fees can be complicated if not a flat retainer, if tools are extra, ensure you receive a full breakdown of costs and fees.

ROI based

  • Will there be a positive ROI? When does the agency suggest there will be ROI from their activity?
    – ROI is essential in almost all companies, especially with Marketing teams, ROI and ROAS can be mapped out. If your agency partner cannot predict this and map out according question are they worth working alongside.
  • How long before ROI vs how to maximise x?
    – ROI is important but if you are looking for an agency to maximise a different metric, are they going to be able to help you with these goals or KPI’s? An example would be in Marketing & Growth, would the agency work add benefit to amplify your message, distribute your message in a cost-effective way to an audience you don’t have access to? Will this then lead to better metrics?

Reporting Based

  • What type of reporting do they offer?
    – Does this answer the problems you are looking to solve? Is it telling you numbers vs insights of the campaign?
  • When do they report?
    – What are you looking for? Weekly, monthly, quarterly?
  • How do they report?
    – Automated report? Added commentary? A run through in person? Or a remote video with insights provided?
  • Will dashboards be repackaged as reports?
    – If yes, this is likely not the right agency partner?
  • How is their communication based around numbers and insights?
    – Does their insights add value? Or do they just turn numbers into %’s?
  • Passive reporting vs proactive reporting?
    – Is reporting an important area for the agency to add value? Do they proactively dig into the data and numbers to improve your relationship and numbers?

Tools:

Does the agency have unique tools?
– Many agencies have a tech team or data team that build out unique tools, will these add value vs off the self tools?

Do they have any unique insights or tool kits that would help you excel?
– There are many tools and unique tools that can help you win, some agencies can offer completely unique insights with Analytics extensions, browser extensions and plug and play tools.

Other Important Questions To Ask:

Ask: How is the account team set up?

Ask: How regularly does the account team change?

Ask: When there is a problem or issues, how will you address these?

Ask: What are your working hours?

Ask: What is your ETA’s and turn around times?

Ask: How will you support us through annual leaves

Ask: Is anything bespoke we can benefit from?

Ask: How big you are and how important you will be for the budget you will be spending monthly.
Some agencies are set up to support you and help you thrive, others are set up to scale their agency, a scaling agency going through growth can underserve you as a client. Understand if price and retainer impact you as a client, many will not expect this question and the answer is important.


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