Making the decision to hire a creative agency and be both exciting and terrifying all at the same time. You're ready to showcase a new product, service, or just boot sales.
However, you're nervous that you'll have spent 10's of thousands of dollars and won't see any results. The good news is that if you happen to hire a creative agency that is excellent, then they will fit your needs, your budget, and make the process enjoyable.
What I'm about to share with you will be a peak behind the curtain.
Great creative agency's will embrace these questions and give you clear answers with sound reasoning. Poor ones will skirt around them and appear squirmy or sound unclear in their answers.
The inital phase for any agency will be to evaluate your needs. This can happen in a single call, or, more likely, multiple calls. They will need to completely understand your business, your goals, and your budget.
Pro Tip: if you only have a short, single call before receiving a proposal - walk away! Any agency that can create a proposal with little to no information does NOT understand or business and will struggle to deliver an ROI (Return On Investment).
During this phase, you should be evaluating or qualifying them as much as they are qualifying you. However, you may not have hired a creative agency before and feel unsure about the best questions to ask. After all, your full-time job is running your business, not evaluating creative partnerships.
So, to get you started, here are 3 important questions that you should ask before hiring a creative agency and what you should look for in an answer.
1. What philosophy or methodology do you use?
This question will reveal if the agency is focused on tactics (web design, SEO, television) or strategy (inbound marketing, iconography, traditional marketing). You may be asking why this is important.
Agencies focused on tactics are typically very good a a technical craft. However, a single tactic without the context of a strategy will not help you win in the marketplace.
It's a bit like an NFL quarterback that can throw a perfect spiral but doesn't understand the gameplan and can't read the defense. I'm sure you can think of at least a couple of real life QBs that were like that. Didn't workout too well, did it?
What you're looking for: Indicators that whatever they may offer to do is guided by an overall strategy. And, that their strategy is a proven one with a history of success. For example, my agency utilizes the inbound marketing methodology.
2. How frequently will we review progress?
Good agency's will usually have a schedule to review progress that varies with the type of project or retainer.
Another variable that exists, which may seem harsh, is the value of the retainer. If you spend more money and your retainer has more moving parts, you tend to get atttention more frequently. You would do the same for one of your larger clients/customers, wouldn't you?
At a minimum, they should review progress/results/updates on a monthly basis. Other common review schedules are bi-monthly and weekly. Just keep in mind that increased frequency means less information at each meeting.
So, don't loose confidence or develop mistrust if you don't have some fully fleshed out action while meeting weekly. The best way to bring out the best in a "creative" is to try to understand and trust their process.
What you're looking for: While there's no "right" answer, you should be leary of any response that sounds like you'll meet at the beginning and again at delivery.
3. How will what you do generate leads for my business?
This one may be the most important question to ask. This is how you find out how you're going to get a return on your investment.
During a conversation with a prospective client, I asked how his current website/marketing was generating leads. His answer was, "It's not, but I guess I haven't done a good job of leading them (his current agency) to what I want."
I told him that leading a creative agency isn't his job. It's there's or mine. You wouldn't go to a doctor and tell them how to heal you. The same goes for you.
What you're looking for: An intelligent answer that clearly explains how their strategy of choice can and will generate leads for your business on a regular basis. It needs to be a path that they can verbally walk you through. Not just "a better looking website or this television commercial will encourage people to give you their information"
A great looking website that doesn't convert visitors into leads is just a really expensive digital business card. You'll also never make back that $4,000 - $15,000. Shame.
I don't remember who originally said this but it's true, "if you want better answers, start asking better questions." These questions, will help you hire a creative agency that will function like a partner and not just a vendor.
You will get insight not just from the content of their answers, but from their tone of voice or body language (if you're meetin in person).
Question: What questions have you used when trying to hire a creative agency? What did you learn?