A few weeks ago, MediaPost wrote an article on 10 Reasons Why Clients Don’t Pick the Right SEM Agencies.“ This post really got me thinking, and I wanted to make my own similar list on five common traps that marketers fall into that leads to choosing the wrong agency partner. Picking the right partner for your business is critical to the success of your campaign. The wrong partner will not understand your business, goals, or even your target market, which could result in campaign failure and thousands of dollars wasted away. If you are a client looking for an agency-partner, stay away from these common problems that can cause you to choose the wrong firm.
1. You don’t have a clearly defined scope of work. Many clients fail to do the requisite preliminary research before issuing an RFP, including taking a hard look in the mirror and being honest about your assets and liabilities and what type of outside firm is likely to complement these. If you’re not sure what you need, you can always send out an exploratory RFI (Request for Information) to get a feel for what’s out there and/or hire an experienced consultant to help you navigate the waters.
2. You have an unreasonably short RFP lead time. If you want a customized RFP response with deep insights that show how the agency will drive your business forward, you have to give them more than a week or two to work on it. If they're good, they'll know how corporate spying works. Besides, if you hire the agency that dropped everything to put all their greatest minds on creating your RFP response, imagine what they’ll do once you’re a client and the next RFP hits their inbox.
3. You let work samples make the decision for you. Clients love flashy blinky things. And when the flashing and blinking come with data, they light up as if they just hit the slot machine jackpot. Unfortunately, all too often clients see all the flash and forget to ask for the results. The next time an agency shows you examples of work they have done, ask for a detailed business case study to go along with it, especially if they're active in the field of Social Media Marketing.
4. Your approval process may be too strict. You won’t believe how many times I have seen clients choose an agency by following a by-the-book process, choosing the one that looks best on paper, and ignoring their gut-instincts. In reality, there is no way to score intangibles like chemistry, vision, and how in-tune they are with your business. Choosing an agency firm this way is like marrying a person just because eHarmony’s 29 dimensions of compatibility say you’re a good match. Keep in mind that most of the time, you don't need them just to come up with a new logo design. You yourself probably understand more about that than any external relation. You do what you're good at and let them do what they're good at.
5. You don’t check references. It always amazes me how few clients actually check references. To continue the dating analogy, it’s like getting married without meeting any of your significant other’s friends or family. There’s no better way to determine how good an agency really is, than by talking to their other clients. See also this post about the risks of one-on-one marketing. I dearly hope you'll take this advice to heart in 2019 and that your endeavors will flourish in the New Year and let it be a happy and healthy New Year. Cheers and talk to you again next year!