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Picking an Agency Is Like Picking a Horse

5 Tips on Predicting a Winner

It’s that time of year again—time for America’s greatest race!

“The agencies are lined up at their starting posts. The RFP drops, and they’re off! It’s Marketing Maven in the lead with Design Dynamo hot on his heels. Coming up fast is Idea Igniter with Bold Branding not far behind. Killer Creative makes a move on the outside. Marketing Maven is still out in front… Neck and neck, it’s Killer Creative and Marketing Maven! It’s going to be a close one! And the winner is…”

Did you pick the right horse? How do you know? The trouble is you often don’t until the campaign is over, the results are in, and quite possibly it’s too late. The stakes are high for your company’s next move, and the competition is only getting tougher. If you’re looking for a new agency, follow these tips before placing your next bet—take it from the horse’s mouth.

Know the race you’re running

If you’re looking for a new ad agency, really get clear about your business and marketing goals. Know whether you’re running a short race for a quick ROI or if you’re ready to build a brand that will consistently deliver over time. Be specific (and realistic) about your expectations. Whether you’re launching a new product, expanding your market, or growing an online digital presence, nothing sustainable is going to happen overnight. That said, with the right agency for the job, you can create a winning regimen to bring home the gold time and again.

Steer clear of one-trick ponies

Many agencies claim to be experts in your industry. Truth is, they may not be as well-versed as they say. Many agencies specialize in one thing, some in branding, direct response, event marketing, digital, SEO, social media, healthcare, or tech. Find out the agency’s expertise. Ask who will be working on your business and how much time they’ll be allocating toward your account. Be sure the agency team is appropriately staffed with all of the skill sets you’ll need to get the job done.

Suss out the competition

A good agency does its homework to make sure they understand the arena in which they’ll be performing. They’ll research competitors, get inside your customers’ heads, and pinpoint exactly where new business will be coming from. To craft an ROI-winning strategy, your agency must know who they’re talking to and why. After all, you can’t sell horsemeat burgers to vegans.

Check its teeth

When you think you’ve found your horse, give it a good inspection. Take a temperature for agency health. Are the employees happy? How are their financials? Past performance is a pretty good indicator of future success. Look at the work they’ve done and ask yourself if you would have approved it. Ask around and get references from current and past clients. Check out case studies and team expertise. You’ll want the strongest horse to carry you across the finish line.

Can you count on it to take you to the finish line?

Picking an agency is a big investment. It’s a close partnership that, done well, leads to greatness. Like all relationships, it must be rooted in solid communication, open trust, and consistent accountability. Take a look at the agency’s values and look for ways they’ve demonstrated upholding them.

Once you’ve got your ponies in a row and you’re ready to bet a trifecta, do one last inspection to spot any potential red flags.

Here are a few agency types we suggest betting against:

“Green Galloper”Fresh out of the gate but not yet ready to run with the big horses.
“Unbridled Bravado”The well-known stallion that’s overpaid and underperforms.
“Hidden Agenda”Looks like a racehorse but lacks full transparency.
“Understaffed Sprinter”Always running but not always in the right direction.
“Red Flag Racer”Comes with a concerning negative review…or two.
“Mismatched Mustang”A nice enough horse but not in line with your values.
“Double Agent Dasher”Keeps one of your competitors in the same stable.
“Silent Strider”Lacks clear communication, leaving you in the dark.
“Revolving Rider”Every day, a new jockey is working on your account.
“Woke & Broke”Implodes your current customer base by going waaay off brand.

Hands down, a good agency partnership will be one of the greatest investments you’ll make for your brand. A highly trained agency can carry your business to places farther than you ever thought possible. When your look, feel, and messaging are all consistent and meaningful, your customers will double down on their loyalty and suddenly new ones will begin to emerge. If you’re in the market for a new horse, we’d love to talk and show you around our stable. You just might be surprised by how well we run.

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