You’ve seen their shiny capabilities; they put on their nicest clothes and wowed you with their work. Now, as you sit in a conference room with your colleagues, you have a big decision to make—who will you work with? Whether you’re looking for a new Agency of Record (AOR), or a project-by-project agency, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before you make up your mind.
1. Can they do the work?
This is a no-brainer. If they can’t do the work, then they shouldn’t be in the room. Period. Take your time vetting prospects and make sure they’re all capable of doing what you want. You need to take the process seriously. The more important question you should ask yourself is whether they can do the work you are planning for down the road. Are they set up to scale your work? Will they willingly handle any and all requests you have? Are they willing to piece together the impossible things you envision or they dream them up themselves? If they can check off these boxes, you’ve got yourself a contender.
2. Will they push you further?
You’ve checked off the qualifying boxes, but it’s time to dig a bit deeper now. You know they can do the work, but are they willing to go the extra mile for you? A dedicated agency will do their research and due diligence. So how well do they understand your business, your target market, and the nuts and bolts of what you do? They should all be able to answer those questions. If not, you can place a nice red line through their name. But beyond that, I want an agency that not only has great ideas, but a backbone as well. They aren’t afraid to lose your business by challenging you; rather, they understand that this is how they keep your business. As a client, you are going to push your agency, so make sure they are willing to return the favor.
3. Can they be ‘your guy’?
Decision time is nearing and you’re stuck between two agencies. They each check off your boxes and reflect the ambition you’re looking for. The final piece of the puzzle is simple—who do you trust more? When the chips are down and times are tough, you want to have your guy. It’s the guy or girl you know you can count on when your career, business, or project is on the line. You put your heart and soul into our work and knowing that you have a partner that does the same is critical. You will both spend a lot of time together—on the phone, in the trenches, celebrating—so make sure it’s someone that you can not only count on but who you want to count on.
If this process were easy, it would be done in a matter of days. The fact is, when your reputation is at stake, there’s no room for error and you can’t leave any stones unturned. Take your time to answer the above questions. Once you can confidently answer in the affirmative, you’ve found your mate.
Jay Selig is a marketing and PR manager at RedPeg Marketing, an independent experiential marketing shop headquartered in D.C., with an office in L.A.