Before you begin your search
Lets just say your company is a fish in the deep sea. Over the years, fish have adapted to the depth they go to to survive. So, they have grown sharper teeth (sales fronts), resistant skin (better HR), fluorescence (advertising) and joined hands with schools of other fish (competition and collusion – think about it too) to form a habitat. Why did i drag to the depth of a sea and call you a fish? Well, hey, we need to grow some talons or antenna to grab the attention in the vastenvironment we compete in.
You got two options- set this division up as a part of your company. Benefit being the ability to monitor progress closely and enjoy minimal spends on ads but more on HR. The other alternative would be to go the agency way which makes the risk minimal and gives you the chance to be the Yes/No person and all the legwork is taken care of for you.
Hiring an agency to do your marketing for you is a big decision to make. At the same time it is often necessary to do it to reduce your difficulties.
Take a few minutes and soak in the thought of hiring an agency. If it repulses you, just close this tab and move right on.
If you think the thought intrigues you read on and then consider if this sits well with you. Over the years we have seen associates choose agencies haphazardly. We have seen situations where we have been the wrong choice for a company!
Have a clear objective
“For your company, are sales more important or do you want branding?” asks our CEO the moment he is done greeting the prospective associate. This is an essential decision. Because your competition is focused on branding does not imply you need to. Neither should a few banquet conversations drive such a decision. Look at the Income Statement of your company and choose whats appropriate for you. Branding need not drive sales directly. It takes years before big labels could reap the pleasures of owning a brand. They relied on their distribution network and shelf spaces till then. Today you have a new shelf space to occupy- Google. You can stock it with minimal expense and it won’t ask you for commission unless it gets you some customers. You need to decide strongly on whether it is sales that matters to you or branding. This will help you even choose the right vertical with the agency.
Get all stakeholders involved in the process
It is not just the Brand manager who needs to shoulder the liability of hiring an agency. What if it doesn’t pan out as planned? What if you don’t get your money’s worth? Well, figure out the stakeholders. Begin with informing your team about such a thought. Ask them to research the choice as well. Look into the agencies referrred by people. They are generally the most reliable and the referrer would know your brand and would gauge how good the brand- agency fit would be before suggesting. It is never harmful to open up to the associating agency. If they know you well, they could be polite enough to say, we don’t work with this domain or we are not good at this. Don’t forget, the agency is a stakeholder as well.
During the search
Don’t rely on Case Studies. Look at previous work by the Agency
Average click through rate of 5%, monthly impressions of 500,000. What does that even mean?? Case studies are glorified numbers. Rather you pick up the phone and call their old clients and get a understanding from the brand manager as to whether they are actually satisfied by the delivery.
Creativity is over rated
“I need new ideas. Don’t give me these clichés.” Detergent sells with a housewife as the centrefold and beverages with the hope for a rush. Sometimes cliches just work. People are used to it! If you look for creativity, make sure that it aligns with your brand. Trying to be “hatke” has cost people dearly at times. Look for the response of targeted audience. If the response to the work done by a certain agency is good then their creativity aligns with the demand of the market and thats the way you should go. Selling furniture as a scratch coupon prize may not be a good idea for your brand.
Virality is a fantasy- when you achieve it enjoy the climax
“This will go viral”- being in control of your faculties at all times is essential. The reality is nobody can forecast if any activity done will gain viral traction. If any agency promises such a fad please walk away. They might be great but they are lying through their teeth. Kolaveri di went viral because it was a different song and because the masses liked it. This was not essentially plotted sitting in a chair in an office. Look for agencies that do great work and gain appreciation.
Price is not the only factor
8 page website for ₹ 5000 an 15 page website for ₹ 8000. Great! Now you have to read between the lines and go through the “Conditions Apply”s. While choosing an agency, step into their shoes. Look at their profit model and make an estimate of how much time you would want them to spend on your marketing. Continuing the same example- 8 pages for ₹ 5000. The time taken to setup the website with 8 pages from scratch without an existing platform is about 10 hours. Salary of the coder is ₹ 25k a month. He is billing at about ₹ 100 an hour. The sales guy and the account manager need to be paid too – another ₹ 60k a month together. Considering they make your site in 50 hours i.e. in 7 days (WOW) and get it live- get you server space, get you the domain, host the site, and ensure iterations that work with you- what do you think the output would be like? I’ll leave it at that…
Do they understand your brand?
You understand this feeling better than any associate ever would. I won’t even try to explain that to you.