Appointing a creative agency or design team to work with you on developing your brand can be difficult, with so many options it can be a daunting prospect. I’ve been working in the design industry for nearly ten years and have seen a huge variety of approaches that marketing teams take, some more successful than others. There is also much written on the traditional ‘pitch process’ where agencies are asked to show all their ideas and hope they get picked. Here is my opinion on how I think it should be done.
1. Write a brief. If you don’t have one already get a brief together that details everything you expect your creative partner to work on. Outline the aims of your company and what your marketing strategy is over the coming months or years, how much market share you have and expect to take in that time and any particular challenges your organisation or industry faces. All this information will help each agency decide if it’s the kind of work they want to take on or are comfortable with, and give you a clear picture of what type of agency will work for you.
2. Do your research. As with any major decision, always do your research. There are thousands of agencies nationally who offer a range of services, most of the smaller ones however have a particular talent they lead with, be it design, web design, packaging etc.
Ask around, see who people in your sector are using, who is getting the best results and who is doing something different. Ask your own contacts who they use and who they would recommend and what they do for their organisation.
Use google to find talent both locally and nationally, most agencies are more than happy to show their portfolios online and will have an array of projects for you to look through. See what kind of work they have produced in the past and if it fits with your plans.
Use http://www.recommendedagencies.com/. They have anonymous reports on hundreds of agencies nationwide with examples of the sectors they have worked in and a scoring system that lets you compare specific agency skill sets as rated by their clients.
3. Narrow your list. Once you have a list of people you want to talk to, get a list of questions together to try and establish which partners will work best for you. Try to consider agency size and ability to complete the amount of work you need doing, where they are based, how often will you need to visit and discuss with your team. Aim for a list of three agencies to approach and get credentials from, usually a document which talks through the company, it’s set up, values and a case study or two. This will give you a really good idea of how each agency would respond to your brief.
4. Keep it equal. Ask your chosen agencies to read through your brief and arrange a meeting to discuss their thoughts and how they would approach the project and what advice they can add. Be prepared to have an open mind regarding their thoughts and suggested plan of action. Make sure you give all the agencies the same information and stick to the same response methods, be it written or verbal ideas to keep the process equal. Try and avoid asking agencies to do all the work and present it to you. Your creative partner should be chosen on track record, ability and your judgement.
5. The final test. Once you’ve met your shortlist and have a good idea of personalities and the standard of their work, pick one and run with it. If you need one more test give them a project or part of a project, agree a fee and let them get on with it. This means you only have to make a small commitment up front until you have seen some finished work.