Nice people
with great ideas

10 - Do your homework. If the act of choosing an agency is your job, then be sure to make an investment in it. Keep a running list of agencies, photographers, illustrators, etc. whose work impresses you. Not just local companies, or those who win awards. We all know that a lot of agencies do certain projects every year specifically to win awards, and spare no expense at it. I’m talking about campaigns, big and small that are somehow inspired. You’ll know them when you see them.

9 - Be honest. A new agency relationship requires a lot of commitment from your internal team. How much bandwidth can you commit? If you’re looking for an agency to drive YOU, not the other way around, you need to be very upfront about this in the selection process.

8 - Expertise. Start here to whittle down the list. There are a lot of great agencies out there, but not every one is right for every job. Do you want a full re-branding? Or a simple print ad? Do you need a firm that has direct marketing expertise? Do you want a traditional design firm, or a web-capable agency?

7 - Size. Make sure that the agency size matches your expectations and needs. Personally, I never recommend working with a BIG agency. You know the ones. This is because I don’t like to be the smallest fish in the pond. Never be their smallest client. It is too easy to be ignored, or be relegated to the ‘B-Team’.

6 - Relevant (industry) experience. If an agency has not done work in your area, then there is likely too much ramp time to make the relationship worthwhile. Make sure the agency you choose has some related experience in your field. This matters more than many people think.

5 - Seek the ‘A-Team’. An agency might woo you with the big wigs, but who will really be managing your account? Who will be the strategic mind on the project, and do all of the creative work? You need to meet with all of the stakeholders upfront. It's always impressive when the owner of an agency does the pitch AND drives the strategic work themselves.

4 - Capacity. This is a corollary to ‘Size’ above. Does the agency have one big client that keeps them afloat? If so, your project could very well be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. Ask upfront who their big clients are, what % of their business they represent, and how much demand they are currently putting on the agency.

3 - Finances. Let’s face it, money is a major decision factor. Keep in mind that most agencies are eager to get a new client and to prove themselves, so negotiation is perfectly fine. But you have to do it in good faith. If they are cutting you a break for the promise of future business, you need to be prepared to budget more for the next one and to call them back.

2 & 1- Chemistry & Chemistry. This is 1 part philosophy, 2 parts gut. Do you ‘click’? Do they have that sparkle in their eye that makes you think “these chaps are switched on!”