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What do the perfect agency credentials look like?

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Agency credentials and presentations continue to be a hot topic in the world of agency new business. But what makes a credential valuable? The Future Factory spoke to senior figures in the brand world, in search of answers to how agencies can best influence the purchasing decisions of brands. Unfortunately, they explained credentials often fall a little short of the mark…

Get to the point

Everybody thinks they’re busy; not having time to really focus or take anything in has become something of a status symbol. So it’s crucial to make the most of your prospect’s time and get your point across as effectively and concisely as possible.

The chief marketing officer of Rightmove has previously emphasised the importance of brevity and favours credentials which only take up a few slides long per case study. He says if five slides isn't sufficient, then “you’re clearly struggling to sell yourself”.

A director at Sonos is also unequivocal: “creds are far too long, they should be short, snappy and insightful”.

Be results-focused

So if it’s best to keep things short and to the point, what should you include? What eye-catching details help you stand out from the crowd? According to a head of PR at a major automotive brand, evidence of tangible value and results is crucial.

Now, in a world of brand equity, stakeholder engagement and other (more-or-less) intangibles, this can be difficult. But it’s worth bearing in mind that framing a case study in terms of tackling a challenge or solving a problem is preferable to a rambling account of the work you’ve done and what you like most about it. If you can measure the ROI your work has delivered then great – but it’s not always as simple as that. Include relevant testimonials and sector-specific insight too, and you’ll be on your way to leaving a great impression and demonstrating the value your agency can add to the brand team’s work.

Remember, even the sleekest credentials in the industry are best talked through rather than emailed in PDF form – get some face time in the diary by emphasising how much more valuable (for both sides) even a brief meeting tends to be.

Emphasise your culture

In addition to thinking carefully about the content and aiming for a deck that’s pithy and concise, it’s important to bear in mind the limitations of agency credentials. For a director at Bacardi, the agency team can be just as important as their case studies – “people buy people”.

Indeed, an over-reliance on credentials can be to the detriment of chemistry: “bring your personality”, advised another chief marketing officer.

Anything from photos of the office (dog) to a distinct and original tone of voice can help inject a bit of character and differentiate your agency in a vigorously competitive industry.

Acknowledge that credentials have their limitations

Knowing you have your well-thumbed credentials at your disposal can be a real source of comfort. Yes, you may have tailored these for a specific meeting, but you know them like the back of your hand and you might be relying on them too heavily. Don’t be afraid to stray from the path and leave the presentation behind.

A director at Diageo takes a similar view. He comments, “I never see a presentation as a presentation, I see it as a conversation… I don’t want to be talked at”. It’s important to be able to react to remarks and questions you may not have been expecting – and that means your credentials should facilitate, not dictate, the kind of conversation you’re having.

As one of our interviewees put it, “don’t present, engage”. Recognise there’s somebody else in the room: solipsism is off-putting and won’t get you very far.

Get a second opinion

Bear in mind that your favourite case study, or what you deem to be your best work, won’t always be as compelling to your prospect. Remember, even the most creative agencies in the world aren’t always best placed to do their own branding – so get another pair of eyes to look over your deck.

The agency marketplace is littered with companies that deliver great, inventive work for their clients but who neglect their own branding, websites and, in this instance, credentials.

Credentials are hard to get right, time consuming and sometimes don’t feel like an agency’s priority. But our research suggests that a decent set of collateral (as part of a broader marketing strategy) can make all the difference and really change how your business is perceived.

With so many agencies out there, sub-par credentials have become a really easy excuse for disregarding a particular approach or pitch – invest a bit and take them seriously.

The Future Factory is offering agencies the chance to get their creds reviewed for free over June. Click here to find out more.

Stefan Rhys-Williams is senior account manager at The Future Factory.