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How to avoid buyer's regret when shopping for agency services

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By Steve Antoniewicz | director

July 24, 2017 | 5 min read

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Remember that nice Hawaiian shirt or that jacket that was almost a good fit? Chances are you didn’t set out to buy these delightful items or any of the others that are quickly consigned to the back of the wardrobe or the charity shop pile.

How can you avoid taking a wrong turn when hiring an agency?

How can you avoid taking a wrong turn when hiring an agency?

Somehow you became distracted during the retail experience and parted with your hard-earned in return for items that very soon you’ll barely be able to look at.

That kind of shopper regret is a phenomenon that clients often also experience when they go shopping for new agencies. Too many clients run a pitch process only to end up with an agency that fits badly or who don’t live up to their price tag.

The stakes are just a bit higher of course than when buying a shirt. So, how best to avoid this painful potential pitfall.

A good start is crucial. Put in the hard yards at the beginning and save yourself trouble later. It helps from the outset to be very focused about what it is exactly that you are looking from an agency. Draw up a shopping list of your needs and try to create a picture of what the right partner should look like.

All too often, in a rush to hit a deadline or get a partner on board quickly, too little time is taken to really consider the important qualities that your ideal agency should have.

Start by drawing up a simple list. The things you need (services), the characteristics you’d like (strategic, creative, commercial etc) and the practical stuff like your preferred location, budget, fees etc. Now you can begin to look as possible candidates and judge them vs your list.

This is where it can get tricky, there are thousands of agencies out there and to the untrained eye, all can make a compelling case for themselves (they sell for a living), all will have impressive clients lists, all will want to work with you (and your budget!), and no doubt they will have lots of awards.

So how do you see the wood from the trees and start to filter down your options.

It can help to speak to a pitch consultant at this stage. A good consultant will be able to map the market and quickly identify the best suited agencies for you.

If you want to plough on yourself, make sure you have set aside enough time for your pre-selection stage. You should now be looking closely at each candidate agency on your list and asking; What are the services they offer and are those the services we need? Do they excel in those areas? Are they familiar with similar clients, projects and KPIs? Do I like their approach? Do I know of the agency or do I know anyone who has worked with them? These are all good topics to consider when you begin to evaluate possible agencies.

By getting the right agencies on your list from the beginning you’ll increase your chances of selecting the right agency come the end of your process. If that sounds incredibly obvious, it is. But too often the wrong agencies appear on shortlists in some of the most random ways imaginable.

Add some research, planning and reflection time to your next agency shopping trip and you’ll have a far greater chance of picking a good partner. Agencies are expensive items and good one should last you a long time.

Steve Antoniewicz is director of The Drum’s consulting division and manages partner selection for brands.

Visit recommendedagencies.com to start your search for an agency partner.

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