4 Questions Before Signing an Agency

04.23.18 / Matt Owings / Advertising

Congratulations! Your brand has grown so much that you’re ready to enter a relationship with an advertising agency. Or, maybe you’re in search of a new agency partner to help take your organization to the next level.

Either way, if your company is going to bring a new advertising firm into the fold, there are a few questions you should ask before signing that contract.

At MGH, we pride ourselves on keeping all relationships as transparent as possible. That means fielding any and all questions a prospective client may have right up front. There are plenty of times we’ve been asked the questions below, and even more instances where we wished the client had asked us even more.

Here’s how to get the most out of your agency partnership from the beginning. Always remember: It doesn’t hurt to ask.

“How long does client onboarding take?”

You just spent weeks finalizing a plan with a new agency. You can’t wait to begin work on that new logo design, or that great social media marketing strategy. The only thing that’s left is the transition process.

Nothing kills the enthusiasm of a new agency partnership quite like prolonged onboarding. It’s the best way to lose all the steam and excitement generated during your meetings with the new firm.

The best way to avoid this problem is to establish a timeline up front. Not only are you keeping your marketing partner who promised so much during the pitch and negotiation stage in line, but you’re also keeping your own team focused on attainable goals. You want to have a certain amount of media buys in place by a specific date? Let your new agency know that at the beginning, and work backwards on a plan.

Onboarding hiccups should be expected, as transitioning data from one party to another isn’t always easy. Build in time for these challenges, that way you never fall off pace, and may even end up ahead of schedule.

“Will I have a dedicated account person?”

The advertising industry has changed a great deal over the last decade when it comes to agency structure. No longer are account service folks solely carrying client-facing responsibilities. If your contract is for digital media buying only, your point of contact might be from that department.

That said, no client is too small to not have someone dedicated to the account, regardless of their day-to-day responsibilities. It’s imperative that you have a direct line to a consistent person at your agency who is aware of the inner workings of the account. If not, you have to wonder where you fall on your agency’s list of priorities.

“Do you make changes or come up with new ideas if something isn’t working?”

If you’re aiming to achieve success through marketing, you’re going to have to adapt on the fly. Unless your agency has mastered the process for producing the perfect ad campaign (in which case, they’ve made history), there are going to be optimizations and adjustments that should take place in real time.

Digital marketing remains a crucial part of a larger marketing mix. Target audiences, however, are a forever work in progress. Social media marketers are constantly changing audience behavior profiles to get a better cost-per-result. Marketers also need to keep current events at the front of their minds as well. When marketing campaigns overlap with breaking news or pop culture, there are opportunities to produce of-the-moment creative and earned media. The same goes for a campaign that targets a specific area where a crisis or emergency just took place.

The mark of a good agency is the ability to react with precision. Ask your prospective agency to provide examples of its ability to get creative with quick changes to an ad campaign. Take note if it struggles to come up with relevant cases.

“Could you also help us with…”

Short answer: Most likely, yes!

Long answer: A full-service agency markets itself as such because they’re able to provide a wide array of services. Most agencies have purely project-based clients, relationships lasting for more than a decade, and everything in between. Whether it’s PR support, branding help, research or something else, the chances your current agency can handle the additional work are good.

If an agency is bringing on a client to work on something short term, it’s always wise to explore ways to grow that relationship. But if it isn’t a fit, there shouldn’t be pressure to extend beyond the original scope of work.

The beauty of working with a full-service agency is that as a relationship progresses and different needs surface, there are always opportunities to learn about additional offerings. At minimum, if budgets don’t match up, or skill sets aren’t an exact fit, an agency should be able to refer an existing client to another shop that specializes in what the brand is looking for.

MGH would prefer to keep all its clients in-house. But we’re also able to recognize if we aren’t the right partner for the job. We want to keep all our relationships solid, so we’re happy to work with you to find the proper fit outside our walls.

The takeaway

Always remember that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask the tough questions of an agency before investing your time and money. At MGH, we welcome our prospective clients to do their due diligence before finalizing a contract. It sets the rest of the relationship up for long term success.

To learn more about our offerings, client work, and how we can help grow your brand, check out our story. We’re ready to take your questions.

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