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There are more than a staggering 85,000 ad agencies in the US—and that number doesn’t include all the smaller shops, freelancers, or consultants that offer marketing services. So, how do you choose the right advertising agency for your business?

It can be a challenge, especially when you consider the stakes. The right advertising agency can be the make-or-break resource that understands your business and either creates brand experiences that fuel your success or falls horribly flat. The wrong agency or shop can waste crucial time and money. Because of this, businesses all worlwide are hiring and firing agencies to find the perfect fit.

Here are some of the key things to consider when you’re selecting an ad agency.

Don’t Just Hire an Agency

Look at this decision through a different lens. If you’re just looking to hire an advertising agency, you could be making a mistake. It’s a bit more like dating than simply identifying a firm that can fill advertising and marketing requests. A more beneficial approach is to hire a partner that meshes with your company’s culture. When the relationship is right, your business gets a more passionate partner who shares your business’ culture and vision. When it’s not a good fit, you may miss out on the best capabilities and execution that a particular agency may be able to provide.

The core values an ad agency represents, the way they conduct business, and their excitement will play an essential role in whether they will work well with your team. A big part of your success will be dependent on the ad agency you choose, so make sure they are a good cultural fit.

Look for Talent and Data

Marketing is both art and science. The best advertising agencies will embrace both talent and data among a host of other appealing traits. Talent is what drives the creative side of the business to find fresh and innovative ways to capture attention and drive conversions. If a portfolio isn’t readily available, ask for a tailored selection of examples that are relevant to your business or needs.

Data is the secret sauce that measures and optimizes performance. In the case of digital marketing, plenty of agencies claim that they offer these services, but few have an intimate understanding of strategies, channels, platforms, integration, and data. Before you hire your next agency, it can help to do a little research and prepare some difficult questions to test this understanding.

Campaigns really perform when talent and data coexist. Don’t be swayed by an ad agency that wins awards strictly for their creative unless they can back it up with real case studies of performance. Everyone has an accolade of some kind. It’s really about whether that solution meets client objectives in a measurable way and assists in growth goals.

Ad agencies are also diverse. Sometimes too diverse. While a full-service advertising agency may say that they can provide a vast range of services, you want to ensure they have knowledgeable, experienced specialists that will excel at the type of marketing you need. In some cases, traditional agencies may not be able to provide more modern, digital solutions required in today’s environment.

Define Your Objectives

Relationships with an ad agency can suffer if you don’t have a plan and set expectations right from the start. Be upfront about what you need in an agency and how you want them to work with you.

Define your objectives and choose the advertising agencies you believe will best deliver the results you need.

Plan Your Search

When you decide to look for an advertising agency or consider switching to someone new, it can be an exciting venture. It can also be complex and overwhelming if you don’t have a strategic plan for how to search.

For the best results, consider:

  • Who will evaluate prospective agencies?
    Create a small committee that will handle the screening and evaluation. This should include senior company leaders with decision-making ability. The larger your group, the more difficult it will be to come to a consensus.
  • How will you conduct due diligence?
    As you begin the process, you may want to cast a wide net to find potential partners, but you’ll want to cull the list significantly before you begin the interview process. The process can be time-consuming for both parties, so narrow your list to a small group of ad agencies that feel like the best fit.
  • What should you put in proposal requests?
    A request for proposal (RFP) may be a starting point, but it can also be a stumbling block. The reason you are looking for an ad agency is to add value to your marketing efforts. You want to provide an agency with some space to look at your needs and objectives and give them the flexibility to find solutions you may not have thought about. RFPs can be limiting, and in some cases, a turn-off when shopping for an agency.
  • Does it matter where the ad agency is?
    Location may have been a deciding factor years ago, but that is shifting. So much of the work is going to be done by email or online. Video conferencing software lets you connect efficiently. If you get the results you need, does it matter where the advertising agency is located? 
  • Who will manage my account?
    During the evaluation process, you’ll likely meet with agency principles and their best and brightest people. These may not be the people that will be doing the day-to-day work for your business. Make sure you know who will be doing the work, what experience they have, and whether they are a good fit with your team.

Be Open to New Ideas

While you may think you know exactly what you want, it helps to get an outside perspective. The right ad agency won’t simply deliver a checklist of the items you’ve asked for; they will work as partners to develop marketing plans to meet your objectives.

The best ad agency teams will challenge you. They will go beyond deliverable to craft solutions to meet your objectives. After all, you’re paying them for their experience and results. Listen to their ideas.

Brand Experience and Results

In the end, it’s about creating a brand experience that will attract and retain customers. Enjoy the process, but find the ad agency that fits your culture and will produce the results you need.

Speedsquare is a digital marketing and brand experience company that helps businesses grow through:

  • Digital advertising
  • Lead generation
  • Content creation
  • Web design
  • Branding
  • and more.

We deliver the best digital market tools, platforms, and strategies to help local businesses gain visibility and compete affordably. Contact Speedsquare today for a free consultation.