Choosing a Marketing Agency: FAQ

What is AgencyFinder?

A. AgencyFinder is a sensible, proven, confidential and ethical method for client and agency matchmaking. It represents the time-saving and cost-effective way to search for the best and most qualified ad agencies, public relations and marketing firms – anywhere in the world. Rather than the burden of analyzing vast bits of agency information, use our Client Search Criteria & Request for Information (RFI) to define needs; then let our search engine identify agencies that match.

Each agency has been certified using criteria established by our Board of Advisors — industry leaders who know from years of experience what it takes to make a great agency. So there’s no waste of time, money or effort looking through endless lists of unscreened agencies. Our search process points to those that meet or exceed the search requirements, whether it’s for a special assignment or a long-term relationship.

How does it work?

A. It begins when the searcher registers and defines their requirements. Each agency has described their firm using more than 500 database fields to identify attributes — agency services, media experience, industry and market experience, employee census, office location, billing options, etc. Once the ideal agency is defined, our search engine sweeps the database to find and report how many agencies fit your criteria.

When that group is reduced to 35 or less, you’ll have the opportunity to read and score a series of essays and case studies written by the agencies. The essays describe creative approach, strengths, client/agency philosophy and what sets them apart from the pack. Since they’re not slanted to a specific situation, they reflect a true and ongoing statement of the agency’s position. Essays and case studies function as tiebreakers and serve as a chemistry meter. The search can be refined as many times as necessary until the agency pool is reduced to a group of semi-finalists (usually, about ten or twelve) that will be invited. That concludes the on-line search.

Within 24 hours, a BPI consultant telephones the searcher to offer counsel and to discuss the selected agencies. With short-list in hand, and only with the searcher’s permission, we invite each agency to contact the searcher by telephone. To facilitate and expedite, we handle all the paperwork, the search RFI, the invitations and confirmations. In the RFI, we can include additional descriptive information, and additional questions that may need answering. Searchers can have meaningful conversations with highly qualified agencies in days.

How long does it take?

A. A cursory search with relatively few criteria can be done in ten to twenty minutes for a preliminary research. A final search must be more thorough and include as many requirements as are necessary. Most final searchers spend about an hour or so from start to finish, but since this
is a critical step, it pays to take your time.

What does it cost?

A. The AgencyFinder service is offered at no cost to qualified searchers because it’s sponsored by our Certified Agencies. If both searcher and agencies were to pay, that would create a potential conflict-of-interest. We’re an unbiased no-charge consulting service without the conventional “search consultant” fees that frequently begin at $25,000.

Is it confidential?

A. Absolutely! During the course of an active search, only those agencies selected and invited are informed. And even that won’t happen until you give us the go ahead.

How is AgencyFinder different?

A. You might call AgencyFinder the next generation of Internet interaction. Other services only offer a handful of attributes in the definition stage. That’s because their agency database information is generic and relatively shallow. A search with them lands you on a directory page, something like the Yellow Pages. What you see is what you get — name, address, telephone, employee names and titles, media buying habits, general capabilities and client list. You’re left to fend for yourself. What might appear like an instant solution can be misleading.

These Internet-only services don’t offer human assistance, so if you misstep (and that’s easy for anyone to do), your “candidates” are markedly off-target. Contacting them wastes your time, wastes their time and makes your search a matter of public record. Not exactly what you intended!

AgencyFinder data is deep and extensive, and our experienced consultants are an integral part of the process. They’re here to help and to ensure that your search is successful. That alone is a powerful difference!

We haven’t defined our agency criteria, should we begin anyway?

A. Absolutely! Those who have used our search interview tell us it saved them hours, days, even weeks. Many use the AgencyFinder interview to learn how the pros conduct a search. To get started, print the pages that list the selection attribute options and distribute them to your committee colleagues. Once your committee has a better sense of your agency needs, you’ll be ready to finish your search with AgencyFinder.

How do we select our finalist?

A. AgencyFinder usually eliminates the typical long-form questionnaire or RFP, so you quickly end up with a short-list of agencies with every quality you asked for. When you score the essays, you’re making even finer distinctions.

After we invite them to contact you, that agency/client telephone interview is your first high-touch connection. Use it (as agencies will) to determine whether the fit is right. If it is, most clients generally ask for the agency brochure, some relevant samples and a short letter outlining how the agency thinks they can assist you. You and your committee colleagues can study these samples and further reduce the candidates without holding premature agency meetings.

After you’re down to five or so agencies, the decision becomes more challenging because, at this stage, the finalists are usually equally well qualified. Now it’s time to meet, to put faces to names. We suggest you visit their offices first; meet the staff, confirm that your first contact is a true reflection of the agency as a whole. Small things start to make a difference; are they neat and organized, is their passion for business evident, does most of their work meet with your approval? Did they treat you well? Is the chemistry right?

The last steps tend to be more traditional. Invite them to come to you. Show them where you work; introduce them to the decision-makers in your company. Let them make their final presentation. Respect their professionalism by not asking for speculative creative work, but if you want an indication of their ability to think on their feet, we can share exclusive techniques we’ve developed. If you’d prefer an independent consultant to assist, we’ll help you find one with appropriate experience.

There are no rules. If you spot an agency and want to make your connection early on, that’s fine! Let us know how you want the process to work. We’ll help make it happen!

How do agencies become “Certified”?

A. Most Certified Agencies initiate and request “certification” because they’re known to be market leaders and members-in-good-standing in the industry’s professional organizations. They also must meet the certification criteria established by our Board of Advisors, criteria related to agency services, capabilities, market experience, years-in-business, ownership, existing clients, creativity, fiscal responsibility and ethics.

When do we learn which agencies we’ve selected?

A. You learn the names of your selected agencies when you speak with a BPI executive shortly after completing your online search. We’ll share everything we know about the agencies, including their names and other information that you won’t find in directories. The process is anonymous up to this point because we want your search to be unbiased. With AgencyFinder, your search is based on capabilities and experience immediately relevant to your needs. This levels the playing field; brand name and brand-less agencies are given equal consideration.

Does our budget influence selections?

A. Yes. Our database allows each agency to indicate a “minimum budget” for marketing and public relations assignments. Our search engine incorporates that data in each search. In some cases, agencies explain their position in an essay. They consider your assignment and your budget when they respond to your invitation.

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