Sometimes Amused: As the owner of an agency search consulting service, I’m sometimes amused when an advertiser is surprised when every invited agency wasn’t interested in their opportunity. Maybe that harks back to the days when consultants were guilty of sending out 50+ RPF’s (i.e. – the infamous cattle call) and waiting for the chips to fall. Under today’s circumstances, you might expect agencies to pounce on everything new that comes their way. That’s clearly not the case, and never was, but for any company looking to engage new “marketing outsources”, it helps to know what attracts an agency. Here’s a thumbnail.
What agencies want to know: At the onset, agencies like to know why they were included. Was it their reputation, creative, awards, profile in a database or experience with the consultant. Agencies expect to be talking directly to the client. Gone are the days where the consultant served as a conduit between the two, screening and interpreting the message content. An impersonal RFP calling for pages of agency detail coupled with an admonishment not to contact anyone at the company is an immediate Red Flag. An agency wants to be speaking and dealing with the person who is managing the review, an individual with authority, well beyond the collection of candidate credentials. An initial due-diligence phone interview saves everyone time and money. It gives the agency a chance to ask and answer and the client to reciprocate. Here the parties evaluate “chemistry”, the magic elixir that will or will not cement the two in an extended relationship. Questions such as – Is this a project or an extended relationship? What’s the desired measurable outcome? Then budget, that elusive budget. An agency worth hiring needs to know what funds will be available to manage the assignment. Not precisely but order of magnitude. Don’t shadowbox there. Summarizing, that phone interview should have given the agency sufficient information to produce and send a package of preliminary agency materials with relevant experience, similar client challenges, creative strategies, client testimonials, agency capabilities and credentials.
There’s always fallout: There’s always an immediate fallout from initial invitations; then more will follow phone interviews. Upon receipt of agency materials, corporate colleagues are assigned to examine and evaluate what was received. Some agencies are eliminated (for any reason). Ideally there should be 6-8 firms that remain. Schedule those for on-site or Zoom visits. Then identify the 2-3 finalists. There’s clearly more to those visits and final presentations than I’ve described; the entire process is where a search consultant earns their stripes!