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We talk about this a lot. The thing is, agencies are willing to go to great lengths to get business from clients that fit. But all too often, a new business pitch becomes a fishing expedition, in which the client doesn’t get the information they really need, yet the agencies take valuable resources away from current clients in order to impress prospective ones. Anne Peck Gibbons shot me an email today with these 21 points for choosing an agency and cultivating the relationship. I thought you might find this helpful.


1. Decide what kind of services you are looking for. (Marketing? Research? Full-service? Media? Branding? Project work? Creative-only?)
2. Conduct an online search with a view to your strategic need.
3. Thoroughly review agency websites. (Review staffing experience, work samples, and client list.)
4. Check to see if they have prior experience in your category, or comparable.
5. Narrow the list to a dozen agencies.
6. Talk to their people. Over the phone, discuss the scope opportunity to see if they’re interested.
7. Ask around. Check out their references.
8. Whom do you feel comfortable with?
9. Find out how busy they are.
10. Narrow your list to five prospects.
11. Visit their location, if possible. If not, ask them to visit yours.
12. Ask them to show you their best work and their worst work. Discuss why.
13. Ask for a rate card or samples of previous efforts, with costs associated.
14. Meet their top executives.
15. Give them a plan of what you’re thinking. And make sure you are both on the same page.
16. Make sure you have a good idea of the budget and schedule, in hand.
17. National, large clients conduct a pitch to see what the agency offers (either paid or unpaid). Small ones sometimes pay for sample work, or issue an RFP.
18. Choose your agency.
19. Hold them to their deadlines.
20. Love your agency and let them love you, by giving them strategic, rather than executional, direction.
21. Give yourself a 6–month clause, just in case you want out.

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