This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of our series on Advertising That Works.

You’ve got a new product ready for market and you need to hire an agency. You have an agency and you feel it’s time to switch to a new resource. Or, you have an agency and need one that will specialize in a particular target. Either way, it’s time to do a bit of research, both on yourself and potential partners. Selecting the right partner is important.

First, you need to have an internal conversation with your team to understand what you have and what you’re looking for. This step will help you identify issues that can possibly hurt (or improve) this new relationship you’re about to embark upon. Some things are obvious: company background, brand positioning, any existing standards. Some things seem obvious but can be tricky because they may be items that have only been covered at the surface but need a deeper dive: target customer, unique selling proposition, marketing department makeup (who is doing what and what should they be doing), department bandwidth, and budgets (including their status in the approval process and if any has been allocated already). How are you going to measure success? Finally, will you be open to reframing your needs as part of this process? I recommend documenting this entire process. It can help give you and your new agency some great insights.

Then, you need to start asking questions about potential agencies.

– Is the agency specializing in what you need or is it part of their list of services? Which do you prefer/want/need? How many years have they been doing what YOU need?

– What kinds of processes do they employ and will they fit with your needs? How are you going to get updates? We discussed the importance of understanding processes in a blog post.

– Who is going to be on your account team? Do they know your industry? If not, how will they get to know it?

– How will meetings be handled? Can they come to you or will you have to go to them? How often will you be able to have ideation sessions? Will those be included in your fees or will they be extra?

– Because you’re hiring for tomorrow and not yesterday, you’ll want to know how they are adapting to new technology and marketing channels, both for themselves and clients. You’ll also want to see what they’ve phased in and out over the years and why. It’ll help give you insight into how well they can leverage new channels and processes on your behalf.

– Are they passionate about your business? In the early days of casino expansions, we worked with some agencies who, although they were willing to take casino money, they didn’t actually believe in our industry. We learned very quickly and demanded that “you must love our business as much as we do”.

– What are the fees? How are you going to get billed? How do these bills fluctuate and what can you do to control dramatic swings? How will the agency pay vendors on your behalf?

– Are there markups on expenses? What administrative costs will you be getting billed for?

– Are they estimating a level of work to determine your fees or retainer? What happens when that estimate doesn’t match reality?

Finally, because chemistry and fit play such huge roles in the ultimate success of a relationship, we encourage working on a couple of small projects before signing a longer term contract. Very few people marry successfully on the first date.

Need help hiring an agency? We’re ready to answer your questions or help you through the process. Contact us.

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