Beyond the pitch: Tips for clients on How to select your agencies
Its the new year and many brands are now reviewing (and sacking) incumbents who have not delivered as per expectations. Much of it had to do as much with clients falling into ‘sweet talking’ and over delivery promises by agencies that ultimately fell flat as with the current economic situation.
Are you one of those ‘clients’ who is soon to (or already) evaluate a media, ad, PR or marketing services firms? Then you might take advantage of this post here.
Of course you know (probably better than me) about how to evaluate agencies. But here are some pointers that you’d probably not get elsewhere- certainly not in the rule books. Because when it comes to soliciting for business, for some agencies, there is more than meets the eye. You don’t want it to come back and haunt you.
Here is a rough guide on looking “beyond the pitch”:
1) Existing Clients and account movements: Have one or more important clients terminated relationship with the agency in the recent months?
We all know that in advertising and service industry shifts happen. But if there is an important name that sacked an agency recently or many dissatisfied clients, there is surely something that needs to be investigated. More so if the client has been with the agency for a long time. But this time around, something changed. Big question mark.
2) People movements: Have some key people left or have been asked to leave recently? How senior where they? What are the numbers? What has been their length of work in the agency?And why did they leave?
Again, agencies are notorious for people movements. But digging deeper can give more insights than you can imagine. Is it a normal scenario or is it do with a political structure within the agency. Dangerous bet this one. This implies people are busy saving their jobs (and asses) more than working collaboratively for client satisfaction.
Again, if key people in niche verticals were hired and the agency could not retain them over a reasonable period of time, something smells.
3) Ornamental staff: Many agencies flaunt senior staff at pitches- Regional Directors who know little and General Managers that are know all. CXOs that are little more than fixers. And Account Directors with saccarine sweetness that is too sweet to digest. Grill them to know a bit more. Or stay away.
This is more true of specialist/niche vertical staff. If the agency hired a senior staff for niche vertical- did they hire someone from abroad to impress? Or does the person know his/her stuff? Does the regional person just talk ‘organization structure’ and puts his/her mugshot on top? Or does he bring in any value?
Now hang on, these are not just my ramblings- clients worldwide are now looking beyond the obvious. Sean Cheney, himself a client, describes these traits and why they piss him off: (6 reasons why agencies get canned)
4) Senior staff: Now this is a progression from the earlier point. Are they bringing in any value to your business? Do they even understand your, or worse THEIR line of business? How do you know? You do know. You come to find out. Read Sean Cheney’s article to know that you do indeed know this happens.
5) The Digital divide: Though everyone has jumped into this now, some haven’t been as discerning as others. In today’s world, it is important to get agencies with this talent pool. What do the top digital guys in the company stand for? Do they practice what they preach in their line of business? Are they known or respected in the industry? Do they have a voice/authority/influence in their line of work? Check out if they publish or participate in blogs (with some authority) OR are quoted or invited to speak or participate in relevant podiums. The same could apply for other senior staff.
You may have Global operations. If in today’s world, the guy who manages your account globally, has no trace on the Internet, he probably has been too busy ‘fixing’ stuff’ to climb ladders. Is probably fearful of exposing themselves and that they can no longer operate under the radar. They have nothing to say or contribute to the fraternity, and in today’s world THAT is dangerous.
These are a few points that I’d like to mention. Just 5 actually. They are not ‘obviously available’ details, but in today’s connected world not difficult to find out either. Just log on and fire up search- or see your local marketing publisher’s website- search for that company’s name- in the last 6-8 months- what has the company made news for? Ask recruiters, or better still, ask recruiters to interview some internal staff. Is everyone for the taking? Why? It is not too much effort- when it comes to trusting someone with your millions.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have worked in agencies myself and have great respect for many companies and people. The industry does have fab people and some great talent. I’ve met some wonderful wonderful people in this industry but some obnoxious talentless ruts as well. Some really intelligent folks and some really talentless drones. Really, the last thing this industry needs is fixers. At the top. We need a change- Not fake perspectives- and we need it now.