How to Get the Most Out of a Creative Agency
- How is creative agency different from other agencies?
- How do I work with a creative agency?
- How can an agency help me grow my business?
Marketing your business seems like it should be easy, right? You just post, email, and maybe make a video or two. Well, not exactly.
Imagine Maria, a promising young chef, started a fleet of food trucks called “ The Mariana Monster Truck” offering Italian cuisine based on her grandmother’s recipes.
She decides to run a campaign on social media to target new customers with paid ads. Every day she posts, replies to customers, and takes photos of her food. All the while supervising the operations of her business, from cooking to cleanup.
On occasion, when work gets really busy and she doesn’t have time to develop her own content, she just uses stock photos instead of featuring her own food. No big deal, right? Or is it?
Maria’s multitasking is hurting her marketing efforts and could lead to poor results. Maybe it’s time for her to consider finding and using a creative agency.
Agencies can help brands like “Mariana Monster Truck” come up with and run their ad campaigns. But not all advertising agencies offer creative services.
Media buying agencies make deals to place exciting content on TV or online. PR (Public Relations) agencies focus on publicity and news coverage. Promotional agencies can help brands create sweepstakes, coupons, and other collateral.
Creative agencies come up with concepts and strategies to help brands develop creative voices and stand out via commercials, print ads, events, online engagement and more.
Does a creative agency seem like the type of agency you need? Great, before you start knocking doors on Madison Avenue, here are few things to consider.
Think of working with an agency as a long-term investment. If Maria is only looking to create a 1-time project, like a holiday ecard, she might want to consider hiring an independent vendor like a graphic design freelancer.
Know what you stand for. If Maria’s answer to “what inspired your business? Is “mmm… meatballs,” she should rethink what needs her business to fulfils for her audience, and what sets her business apart from competitors in her market.
Be clear about what you want to achieve. Maria’s business doesn’t have limitless funds, so she should focus on specific goals, like improving sales, introducing her brand to new demographics, or growing her social presence.
Operate within your means. “The Mariana Monster Truck” isn’t about to file for an IPO (Initial public offering), so creating a national campaign doesn’t make sense. Mariana should find an agency that will allow her to get the most out of her budget.
Identify the type of agency that’s right for your needs. For instance, Maria’s most pressing need is a mobile-friendly website (for her mobile business, get it?) so hiring an agency that specializes in 3D projection won’t be the best fit.
Once you’ve identified your goals, send out a request for information (RFI) to agencies you think you’d like to work with to help you find the best partner.
An RFI’s propose is to get information about the potential agencies background, abilities, and their proposed solutions for your marketing needs.
There isn’t one right way to write an RFI, but it should provide background about your brand, the problems you are looking to solve, a tentative timeline, and measurement for success or key performance indicators (KPIs).
Take time to speak with the agency, be open to answering follow up questions, and never hesitate to raise any concerns. This is your first interaction with a potential partner, so it’s best to start the relationship off on the right foot.
What should you look for in an RFI response?
- Experience. Ensure the agency has a track record of the kind of work you need.
- Capabilities. Make sure the agency can execute your objectives.
- Culture. Make sure the agency’s culture aligns with your own.
If you have a large budget to put toward agency work, consider submitting a request for proposal (RFP). it asks the agencies for more detailed solutions including spec work, which might involve you having to compensate the agency for their services.
Next, get to know the roles within the agency, so when meeting with them, you know who does what.
Account managers are responsible for the client/agency relationship. They are the go-to for almost any issue that comes up. They foster an intimate relationship with the client (hey’ that’s you) to facilitate better communication.
Project managers plan the project timeline, make sure work gets done on time and budget, and work to resolve challenges as they arise.
Strategists research the market to develop unique insights and track trends. They scour the internet, do data analysis, and talk with experts to create a strategy brief for the creative team.
Creatives are the writers, artists, designers and technologists who come up with original, inventive ideas and make them a reality.
Collaboration is about relationships. Make sure that the agency you choose is open to honest dialogue and shares your values.
Now you’re ready to choose an agency. What’s next? Before any collaboration can begin, take a few steps to set up a proper working relationship.
Have the agency sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Create a statement of work (SOW), strengthen out any conflict of interests (like if they work with one of your competitors), and write a creative brief.
Then, the agency will take time to concept and will present their ideas. When evaluating ideas, be open to leaving your comfort zone. Once the chosen idea is out in the world, assess its success according to the KPIs you’ve set.
Here are 3 examples of KPIs:
- Reach and Engagement: How many people you’re reaching and how many like or follow your content.
- Visits and Traffic: How many people are visiting your site.
- Conversions: How many people are clicking through on your CTA and completing the action.
If the idea or campaign isn’t as successful as you had hoped, don’t panic - hitting a homerun on your first try is rare.
Work with the agency’s strategy and analytics teams to figure out what worked and what areas need improvement. Be bold. Nothing is too precious if it stands in the way of your business’s success.
If after some time you haven’t enjoyed the success you were looking for, it’s okay to consider a change in agencies. But if you’re happy, keep pushing for new ideas, and challenge the agency and yourself.
Now that you’ve learned about ins and outs of collaborating with a creative agency, let’s see if you can start taking your marketing to the next level.
References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer