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How to find the perfect creative partner

January 30th, 2013

tigermel

This blog was originally posted as part of our Christmas countdown, but we thought it was worth a repeat as it’s something we get asked about quite a lot.

Whether it’s for a website, advertising, graphic design, printed materials or even video, selecting an agency to work with your business is a big investment and you want to make sure you get the best return. We hear a lot of horror stories about agencies not performing and quite often, it’s because they just weren’t the right people for the job. Don’t leave it to chance, or to “the boss’ partner’s friend” – try our Top Tips.

Take some time to really think about what you want to achieve. Can you explain your objectives clearly? What will success look like? How will you measure it? Are you being realistic about the timescales?

Know what you can afford. If you leave it to the agencies to suggest a budget, you run the risk of getting proposals that are either wildly out of line with your resources or full of unrealistic ideas. Be prepared to talk budget upfront – a good agency will take that on board and come back with a proposal of how to use that to maximum effect.

Do your research. Don’t just pick the first companies that pop up in a web search. If you want to work with someone local, ask around for recommendations. If you’ve seen some work you admire, find out who did it. If you’ve got some very specific requirements, be clear about the skills and experience an agency will need in order to meet them.

Write a brief. Trust us – time spent getting this right will save you time, energy and pain later. We’ll be posting some detail on how to do this soon but, in the meantime, set out your objectives, your requirements as you see them, your timescales and your budget. Make sure you include information about who to contact with questions.

Be open to questions. In my experience, a good agency always gets in touch for a chat or to ask some questions before preparing a response to a brief. Are they asking good questions? Do they sound genuinely interested in your business?

Spread the net wide and then shortlist. Set criteria for shortlisting so that you can be objective – it’s easy to get swayed by fancy pictures. But make it a short shortlist: 3 is good, 5 is the max. Beyond that, you’re holding a beauty parade and wasting your valuable time.

Meet your shortlisted agencies. By all means ask for a presentation, but don’t expect them to do lots of free work. Ask about what they’ve achieved for other clients, why they’re interested in working with you. Make it a conversation.

Lastly, look for chemistry – you’re inviting these people to become an extension of your team and to do important work for your business. You need to be able to trust and respect them. Start the relationship off as you mean to go on.

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