Choosing the Right Agency: Key to Brand Success (2023)

Selecting the right marketing agency can make all the difference for your brand's success.

The Gist

  • Strategic selection. Choosing the right marketing agency is a strategic decision that can accelerate your brand's growth.
  • Thorough vetting. Conducting comprehensive portfolio reviews and vetting processes is crucial in identifying a capable and trustworthy agency.
  • Effective partnership. Successful agency partnerships require shared visions, consistent brand messaging and alignment of expectations and capacities.

In today's dynamic business landscape, the choice of your marketing agency can serve as a linchpin for your brand's success. It's a decision that calls for a thorough understanding of the market and a strategic approach.

“It’s a buyers’ market for B2B agency services as economic conditions threaten budgets, in-housing peaks, and B2B marketers look for the right mix of agency and in-house capabilities,” according to Forrester, which predicts that the largest holding company agencies will see new opportunities to build out comprehensive B2B-focused practices with end-to-end media, marketing and data services, while smaller agencies proliferate and expand their specialized B2B capabilities.

Whether in the B2B or B2C marketing arena, as a CMO, it's crucial to establish a strategic and efficient agency selection process.

While the choice of an outside agency will invariably depend on your budget and the division of labor between in-house and agency-led marketing, these six factors serve as a crucial guide for making an informed decision. After all, selecting the right agency can catalyze your brand's growth and success in an increasingly competitive market.

Below are some of the key factors in choosing an agency.

1. Undertake Comprehensive Portfolio Reviews & Vetting

Examine the portfolio of any potential agency partner, recommends Anna Stella, CEO of BBSA. “You will be judging the agency from its previous work, it’s key to get a portfolio that provides concrete evidence of its capability. It will help determine if the agency can provide an effective strategy and activities tailored to your needs and targeted results.”

In addition to reviewing the agency's portfolio, it is crucial to understand the processes they follow. "While the portfolio may be impressive, knowing how they plan to execute your work is essential,” Stella added.

A comprehensive vetting process, including reference checks and portfolio reviews, is essential in identifying an agency with a proven track record of success, agreed Eddie Munteanu, BHERO chief operating officer and head of marketing. “Additionally, consider the size and resources of the agency, as both large and small agencies offer unique advantages.”

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2. Identify Full-Funnel Capabilities in Marketing Firms

Full-funnel strategy combines brand equity with performance tactics to address customer purchasing journeys, according to a Forrester report.

To ensure a marketing firm has full-funnel capabilities, they need to have:

  • Proprietary technology to activate audience intelligence, which informs, develops, implements and optimizes marketing.
  • Integrated media and creative capabilities: Nearly a third (32%) of CMOs at B2C organizations with more than 500 employees intend to integrate creative and media assignments
  • Resources to train and retain top talent: “Top marketing firms require rare expertise that’s more commonly developed than discovered,” according to Forrester. “Look for partners that institutionalize employee training and development.”

3. Ensure Leadership Quality in Marketing Agencies

"One critical aspect to consider is the people who will be leading the teams working on your brand,” said Rafael Ribeiro, Yes We Are Mad executive director. “It is essential to trust these leaders and allow them to guide you as experts in their field. The agency should be viewed as an extension of your team, sharing your vision and goals while providing valuable insights on how to communicate your brand in the best possible way.”

An honest and trustworthy agency will not hesitate to point out areas that need improvement or mistakes that require attention, Ribeiro added.

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In a similar vein, it is important to hire an agency with trained, qualified marketers, Stella said. “Although most marketing agencies will claim to have recently trained their staff, it is important to delve into specifics and deeply understand the staff that will be working on your project.”

Closely review their qualifications and inquire about their recent training in marketing, Stella advised. “By reviewing their training and qualification, you ascertain the expertise and knowledge of the team and ensure they have the right skills to handle your project.”

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4. Understand Team Dynamics & Know Who’s Doing the Work

Closely related to who will lead is who will do the actual work on projects for your company, Stella said. “Often, the team pitching the project is not the one doing the work. We have seen this many times, especially with big agencies. Gain an in-depth understanding of who will be responsible for your work, how it will be carried out, and when to expect results. All of this will need to be stated in writing.” This clarity not only promotes accountability but also ensures you have the right expectations from the start. It is an essential part of building a transparent and effective working relationship with your chosen agency.

5. Aligning Shared Vision & Ensuring Consistent Brand Messaging

The outside agency must be able to efficiently share your vision with external vendors and have the necessary capacity to deliver on your expectations, Ribeiro said. “Agencies with more in-house capabilities tend to have better efficiencies, both in terms of timelines and costs, but most importantly, they can provide seamless communications that go through the same creative processes, ensuring that your brand message is consistent across all platforms.” This consistency is crucial in building trust and recognition with your target audience. In addition, the agency's ability to handle various tasks in-house can facilitate faster adjustments, fostering agility in your marketing strategy in response to market trends and feedback.

6. Establishing Fruitful Partnerships & Good Synergy

“In summary, finding the best agency partner means sharing synergies and considering several factors, such as the people leading the teams, the agency's processes and in-house capabilities, and their differentiator or overarching mindset,” Ribiero said. “When expectations and capacities align, successful client-agency partnerships bring results fast and last long.”

“By implementing a carefully crafted agency selection process, which accounts for industry expertise, cultural fit, adaptability, and thorough vetting, we've succeeded in our marketing partnerships,” Munteanu added. “Investing the time and effort required to find the ideal marketing agency for your brand. By doing so, you can secure a lasting partnership that fuels your brand's growth and success in an increasingly competitive market."

Final Thoughts on Selecting an Outside Marketing Agency

Beyond the recommendations above, the selection of an outside agency will depend in no small part on your budget and how much marketing will be done in-house, and what will be provided by the outside agency. Regardless of which end of the spectrum your firm is on those two factors, the six factors above are important considerations in selecting an outside marketing agency.

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