3 Things to Ask Yourself Before You Look for New Agency

The agency selection process is a huge task. It requires a lot of resources and can be expensive. There are many articles providing very useful information and tips for a successful agency selection process. Still, I see many companies struggle to find the right match, an agency that can fulfill their needs as expected. I believe that the agency selection starts with a detailed examination of your environment and unique needs. Here are some of the things for you to consider prior to engaging in your next agency selection process.

What are the reasons for searching new agency?

First of all, you want to identify the reasons why you need a new agency. This will give you important selection criteria and expectations for a new agency. Once you know exactly why it will be easy to narrow the list of candidates. Some of the reasons may be:

  • New area of service, or new market

For example, you have a search agency, but now need another agency to support your social media activities. Perhaps, your company is expanding into the Asian market and needs an agency with local market expertise in Japan.   

If these are the reasons, think about who would manage the new agency. Do you already have a staff or a team responsible for the new area? Will there be any communication challenges such as location, time zone differences, and languages, and how will you handle them?

  •   Different service package

Let’s say you are working with multiple agencies, one for each market or one for each business unit. Now that your company structure is shifting from a silo to a more integrated model, you think having an all-in-one agency to support all markets and business units would be the way to go. Or, you now have one agency covering everything and feel that you want multiple agencies with more market-specific or industry-specific expertise, who can work closely with your business units.

If these are the reasons, think about how you will align agencies with your business unit structure.

  • Replacement for current agency

Typically, the two main reasons for replacing your current agency are costs and performance that they may be failing to meet your expectations.

If the cost is the only complaint you have, give them a chance to counteroffer with new pricing. It costs both time and money to look for a new agency so if you can negotiate the fee with your current agency, it will solve the problem. If poor performance is the reason, you’d want to specify each expected point and item in your new agency contract so that you don’t have the same problems with them.

What level of services and support do you need from an agency?

Each company has different levels of expectations and types of requirements for an agency. The size of a team and a corporate structure typically dictate how you engage with an agency. In order to find the right agency, think about what your needs are.

  • The length of support you need

Do you need short-term support for a specific project such as website redesign or a new product campaign, or are you looking for an agency to work with you ongoing basis?

  • Support for your In-House team, or to outsource 100%

If you have an in-house team, who manage the daily work, and are looking for an agency to offer additional support by providing the specific expertise that your in-house team doesn’t have, or to pick up some workload, you will need to look for an agency with a completely different service model than when you need to outsource 100% of the work to an agency.  Ensure you are clear with the support you need to reduce the amount of upselling by the agency down the road.

Are you ready to cut ties with the current agency?

If you are looking for a new agency to replace your current agency, there are several preparations you should take. The last thing you need is to lose your account history and data by switching agencies. Before you end the contract, try to obtain tool access and data. If possible, negotiate to transfer account ownership to you before you formally notify them. Unfortunately, many agencies don’t cooperate with these requests and want to hold your data hostage, but it won’t hurt to ask. (You may want to specify this in a new contract so that you’ll own the account or have full access to the data.)

If you have an in-house team, even if they work with an agency for additional support, you are probably subscribing to tools yourself and own the campaign accounts. But if you are not, this is a good time to consider taking ownership of your data. By switching an agency, you’ll lose your campaign account under the agency’s name anyway. If it’s yours, you’ll never have to worry about losing data or having to set up tools and campaigns all over again.

After examining your needs based on the above 3 points, you should have a comprehensive list of requirements and expectations for new agency selection. Don’t be afraid to be specific, and ask the hard questions. Only when the expectations of both parties are met will you find your match.

*Updated my article originally published on ClickZ inJanuary 2014.