atom thought

27th October 2017
By Stacy

Over the last year, I have spent almost 100% of my time receiving and responding to brands who need a new digital agency. My experiences have varied wildly, and I decided it’s now time to share the mistakes I believe brands make which make finding the most suitable agency very difficult.

Not giving a clear brief or budgets

OK, so you’re a brand, and you’re not really sure what you want to achieve. So, you send a very generic email out to agencies and ask them for a forecast and a rough budget. Whilst this might encourage an agency to be creative and think about what might be possible, the responses you are going to get will differ wildly. For example, you say you want to do some display marketing, but you don’t really know what you should be doing or how much you should spend..

Agency 1: Is worried that if they come in at a very high budget, you might write them off immediately. So, they put together a modest £25k spend, focussing on retargeting because that is where you will get sales at the lowest CPA. They include some Facebook prospecting and Google PPC due to the tight targeting options.

Agency 2: Thinks you want to see innovation, so they put together a proposal for £250k media spend, using programmatic and targeted site buys with interactive ad formats. They don’t drive many leads, but the ads look really cool.

As a brand, how do you choose between these two agencies? Well, if you dig deep enough, you probably did have some idea of what you wanted. It’s also likely you do have a rough budget in mind, and it’s very possible you have targets too. Sharing these with agencies will help you compare like for like. You can always tell agencies you want to see innovative ideas or suggestions for driving CPA down or brand awareness up without ruining the pitch process.

For us, the perfect digital brief would:

  • Not be too long – seriously, we have received 20 page briefs which involve days of disecting, let alone the time it takes to put a response together
  • Include a budget – what is your marketing spend for the year? Would you rather be charged a media fee or a retainer? Are you open to performance-related pay?
  • Have targets – what are you looking to achieve at a minimum (these are normally decided at the start of the year)
  • Cover the scope of activity – especially any areas you don’t want included in the pitch
  • Include background of activity to date (but remember, don’t make this too long!)
  • Have clear timelines for questions / pitches etc.

Fast turnaround times

Pitches, good pitches, take time to put together (we are not, contrary to popular belief, magicians). Ideally, we want to analyse your site, your competitors, your users, speak to potential suppliers as well as creating a beautiful and well rehearsed presentation for pitch day.

When clients ask us to put together a pitch in a matter of days, we are unable to be at our best (and I really hate pitching when I’m not at my best!). Judging agencies must be a difficult (but fun) job, but it is made much easier (and fairer) when you are judging agencies at their A game. My guidance – a week should be the minimum amount of time to give agencies for a proposal or pitch.

Withholding important information

We get lots of requests for account audits, which we love as we get to dive deep into an account’s data and work out what we could do to improve results for a brand. When it comes to presenting those results, we are then given lots of information about internal politics, objectives, historic reasoning etc. It can almost feel a bit like we were expected to find these things out from an audit (which would be impossible).

We would always suggest that, prior to requesting an audit, brands have a meeting or phone call with the agency to disclose reasons why things are as they are, what the implications of different suggestions might be and how much change are they open to. This will result in a much more valuable end result.

So there you have it. An honest account of the fundamental mistakes I believe brands make when trying to find a new agency. Ultimately,  you want to get an agency’s best work, and start building a partnership right from the beginning of a pitch process, so by addressing these points, you can build respect and trust from the start, leading to (hopefully) long and successful relationship.

If you’re looking for a new digital marketing agency, why not get in touch, we’d love to help you find more customers.