no flipping coins please
06 May 2015
Decisions, decisions, decisions
When it comes to choosing a design agency, there is no shortage of choice. But flipping a coin, isn’t generally the best way to decide who to entrust your brand to.
Here are a few tips on what to look out for in a good agency.
1. What do you actually want?
You don’t want to waste your time, so before you start looking, decide on what you want. It might sound obvious enough, but it’s amazing how many companies don’t do the thinking before they start the talking.
What do you want your agency for? Are you rebranding, designing a website, running a campaign or simply getting a brochure redesigned?
How much do you want to spend? Remember that peanuts will buy you monkeys, so set a realistic budget.
What’s your timetable? ASAP is not clear enough. Set a realistic deadline taking into account staff holidays, other projects you have on, time to get feedback from stakeholders and any testing or research you want to do before launch.
How will you measure success? If you don’t know what you want to get out of your campaign, why are you doing it? So think about what return you want to get from your investment.
2. What experience do they have?
The proof is in the pudding, so take a look at a few examples of work from your chosen agencies. Any decent agency will have examples on their website and will be more than happy to talk you through the creative process of putting them together.
But remember, one good campaign doth not make a great agency! You want to see consistency. And make sure if you’re looking for a rebrand that you see great branding work. An agency may be able to do nice websites and funky Ad campaigns, but if they’ve not got branding experience – think twice!
Most agencies will also have testimonials from ‘happy customers’ and don’t be afraid to check these out. A call to a marketing manager at another firm will only take a few moments, but will confirm whether the glowing report is really as good as it seems.
Also see how long the company has been going. The more established ones won’t necessarily be the best, but if you are new to this game, they may give you more reassurance that they know what they’re doing.
3. How big are they?
Have a think about the level of care and attention you want and the size of your project. The impressive offices of mega agencies may scream success, but if you’re an SME, then you might want to think again. The biggest agencies have multi-million pound accounts. You’re £40,000 project is small fry to them and chances are, even if they take you on, you won’t get the best level of service. Opting for a medium or small agency will give you a much better return on investment and a much more personal level of service.
Also consider the volume of work you need doing. If it’s a considerable chunk you’ll want to make sure that the agency you choose has the capacity to fulfill it. It’s not uncommon for agencies to outsource some tasks, but just check how much. After all, you’re hiring an agency not an agent.
5. Can you work with them?
This might sound a little bit too subjective, but, at the end of the day, you’ll be working closely with these guys, so you need to be on the same wavelength. Ideally, you need someone who’s approachable and professional. In a sense it’s a bit like speed dating!
- Steer clear of anyone who spouts a load of jargon you don’t understand to try to impress you.
- You want someone who is open and happy to talk about themselves, but also asks plenty of questions about your company and your objectives.
- Make sure they know what you actually want and aren’t trying to sell you something you really didn’t ask for.
- You also need to be confident that you can chat to them about the tricky stuff – like money!
4. What accreditation do they have?
Letters after a company name aren’t everything, but if you want a little more reassurance that the agency are up to scratch, then check that they are affiliated with organizations such as the Design Business Association or Recommended Agencies Register (RAR). You can check their claims with the industry bodies themselves and through RAR you can even see the number of staff they have, any awards they’ve won and other affiliations they have.
5. What are their Ts and Cs?
This is the dull stuff, but it’s worth getting sorted up front to safeguard you and prevent issues later down the line. Don’t be shy asking. Any agency with an ounce of professionalism will have thought about these things too.
- Are there any hidden costs, like set up fees or holding fees?
- What would additional meetings cost?
- Can you make staged payments for the work?
- Are updates and maintenance included in the website design fees?
- How many rounds of amends are included in the fee?
Need some more information?
If you want to explore these ideas a little more, here are a few tips on how some big brands go about selecting their partners. The Design Business Agency also has a document to walk you through the process of pitching.