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24 July 2012

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly design agencies

Getting creative: is this the agency for me?

When spending your precious marketing budget you want to be sure you're getting the best ideas and value for money from the creative agencies you work with, as well as a healthy return on investment. Whether your aim is to increase traffic and return visits to your website, sell more products or enhance your brand reputation, picking the right agency is the first step on the road to success.

Traditionally, creative agencies provided print media for broadcasting messages to audiences but interactive online experiences are now more often proving to be the marketer's tool of choice when it comes to spending those budgetary pounds. In this digital age, the role of agencies has evolved and along with the actual creative, a good one will provide a whole range of services, such as interactive strategy, advice on social media tactics and audience analytics. And that's just for starters.

A bad one on the other hand will talk the talk at the proposal stage but find it a real struggle to walk the walk when it comes to delivery. Not only will they palm you off with a junior account manager if you're not a household brand name, they will often just regurgitate concepts already created for other clients rather than taking the time to get to know you and your business and what you're looking to achieve. And then just when you think things can't get any worse, along come the hidden charges. That low quote that seemed a bit too good to be true was in fact just a way to win the work and now it seems there is an exorbitant fee for every little thing.

So how will you know which one is the right one for you when it's such a minefield out there? Well, it's not an exact science but there are some key questions to ask that can help point you in the right direction...

What have they been up to?

Any creative agency worth its salt will have a portfolio of work online for prospective clients to view. Have a browse. This will give you an idea of the sort of things you can expect from them. Do their examples all look strangely similar? If so, you can virtually guarantee that they are not that creative at all. It's a sad fact that many ‘creative' agencies actually buy templates online and then just add their clients' logos and claim the work for their own. Good agencies, on the other hand, employ good designers who enjoy the challenge of creating bespoke content for all their clients' campaigns, and this will be evident in their portfolio.

Who have they been doing it with?

What does their client list look like? Is it well populated and do you recognise any of the brands? Do they have experience in your industry? If so this will reduce the risks as they can bring this knowledge with them. Experience across a range of industries will also demonstrate a commitment to getting to know their clients and understanding their objectives. Nine times out of ten, an agency that has an impressive client list will have it for a reason - they are good to work with and they deliver the creative experiences that get the results their clients want.

What are people saying about them?

When researching your agency online, don't automatically assume that the front runners high up in the sponsored adverts and first in the Google rankings are there because they're the best. Anyone with some advertising pounds to spend and the know-how to boost their ranking can fill these spots. Most companies have testimonials from clients on their website along with case studies telling the stories of their successful projects, and these are an excellent reference that should give you a good idea about what they are like to work with. But if you are going to be investing your time, money and brand with them it's worth asking for existing client contacts you can speak to about their experiences working with them.

Who are they?

You need to find out who you're going to be working with so meet the team before making any decisions. The relationship you have with the agency team is integral to the success of your projects so it's vital you know who's going to be involved. When you're going through the selection process make sure you're clear on who will be in the team and spend some time with them sharing ideas and expectations. Having someone you can talk to about design who knows what they're talking about is vital, you don't want your only interaction to be with a project manager who relays your ideas and objectives for you and they end up getting lost in translation.

What can they do for you?

So, after answering these questions you should now be able to recognise the good, the bad and the downright ugly and be at the stage where you think you've found the agency for you. Now's the time to ask for their ideas and examples on a project they'll be working on - if they're serious about working with you they'll happily provide some creative ideas and a bit of strategic input. If they present you with an idea that is completely off the mark then you've got to move on. But if they get it right and come up with something that really hits the spot, then you've found the agency for you and can build on those ideas to get your first successful project out the door together.

Need a good design agency? Why not contact the ifour design agency on 01892 541111 or arrange a visit to come and see us at our design agency studio Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

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