A good agency knows that their work is only as good as the results it delivers — whether it’s a campaign, website, brand identity, or other product.
Producing such work requires a talented team with hard skills in strategy, conceptualization, copywriting, design, project management, and more. But soft skills and emotional intelligence are where the true value is delivered. Mastery in these skills makes the difference between a good creative partner and a great one. These agencies offer the most promise for a successful long-term relationship.
So, when you're shopping around, ask the agency about their approach to these five important areas:
An agency may excel at design. That’s great, because good design will create an experience that the user will enjoy and want to come back to.
But good design on its own won’t lead to the business results you’re looking for. Design exists to solve problems. It always has.
When it comes to marketing, design must be founded on a solid foundation of strategy — specifically the positioning of your product or service.
Knowing what makes your customer tick before pen hits paper will make the difference between a brand that your audience engages with and one that won’t resonate.
Takeaway: Take the time to research an agency’s work to determine if it consistently produces creative that communicates a client’s strategy.
Make no mistake that creativity in your marketing will deliver real business results. I can’t stress that point enough.
Let’s define creativity as the ability to find unusual and nonobvious solutions to a problem. According to a Harvard Business Review article, a study on the effectiveness of creativity revealed that creative campaigns were more effective than less creative ones. Creativity was measured by scoring points on five dimensions of creativity – originality, flexibility, elaboration, synthesis, and artistic value – and those results were compared to sales figures.
Creative marketing is more memorable and more efficient at engaging with consumers and affecting purchasing decisions. Extraordinary results don’t come from safe campaigns.
Takeaway: Look for an agency with a body of work that’s creative rather than conservative, because people want to engage with products or services that are marketed in a creative way.
An agency should listen intently when you talk about your business. They should act like a sponge, soaking up all the nuances of your offerings and your industry. They should understand what it’s like to walk in the shoes of your customers.
If they start spitting out solutions to your problem before you’ve had a chance to finish explaining the problem, they’re not listening.
The only agenda your agency should have is to help you get the results you want. As with any relationship, there will be disagreements. What matters is how the two parties work through them, with trust and respect as the foundation.
Takeaway: Ask to speak with an agency’s clients to get a feel for how collaborative they are. It’s the best way to learn their real personality before signing up.
This one really boils down to an agency being honest. Honest about what they know and what they don’t. Honest about what they think of your marketing and strategy. And honest about the direction and feedback you give them.
You’re the client. The one who is investing hard-earned money in an agency. The one who knows the most about your business, and ultimately has the final word on what marketing goes live to the world. So, the agency should always be doing their best to make you happy.
But it's essential that the agency has the confidence to tell you when they think you’re making a mistake. Again, it’s a relationship. And relationships require good communication or else they fall apart. So, remember to have faith in the expertise that you’re paying for. Agencies want you to succeed. No agencies want to showcase a portfolio of failed clientele.
Takeaway: Beware of the “Yes” agency. Nobody knows everything about everything. Authentic people tend to show a little vulnerability. And they’re okay with that.
Sometimes a project that has been researched thoroughly and executed to perfection finally launches — and the results are less than successful. Maybe it’s your product page that isn’t getting the level of traffic that you expected. Or it’s your campaign that's getting more negative comments than clicks.
A good agency is monitoring all of this proactively, and keeping you up to date in real-time. They’re huddled up on how to fix the issue or conceptualize new creative.
They’re definitely not ignoring it and hoping that you don’t notice. Or sulking because their seemingly great idea has fallen flat.
Takeaway: Ask an agency what they do when things don’t go as planned. Better yet, look for one that promotes their ability to adapt without you asking.
Is this an exhaustive list of what to look for in a marketing agency? No, certainly not.
But an agency that actively embodies these five virtues has the potential to be a valuable strategic partner for years to come.
And remember, don’t pay for the name of an agency. Pay for the quality you see in the work and the people.
If you are looking for assistance with a design or digital marketing-related project for your business contact liquid today to hear about our approach to these five virtues and more. Liquid was recently recognized as one of the top Digital Agencies in Pennsylvania by DesignRush.