Why getting an agency search wrong can be a seriously career limiting move

While agency searches may not be everyone’s favourite thing to have to deal with, they’re exercises that have to be carefully prepared and managed. 

As you map your search process there may be additional questions worth considering to help create a more robust search approach, leading to a more rewarding outcome and stronger agency partnership.  For example, you’ll need to consider:

  • Why are you (really) calling a review? 
  • Who should be involved in the process? 
  • Do you need a Search Consultant? 
  • How much will it all cost?
  • How long will it all take?
  • Are there restrictions within incumbent agency contracts? 
  • What kind of pitch process is best? 
  • How should communication be handled inside and outside the organization?

Ultimately, the decision to call an agency search is your decision – so you need to be sure it’s the right decision and you have a clear understanding as to why your incumbent agency relationship isn’t right for your needs, and a clear vision for the kind of agency best suited to your needs.

Getting this groundwork wrong could otherwise land you in hot water and potentially be something of a career limiting move.  Here’s why: 

Your brand is on the line

Generally speaking, marketers don’t change agencies that often.  Unless it’s a government or corporate governance requirement, it’s typically either an indication there’s been a material change in resources, scope or requirements and / or something’s not working with an incumbent agency.

Calling another agency search hot on the heels of the last one, won’t look good on your organization, the brands you represent – or you – because it’s an indication your internal challenges are overshadowing what agencies are bringing the table.

Results miss

No matter how well prepared your search process might be, the reality is agency searches can be disruptive to projects, teams, long-term planning activities – and results.

If your team is focused on evaluating new agencies and then settling in a new one until the agency finds its natural rhythm for your business, chances are results are going to be that much more challenging to achieve.

Get the process or choice wrong, and the chances of a marketing or sales results miss are going to increase.

It’ll cost you. (A lot).

Whether or not you choose to ask (and pay) for spec work in your search process, key internal resources are going to have to be pulled from live projects into your search initiative. And when they’re not focused on active projects, that’s an inevitable distraction from doing what they were hired to do.

Should the search process go wrong or – God forbid – have to be repeated, that’s going to eat into valuable time and costs that could otherwise be deployed elsewhere.

Your personal reputation

Whether you realize it or not, an agency search is also an opportunity to for others to evaluate you.  Agencies are sizing you and your team up as a potential client.  Your executive team will be expecting great things from the new agency and looking to you to make the right decision.  And your own team will be looking to ensure they have the right agency in place to help them execute what needs to get done.

If the process or new agency falls short of expectations, all eyes are going to be on you and the choices you made along the way, and future decisions around significant marketing choices may be called into question.

The decision to undertake any agency review shouldn’t be under estimated. Well-chosen agencies can form the basis of a relationship that could last decades and will have a lasting impact on the development of marketing strategies, the growth and success of your business and the development of your brand.

Cutting corners, not planning properly and ultimately getting your search wrong, could not only cost you but also damage your reputation. Taking the time to get it right by planning each step will pay dividends in the long-run and reflect well on you, your team and your company.

How can we help ensure your next search is a success?

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc  offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Mike Bitzenhofer
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