The Hands-Free Search

Although most marketers are in the process of revisiting current business plans, putting campaigns and other marketing expenditures on hold during the pandemic, one thing’s for sure: We will get through this. Businesses will re-open and marketers will be quickly looking for exceptional strategic and creative thinking to help them recover from the unprecedented challenges this pandemic has presented.

So if you’ve been contemplating an agency search and had to hit the brakes, we’ve adapted our search processes to ensure things can continue to move ahead on a ‘hands-free’ no meeting basis. And if you’ve already started but had to pause your process, we can help restart any component of your search with rigour and diligence. 

Here are the most common components of a search process we can manage hands-free:

Stakeholder reviews

Stakeholder interviews are perhaps the best way to help understand how a marketer’s needs have evolved, what your teams are looking for and defining how their needs aren’t being met by your incumbent. Cross-functional stakeholder interviews can also reveal internal or unrelated issues that may help guide advertisers in their quest for better relationships with their agencies.  All interviews are conducted on Zoom, Skype or by phone and we provide written insights report to feed into agency recommendations.

Agency recommendations

Developing agency recommendations based on capabilities and size, navigating around competitive conflicts and ascertaining appetite from each agency is also managed remotely. We then discuss recommendations with you and your team, and tie them back to the insights from stakeholders.    


Agency credentials as well as specific questions are provided by agencies in written submissions. Questions and clarification are then managed on an agency-by-agency basis to build up a clear picture of the agencies best suited for your needs. An online discussion between your team, moderated by us, then defines your agency shortlist.

RFP requirements

Deeper RFP asks – whatever they may be – are defined and articulated in best practice RFP documentation, based on requirements and insights from interviews. The presentation of agency responses is then managed through Zoom, with questions and answers handled in the normal way.


Scorecards are developed in advance and follow the asks contained in the RFP. These are distributed to your search team in advance of online RFP presentations.  The evaluation discussion process is managed online, allowing all search team stakeholders to provide their input.


While chemistry sessions – which can happen anywhere in the process – may be perceived as the most challenging part of the process to manage remotely, are actually strengthened.  We book individual times for key agency resources to participate in smaller chemistry sessions.  Depending on marketer requirements, one-to-one or one-to-two interviews provide for a deeper dive discussion on aspects of chemistry that are most important to the individual marketer.  

Financial analysis

We continue to offer the most comprehensive financial analysis of participating agencies in Canada, all managed directly between finalist agencies and the marketer.  Financial template development, questions, analysis and reporting are all managed remotely, with the final presentation discussion managed online.

Contract negotiation

Contract negotiation is managed in the normal way – directly with you and / or your procurement team, and your agency of choice.  In the event performance related incentive programs form part of your compensation model, hard, medium and soft metrics are negotiated within the contract at this time.


Once your agency of choice is defined and contractual terms agreed, transition begins remotely between incumbent, chosen agency and marketer.  Transition activity may include a full transition plan or components of proprietary documentation, process and agency support systems.

So while a ‘hands-free’ agency search may seem a little scary, it doesn’t mean skipping rigour and due diligence. Sure, it may seem strange and unusual, but it can perhaps offer greater insight into how your teams will work together in tough circumstances.  Some benefits of the ‘hands-free’ pitch might be:

  • A strength test for strong internal communication within agencies and your own organization
  • A focus on clear communication and collaboration than in face-to-face pitches
  • Less time required by eliminating client travel and coordinating pitch team members
  • A deeper look at key individuals within shortlisted agencies
  • Your search process can keep moving – even when other initiatives are under review
  • You’ll be ready to hit the ground running without delay once social distancing is behind us

How can we help manage your agency requirements and key components of your search process so you and your teams are ready to meet the challenges of the new business normal in the months ahead?


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: russell davies
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