OTTO is a creative agency committed to delivering unique branded communications and strategic, design-focused solutions.

Sep 14 2017

Finding the Right Agency Partner

How to Hire an Agency that Grows Your Business

All too often the experience of hiring an agency begins with great excitement and ends in disappointment. Why? There are countless reasons, but one of the most significant and most common causes of frustration is hiring the wrong team for the situation. That might sound obvious, but the pitfalls that afflict a company in hiring a good agency often lurk in places you might not expect. We’ve outlined a few of the most common to help you choose the right team and build stronger, more successful, and rewarding agency relationships.

A Little Homework Helps

Personal relationships go a long way in a world of information overload. Recommendations from a trusted ally help us all cut through the clutter. But before you jump into a business relationship, a little research can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation. Hiring an agency is about far more than writing checks; it’s a commitment of time and energy. It takes time to educate an agency partner about the issues your business faces, the competitive landscape, and your strategy for facing your business challenges. Look for an agency with a history of enduring client relationships. Agencies that partner with clients over the long term tend to be more invested in their client’s success.

Window Dresser or Problem Solver?

Great looking work is always exciting. But if the work you are paying for is limited to aesthetic appeal, you are selling your business short. Successful design, writing, brand strategy, or advertising is based on helping your business address its most pressing concerns. It’s about solving problems. Look for an agency partner with a track record of solving problems and creating memorable, impactful work. Can they demonstrate the effectiveness of their actions? Can they offer you proof that what they are doing works?

Hands or Heads?

When you make an agency request, do you get what you asked for? If you do, that might not always be a good thing. Sometimes finding an extra pair of hands to execute your ideas is all you need. But for a successful and rewarding client-agency experience look for a talented pair of hands attached to an inquisitive, curious and thoughtful mind. A great agency partner supplements your experience with their own. Their outside perspective can help you see your own situation more clearly. A partner that comes to you with the unexpected solution or a probing set of insightful questions can do far more for the success of your business than an agency that just fills your orders.

Experience or Tenure

Industry experience is helpful because it can truncate the learning curve somewhat. But far more consequential than having worked in your industry for 15 years is their track record of identifying problems and finding inventive, effective solutions. Experience is only valuable if you learn from it. Sadly, we all know someone who has been working at the same job for 15 years and seemingly learned very little beyond how to keep their job. For a great agency partner you want a powerful, insightful team that has a track record of working effectively, not someone so steeped in the industry’s traditional way of doing things that they present obvious, expected “ideas”.

What is the Issue?

Clarity is king. Successful outcomes are inextricably tied to a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Look for a partner that asks good questions, not “what color do you want it?”. Are they trying to understand your business, your strategy and your goals? Are they asking what you and your competitors are doing (well and poorly)? Are they asking questions you hadn’t thought of? These are all indicative of an agency that is looking to help you with your business, and that is a valuable partner.

Does the Shoe Fit?

Are you comfortable with the team you’re hiring? Good chemistry is important in any enduring relationship. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends with your agency partners, but you will be spending a significant amount of time together and trusting the team to help guide your business. Good chemistry ensures that you are able to be open, honest and forthright in your dealings with them, and good communication is absolutely essential to achieving the best possible outcomes together. Listen to your instincts. Do you find them interesting or annoying? What do their clients say about working with them?

There is no Magic Bullet

All of the above make one thing clear: hiring the right team for your business is a significant decision. As stated above, it takes a lot of time and effort to build a satisfying and effective client-agency relationship. A great agency partner won’t make all your problems go away. They will replace stupid problems with significant ones, the kinds of challenges that will help you determine the success of your business. They will help you gain insight into the challenges your business faces and the options you have for addressing them. They will help you do what you do better.

These are some of the paramount considerations when hiring an agency. We hope they are helpful. Check back with us soon to learn about how to manage your agency relationships more effectively. In the meantime, if you have important insights we’ve overlooked, or questions about what we mean, we’d love to hear from you!

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