Over the past two years we have had close to 200 new business meetings. We have had a wide range of experiences. Some were really great, with well organized RFP’s, marketing goals, and past agency experience. Some, to be honest, were a total waste of time. Not a waste of our time, but a waste of the client’s time. So I thought I would help educate some of the less experienced marketers out there on how to find an ad agency.

Finding an ad agency is not something they teach you in school. It’s a lot like buying a house. You will more than likely need to go through the process at least once in your career as a business owner or marketing director, yet it’s a process no one discusses in college and there is very little info on the interwebs about it. It’s also a major decision. It’s also a major financial investment. Your future happiness could very well depend on this decision.

1. Know what you want. You need to know what you want. You wouldn’t go to your realtor and say, “I don’t know what I want. You tell me”. Nope. Do you want a 5-bedroom ranch home in the suburbs or a 2 bedroom condo downtown? The same applies to your marketing needs. You should know if you’re looking for a specific item like web design or a logo vs a complete marketing campaign that will run across the nation on TV, radio, and social media in an effort to increase sales by 15% YOY. So start with a list of things you want.

2. Know why you want it. Are you looking for a place because that’s what you’re “supposed to do” when you’re 35 years old? Are you trying to build equity? Or start a family and your studio apartment isn’t going to cut it anymore? These questions are really about future goals versus your current situation. The same logic applies to an ad agency: know why you are hiring an ad agency. Are your internal resources not capable of helping you reach your goals? Is your current agency not cutting it? Are you moving into a new market or digital space where you lack experience? This is probably the most important question you need to have answered before talking with an agency. This will also be a huge factor in getting to step three.

…Know why you are hiring an agency.

3. Know what you need. You now know what you want. Cool. You also know why you want it. Great. Now let’s get real and think about what you actually need. Do you really need a 5 bedroom ranch house? You are single and hate doing yard work. So while that might be cool in 5 years from now, maybe what you actually need at this moment is more of a starter house. Two bedrooms, two baths might make more sense. After all, your real motivation is just to begin building equity and avoid murdering the loud-ass neighbor upstairs. Again, be honest with your marketing needs and motivations. It’s perfectly ok to list out both your wants and needs in priority. Definitely share this list with your marketing agency, once you reach out.

4. Know how much you can spend. Ok, so you’ve realized that a two bedroom, two bath starter house is what you actually need. Great. How much can you spend? The general rule of thumb is 30% of your income. This obviously fluctuates as we all know people who spend way more, and others who spend way less. Nonetheless, you should have some idea of what you are willing to spend. If you are thinking $200k is a good amount for you then that would allow your realtor to share house options in the $150k-$250k range. Now if you say your budget is $100k, your realtor can decide if they are capable of finding houses in that range or if you’re being unrealistic. Maybe they can find you a house for that price, but you’ll have to do a lot of remodeling. When working with an ad agency, we can help you determine if your budget is good, adequate, or unreasonable. So always crunch the numbers and have a budget you can share with the agency. At Tilted Chair we won’t deliver a proposal without a budget.

5. Know when you need it. You are so close to being a homeowner. The last thing you need to figure out is when you need the house. Is your lease up in two months? If so, you had better get going now. If you have more time, then you can shop around and make sure you find the perfect house. When working with an ad agency you should know if there is a big event that is prompting this search. Are you launching a new product or moving into a new market? Is there a big company event you need materials for? Or do you have the luxury of time and don’t need things in a rush? These will all contribute to your decision. Some agencies might not have the bandwidth to deliver what you need in the timeframe given. Some might need to charge an additional amount to make your deadline. Either way, definitely share any deadlines.

6. Identify the right realtor, I mean, agency. Now that you’ve done all this homework, you’re about 50% of the way to home ownership. It’s time to find the perfect realtor. I would recommend doing a Google Search and asking your friends on social media for any realtor recommendations. This should get you a good list of people to contact. Do a little research on your options and then pick your top 3 that appear skilled at finding the type of house you are looking for. By this I mean if you are looking for that 2 bedroom, 2 bath house for $150k-$250k it doesn’t make sense to reach out to a realtor that specializes in $1 million condos in downtown. So do your research and then reach out to no more than your top three to set up meetings. They should be able to tell you their experience in finding homes similar to the one you want and chat about their process. Some do most of the legwork digitally by sending you virtual tours of the houses before viewing in person. Some do it the old fashion way and spend days and days with you personally driving around the city. Decide what level of experience and process fits you best. When finding agencies, ask other marketers/business owners you know and do some Google searches. Agencies should have really good websites that explain their areas of expertise, their experience, and why you should choose them. Once you narrow down your list to your top 3, reach out to set up a meeting.

7. Pick the realtor (agency) you can drink with. From my personal experience I have always had success with realtors that get my style and are excited to find me a home. It really comes down to who you connect with. Who do you trust with this major life purchase? If deciding between two realtors with equal experience and process go with the one you would grab a drink with. When hiring an ad agency it’s a little different. For one, the price of a realtor is paid by the seller and it’s fixed (at least in Texas). Also, the time spent together is short. You might have a month or two of being best friends, but then you probably won’t see them again until you sell your house many years later. With an ad agency your goal is always to grow your business in one way or another. So you should be prepared to treat your ad agency like a partner with whom you collaborate with and is equally invested in the success of your brand. So it should really be looked at as an ongoing long term relationship, right? While it’s absolutely important for you to trust them and they have the experience you are looking for, it’s even more important that they are people you can work with for a long time and can celebrate your successes. All things equal, that should be the deciding factor.

…Be prepared to treat your ad agency like a partner with whom you collaborate with and is equally invested in the success of your brand.

Well, there you have it. The course they never taught you in college to hire a realtor and/or hire a marketing agency. It’s not rocket science, but it does take some time and prep on your end to make sure you know what to expect. For convenience, we’ve put together a handy little RFP template for you. Download here.

Good luck on your quest for the home and/or ad agency of your dreams!!!

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