Hiring a branding agency is arguably one of the biggest decisions you will ever have to make for the sake of your business. It’s critical for success. Whether planning a complete branding identity design from scratch or getting a re-branding, an efficient branding agency will inevitably help your business grow.
Branding is one of the most vital parts of your business, so hiring a team of branding experts is a very useful endeavor. Luckily, a number of good branding agencies exist – so it’s not like you’re alone in the desert, looking for a cup of water. It’s more like you’re swimming in a pool full of great sea creatures – some of them will help you drown, while others are ready to help you swim and survive – like dolphins. You need actively find the dolphin of branding agencies in the overcrowded sea/
But it’s not always immediately obvious who you should choose. They all promise to get the job done – so where should your search start?
Hunt the Agencies Down
Before you choose a branding agency, it is important to take several crucial factors into account. Check out the things described below to help make the best choice for your business.
Ask Your Colleagues for Suggestions
Referrals from peers are a great way to find out about an agency quickly and gain some ‘insider’ information at the same time. Ask for precise examples of the results the agency has produced for your peer’s business and find out how they work day-to-day. Be sure to research each lead carefully, though, because the agency that’s right for your peer may not be the right fit for you.
Google the Agencies
This is what Google is for! Don’t lose sight of the fact that companies with high-ranking websites on key search terms are likely to be the leaders in their industry – and this is especially promising for branding agencies. If regular face-to-face contact is important to you – consider how far you’re willing to travel regularly for meetings with your agency – and adjust your location-based keyword searches to reflect this fact.
Find Amazing Work and Find Out Who Did It
It’s true that bigger brands usually have bigger budgets and can engage the largest agencies, but great work doesn’t have to mean something as enormous as iPhone’s latest global campaign. If you’re still thinking of a payoff from a press ad you saw two months ago or even the creativity in a program you saw in your local Center of Arts last week, find out which agency was responsible for the work and approach them with your brief.
Find a Suitable Agency
So you’ve found several seemingly fine agencies, you can rest assured you’ve made some progress in your search. Now the time has come to make a shortlist.
Find Out Where Agencies Are Located
There are agencies right on your doorstep, and some that are hundreds of miles away. While you may decide that regular face-to-face meetings are a must for you and that your agency has to be well within physical reach, modern technology means you also can choose an agency anywhere in the world. In this day and age, geography shouldn’t limit your choices. Rather, your decision is all about how you and your company like to work.
Follow Your Top Candidates on Social Media
Do you find the agency’s social updates creative and inspiring? Do they seem to have a good company culture? A sense of personality? What type of content do they produce to market themselves? Do they produce insightful blog content regularly? Just like assessing a person’s LinkedIn and Facebook page before they come in for an interview, an agency’s social media page should give you an idea of where their expertise lies, who their clients are, and what exactly inspires them.
Check Out Their Portfolios
It’s fair to say that those who are creative are rather fond of awards. Yet fondness is not the same as receiving said recognition. Industry awards, accreditations, and other formal recognitions help distinguish good agencies from the herd of mediocre ones. A record of award-winning client work shows that an agency has the get-up-and-go to deliver on its campaigns – and that they’re proud of the work they produce. Creative work is getting measurably more effective, and awards that measure creativity should be particularly useful in helping you narrow down your selection.
Getting in Touch
Once you’ve identified a shortlist of agencies that seem like a good fit for your project, it’s time to get in touch. But, before you fall in love with an agency and hire it, make certain you find a few more things.
Make Sure You See Eye to Eye
If you’re an established entrepreneur, you’re likely to have invested your heart and soul into your business – it’s an extension of who you are. On the flip side, if you’re working for an already established company as a marketing director, for instance, you’ll most likely have some ambitious targets in place. It’s vital that not only does your prospective agency take the time to understand your business and the goals you’ve set, but also that they are passionate about your mutual journey. You can agree on a set of clear and achievable KPIs.
Meet the Team
Make sure the people pitching to you are the ones you will be working with on a day-to-day basis. Large agencies sometimes have teams for ‘new businesses,’ and once they win your account, they may introduce a new account team without warning. With small and medium-sized agencies, you are more likely to meet and have access to the most experienced, senior people who run the entire operation themselves.
Do You Like How They Handled Their Previous Projects?
Looking at the agency’s previous work and case studies will give you a good idea of where their key strengths lie. Don’t rule out agencies who aren’t willing to provide free creativity at your first meeting. The pitch process is very artificial, superficial, and generally rewards agencies who have time on their hands – those who don’t regularly win work. Instead, ask the agency to explain the stories behind specific campaigns or projects – what was the brief from their client, what did their agency do, and what were the results?
It’s also important to find out at this stage whether the agencies have specific experience within your industry. You should also consider any issues regarding conflict with competitors. In some cases, an agency with no experience in your industry may be better, because it eliminates the danger of set and repetitive thinking and gives the agency a fresh challenge, which is likely to get them fired up and excited. Designers love new creative challenges, and an all-new industry to move in will be the most likely to have them thinking of ideas for your brand’s next campaign on their drive home.
Enjoying Each Other Is Important
This is where trusting your gut is crucial. Before you hire an agency, be sure to hold a ‘chemistry meeting.’ This allows you to meet the people with whom you are likely to be working in the flesh. Just like in any business relationship, sometimes there will be natural chemistry, and other times, it will feel like two people on a blind date who quickly realize they have absolutely nothing in common. This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss your goals and for the prospective agency to ask questions. The effort is important, and a standout agency will be the one that has researched what it is you need and how you are likely to get there. Do their ideas inspire you? Will they push you to get uncomfortable? Think about these things before making your final decision.
It’s good to start by working out your key objectives and how you think this project will meet them. Take your time identifying a small number of agencies that seem suitable and don’t rush the process of making a decision about which branding agency you’ll go with. Do your research and consider all options carefully because the more time you spend looking for the right branding agency, the more likely you’ll be happy with your decision. Truthfully, you’re also more likely to be successful in the long run. Most agency-client relationships that last for a long time are based on an honest and open approach based on respect. Following the steps listed above is a great start to that relationship.