As a prospective client would you like to know what we hope to discover at an agency pitch meeting? To empower you with this agency insider-knowledge, we’ve put together a handy list! But first you need to know how to begin.
How To Begin An Agency Search
So you work for a nonprofit or business that needs professional creative expertise. As a project lead your task is to find a creative agency to help you bring a new initiative or project to fruition. But how do you prepare to meet and ultimately choose your creative partner? To begin your search for a creative agency, ask your network to provide you with referrals, do some online research or post the opportunity on a job board.
After some initial vetting, invite the prospective candidates in for an interview. To a creative agency this interview means they get to pitch their expertise to you. Agencies prepare for a pitch by doing some initial research about your organization. We select specific portfolio pieces to share with you to demonstrate that we have the track record for the kind of work you need.
8 Things To Know Before the Meeting
1) The right fit is as important to us as it is to you. Our most important task is to build a relationship with our clients so that we are able to produce impactful and relevant communication pieces. We will ask lots of questions. We endeavor to be seen as a partner not a vendor. Trust is vital to the creative process, so ultimately we are looking to build a long-term relationship. Do our core values align? Do our cultures mesh well? Does our creative work make a positive impact on you? Will we be able to add value to your organization?
2) To the best of your ability, define your communication goals. We want to know why you want to communicate with a particular audience in a particular way. If you don’t know we can help you determine realistic and achievable goals. We are happy to dive into this discovery process.
3) Tell us what you think you need to meet your goals. What kind of deliverables? Brand and Identity? Collateral? A marketing plan? Video? Internet marketing? Annual report? Fundraising materials? Social media strategy? Every agency has a specialty and it’s important to match capabilities with your needs.
4) Describe what success looks like for you. Are you looking to raise awareness? Add donors? Schedule more sales calls? Build brand loyalty? Launch a new identity? Partner with competitors? Rebrand? Penetrate a new market? Launch a new product? You may not have clarity about how to best define it. As your agency moves through their creative discovery process, it will become evident.
5) Research, analysis and audits are a normal part of the creative process. The most effective creative process allows for the agency to thoroughly learn about your business or organization. Understanding your stakeholders, audience, competitors, opportunities and threats will inform their best creative work. This is an investment which pays off for both the client and the agency. The more your creative professionals know about your organization the more value they can add.
6) Be as transparent as possible about the available budget for the project. We know your funds are not unlimited. The more you can tell us, the more thorough our proposal will be and the less back and forth there will be.
Different creative solutions can be developed for different budget levels.
It’s not really a hard negotiation. Knowing your budget parameters allows us to think creatively about how to prioritize within those constraints. For example, if you can’t afford a professional photographer, we will find a way to use free stock photos. Not surprising you with unforeseen costs can best be accomplished with upfront planning and transparency.
7) Tell us about your organizational structure and who will be included in the decision-making process. Knowing who must approve design concepts and project milestones saves everybody time and money. If we need to build in time for extra meetings with the CEO or a Board Member, it’s best to know up front. There’s nothing worse then getting to final stages of a project and having to start over because the decision makers were not involved early enough. Most agencies will strive for efficiency as well as creative impact.
The Right Creative Partner
How to determine who is the right partner can be difficult. Most creative agencies have a lot to offer. You may find you enjoy a particular personality but their culture does’t mesh with your company culture. Or they command higher rates than your budget allows. Or they seem easy to work with but do not have the right expertise. Most clients base their decisions on the following factors:
- Experience—Do they have a proven track record with relevant references?
- Capabilities—Do they have the ability to execute and deliver?
- Culture—Do your mission, vision and core brand values align?
After the Pitch Meeting
If both parties agree their organizations are a good fit, there’s often a proposal written for the work described in the meeting. Proposal writing is time consuming because of the many factors that must be considered along with project planning and budgeting. Tip: #8 is perhaps the most overlooked by clients but most appreciated by creatives.
8) Proposal writing requires time that is not billable. Please be responsive. Agencies know they are in a competitive business. We spend time thinking about our prospective client’s business even though we know the client can go in another direction. Be courteous and keep your prospective agencies informed about where you are in the decision-making process. If your priorities change and there’s no longer a budget for the work, let them know. We are professionals and appreciate feedback even when it’s not in our favor. Of course, the best possible outcome to hear is “Proposal accepted, we’d love to work with you!”