Whether it’s for a re-branding, a new website or other design-led project or as a long-term alliance, choosing an agency can be a daunting prospect.
Even the most cursory of internet searches around ‘Branding’, Design’, ‘Web Design’ and so on is likely to throw up a vast and often bewildering range of possible candidates – even if you restrict your search criteria to outfits within a manageable geographical radius.
So how on earth do you know where to start? Actually, it’s quite simple. In our view, it all comes down to the people and the portfolio…
Chemistry is important.
That’s because what we’re talking about is a partnership – and it involves a meeting of minds in a way that other business relationships do not. There is no one formula for this – but the right chemistry is crucial. Of course the company you choose has to have all the capabilities, the experience, the technical expertise and the creative flair to deliver – but if there’s no rapport; no shared passions; no spark you could find yourself in a working relationship that’s workmanlike – but awkward.
All those clichés about ‘first impressions’ are actually true in this context. Ask yourself whether the agencies you talk to seem excited about the idea of working with you; whether they ask questions that provoke you to think about what you really want – and whether they are genuinely keen to gain a proper understanding of your business, your brand and your particular challenges and needs.
if you’re a fairly small company you may well find that the largest agencies can’t give you the individual attention you need and deserve, while their giant overheads mean their charges are proportionately high.
Yes, size does matter in this context – but it is not a question of bigger or smaller being better but one of achieving a good fit. Of course major international companies enlist the services of modestly sized ‘boutique’ agencies all the time – but usually on a project basis rather than expecting a small company to address adequately the organisation’s entire global workload.
Furthermore, if you’re a fairly small company you may well find that the largest agencies can’t give you the individual attention you need and deserve, while their giant overheads mean their charges are proportionately high. So if you’re a small to medium-sized company they are simply not in a position to offer good value for money.
On the contrary, a good small agency will be accustomed to working with their clients on a genuinely personal basis. Making a virtue of being modest in size, they often have a nimble ‘can do’ attitude, which translates into individual team members capable of and willing to ‘multi-task’ and go the extra mile to deliver the outcome you’re looking for.
The right portfolio.
We’re often asked by prospective clients whether we have worked on projects similar or identical to the one in prospect. In many cases, we have indeed handled something along similar lines – but when perusing an agency’s portfolio we would urge you NOT to make familiarity with your particular industry or even sector a prerequisite. Indeed it need not feature among your criteria at all. Why not? Firstly because someone overly ingrained in your immediate field will find it harder to provide fresh insight on your positioning, brand personality and marketing and design needs than an objective outsider. After all, presumably the idea is to stand out from the competition rather than to mimic it. Instead, look for strong, arresting ideas born of original and properly creative thought, given the constraints of the brief… Look for the ability to produce work of equal impact and quality across a broad range of sectors and styles – and look for work that demonstrates an ability to solve clients’ problems. Think of us as really great decorators that may not have painted a house purple. But as great decorators not only can we paint in that colour, we can also advise you whether its the right choice and how it may clash in the row of other houses etc.