Figuring out your needs is job one. Fallows had done advertising herself and was very skeptical of agencies. She had to convince herself first that an agency was even needed. Then she had to convince her team that it was worth spending money on an agency. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Buyer beware: if a contract with an agency defines that the agency gets a percentage of spend, an agency might consistently recommend increasing spend. Fallows argued that it’s worth it to shop around and find the right agency because it benefits both to work together, know each other well, and enjoy a long-term relationship.
Hanson mentioned that her internal team wanted express their pain points. She is convinced that listening helped get buy-in to work with certain companies.
Williams advocated doing your due diligence: ask about funding, aims, business models, whether a company is pivoting, etc. This information will help you determine the long-term health of any potential partners. Being well-funded and creating tons of features do not, in and of themselves, guarantee future success.
Fallows pointed out that breadth and depth also matter. Timbuk2 is small and nimble and can turn on a dime, but a big agency can’t be as flexible or quick. So size is another thing to keep in mind.
Ryan asked how important channel knowledge is. Does an agency need to know search, display, social, paid, earned? Hanson agreed that this is an ongoing challenge, and other panelists concurred.
Ryan brought up technical processes and showed Evidon’s Ghostery product, which shows you which analytics companies track you on which web sites: Advertising.com, BlueKai, DoubleClick, Experian, MediaMath, Netmining, Omniture, OpenX, Turn, etc. With so many choices, which tools are best to use?
Hanson said Google Analytics is free, so no harm there. And she likes redundancy. Fallows said to pay attention to whichever numbers you like; Timbuk2 tends to use a variety of free tools in order to validate numbers and trends without spending a fortune.
Communication is another key factor. Once you have an established partner, it’s best to be honest and admit when something doesn’t go right, either strategically or tactically.
To close, Ryan shared 3 Keys to Victory:
1. If they fail, you’ve failed
2. Collaborate, define, execute
3. Don’t panic