A recent Maven post — How to Know When You Need an Advertising Agency — offers guidelines on how to answer that question for your company. If your answer is yes, the following tips will help you choose the agency that’s right for your industrial business.

Pick the right advertising agency, and you can gain new creative ideas, stronger messaging, better targeting, reliable resources, campaign efficiency and other benefits that directly impact the return on your marketing investment. Here’s what to do:

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Clarify your goals
Before you approach any agency, be clear among your internal team about what you need an agency to do for you. Creative work? Help with strategy in the industrial marketplace? Sort out the most effective channels in the digital era? Develop content such as white papers, articles, presentations, and collateral? Purchase media?

Not all agencies do all types of work; therefore, knowing your goals will help you create a short list of agencies to contact. You should be able to find a list of services offered on any agency’s website.

Evaluate several agencies
Compare a number of agencies; 3-4 might be a good number. Each will bring its own style, way of working, along with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some might be able to wow you with great creative ideas. Others will demonstrate operational expertise: they can manage, deliver, and implement. The best agencies do it all.

You will be working closely with your agency team. Meet them early on, before you commit. Like any successful working relationship, you need to have a level of comfort and confidence with the people on the day-to-day team, in addition to the executives who might be present to pitch their business to you.

Large or small agency?
Larger agencies have more resources and experience. But you may not get the attention you need if your budget is modest. Smaller firms may be more personal. But they might not have the resources and expertise to fulfill a range of needs.

One approach is to look for an agency that serves clients similar to yours: B2B, industrial (but not competitive), with similar budgets as you will have. Ask the agency for references from these types of clients.

You’ll also want an agency that knows the industrial sector and your target audience. They should know the relevant media companies that serve the industrial sector and be up to date on the most effective marketing channels to help you achieve your goals.

Craft an effective RFP
You may end up putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and asking agencies to respond. If you write a good RFP, it will be easier for an agency to respond appropriately. You will then have comparable proposals and can make a more informed decision about which agency to choose.

In the RFP, provide background information about your industry, including its structure, growth, and your company’s position in it. Tell about your own company’s history as well as your current marketing and selling channels. Clearly state the challenges you face, what you want an agency to help you accomplish, and how you define and measure success. Detail the decision-making process you will use in choosing an agency.

You should also include information about your marketing budget, or at least a budget range. If you don’t include budget guidelines, you could end up with wildly different proposals that are difficult to compare to each other.

See their work
The first place to see an agency’s work is on their website. Agencies often publish cutting-edge websites with the latest features and functions, but their website must also meet your communication needs. Can you find what you’re looking for? Do you understand their scope of services? Is it easy to make the next step?
Also, ask for samples of their work. Look for B2B campaigns or work performed in the industrial sector. Look for campaigns that are similar to your goals, whether it’s re-branding, building awareness, or boosting lead generation. Seeing how an agency handled these types of projects for other clients will give you an idea of how they might handle yours.

Seek compatible work processes
Ask an agency about their process for interacting with clients. Will you have weekly meetings/conference calls? Or check-in only when needed? Does each side have a go-to point person in the relationship? Do you share a calendar or task list? Companies work differently and there are different approaches to working together. Find and agency that fits your work style and comfort zone.

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Have you gone through the process of selecting an agency? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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