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The Seven Deadly Sins of Agency Selection

August 10, 2016 | By Cheri Keith

  • Selecting an agency or services provider is a daunting task
  • Most b-to-b organizations focus exclusively on the companies they are evaluating
  • By not also focusing on themselves, b-to-b organizations could be committing one of seven deadly sins

We recently went on a family beach vacation. Every last detail for my children and husband was accounted for. Extensive packing lists were compiled, extra medication was ordered and a stockpile of sunblock was acquired. The night before we left, I let out a big sigh of relief, only to realize that I had completely forgotten – or rather, had been so preoccupied worrying about everyone else – that I hadn’t packed for myself!

Companies can enter into a similar type of autopilot when running an agency or services provider selection process – goals are identified, a gap analysis is performed, an RFP is developed, and a short list is created. While it’s easy to follow a step-by-step process that’s mainly focused on the vendors to be evaluated, companies can easily lose sight of how they are presenting themselves to potential partners. In doing so, they could be committing one of the seven deadly sins of agency selection – pride, wrath, gluttony, lust, envy, sloth or greed. Here’s my advice on how to avoid committing one of these offenses:

  • Pride. “An agency should be killing themselves to work with us.” How would you feel if you overheard someone saying this about your company? It’s a pretty big turnoff, right? You are assuming that you fit into the ideal profile for a client for this agency or services provider, which you likely don’t know. Keep in mind that you are searching for a partnership, not someone to worship your company.
  • Wrath. “Why didn’t anyone follow the directions?” Ask yourself this – would you have followed the directions? Sometimes RFPs are so complex that they’re difficult to follow. Keep things as simple as possible, and leave more complex and challenging questions for presentations and in-person discussions.
  • Gluttony. “I’ve received all these responses, so I should add another round to the pitch process.” If you can avoid it, never call an audible in the middle of the agency selection process – especially if the alteration would result in changing the goalposts that the agencies are striving toward. Remain true to your commitment. Don’t forget – they’re looking to see if you will be a good client as well.
  • Lust. “Oh, I really want ABC Agency to represent us!” Forcing an agency that you think is a perfect fit for one company or team could be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. You’re looking for the best partner for your team – not what worked best for another company. It’s better to invest your time and effort in finding the actual right fit for your company.
  • Envy. “Our competitor is working with ACME Agency, so we should too.”  See above. It doesn’t matter why you’re enamored with a particular agency. Trust the process, and find the best fit for you and your company. This rule can also apply if a company idealizes a competitor’s campaign and wants a knockoff without considering the other approaches. This often happens when competition clauses exclude an agency from working with competitors.
  • Sloth. “I don’t want to review all these RFP responses.” If you’ve requested a specific level of detail, you had better be ready to receive it in the responses. Set aside as much time as possible to thoughtfully review all the responses you’ll be receiving from the agencies.
  • Greed. “I can just take all the best ideas and do these myself/give them to the winning agency.”  This is a big no-no from the perspective of pretty much any agency or services provider. Additionally, some b-to-b organizations are moving to select more than one agency to do pilot products and pay them for the project. This paid test run is helping agencies find the best fit with a more thorough selection process.

Cheri Keith

Cheri brings more than a decade of marketing experience to SiriusDecisions’ Demand Services team. Her background includes experience serving b-to-b organizations at communications agencies and tenure working within marketing organizations. She is a respected and results-oriented leader with a proven track record of moving people and programs forward. Follow Cheri at Twitter.com/@Cheri29

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