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The right questions to ask before hiring a branding and creative agency

October 11, 2018 | Charles Van Vechten

Finding the right branding and creative agency is as important to a business as it is to have the best attorney, CPA, and financial planner. If you have a business conflict, don’t you want the best attorney for your situation? If your company is going through a merger, doesn’t it make sense to work with the best CPA you can afford? The right branding and creative agency is on par with these examples, and arguably can provide even more value and return on investment for your organization.

Having been in the branding business for over a quarter of a century, we’ve heard a lot of questions from prospects. Some important and appropriate, and some not so much. We believe there are certain synergies that should exist to build a strong working relationship. Here are some questions we recommend be asked before hiring a branding and creative agency:

What can we expect when working with you?
Let’s face it, when we are dealing with anyone, we want someone to be responsive to our needs, provide us with sound advice, and deliver on promises. It’s important to unearth as much as possible about a new creative agency from the get-go. How they treat their staff and their clients, what do they do to meet deadlines, and how do they ensure projects stay on a budget? These are just some of the operational questions you should ask and make sure to listen closely to the responses. The last thing you want is to sign on the dotted line only to find that your new creative agency can’t meet deadlines and the creatives who you met initially are now nowhere to be found. Aligned expectations are critical for any solid business relationship.

Click here to read about our DRIVE creative agency process.

Who will be working with us?
Beware of the old bait-n-switch. It used to be pretty common for larger agencies to come in to meet with prospective clients with guns a blazing. The silver-tongued “A” team would come in and wow prospects with shiny-objects and beautiful songs. But then, when the deal was signed and the dust settled, that “A” team suddenly became the “B” team. Make sure you find out who you will be working with not only today but throughout the life of your project or engagement. I’ve always been of the belief that great branding and creative comes from getting to know your clients at a deep level. And that means a team who you, as the client, get to know by name and learn to understand what is meant by a nod, a look, or a few words. That kind of understanding allows for much stronger roots for great work to blossom.

Meet our Buchanan Brand + Design team.

What is most important to you as a branding and creative agency?
If your friends want to go get wasted every time you get together and proceed to go cliff diving, and you really don’t like to drink and have a fear of heights, overtime, my guess is that you will find new friends who are more in-line with how you live your life. The same can be said for a relationship with a creative agency. Oftentimes, conflict arises when values and beliefs don’t align. When your values are divergent from your agency’s, it’s hard to find alignment with ideas, understanding about priorities, and even how you communicate and work together. When those values mesh, it can make for some amazing outcomes.

Do you have experience in our industry?
It’s human nature to look for similarities with others. But, as anyone who has ever been in a relationship with someone who is the yin to your yang knows, there is value and enhancement that comes from thinking beyond what you know or are comfortable with. In the creative world, it is common for prospective clients to ask about our experience with clients like them. After being in business for over 25 years, the answer is that we usually do have a similar experience. But, more importantly, I always emphasize the value of looking at other clients, industries, and projects and the strategic thinking and creativity that we learned from a past project and take best practices and new thinking to their project. I’ve found that this avoids repetition, becoming stale, and blending in with the competitive crowd.

Can you provide a few references?
No one can sing your praises like someone else. If you meet with an agency and they cannot provide references, beware. Relationships are key to producing effective brands and meaningful creative. Your agency should be proud of the clients they have and should willingly share those contacts as proof of their expertise.

What does your ideal client look like?
“Our ideal client looks just like you!” If they say that… run for the hills! Seriously though, this is one of those questions where you will want to ask and then sit back and listen. You can learn a lot here – about honesty, sincerity, passion, authenticity, etc. This question allows for you to get some important insights into what’s important to that agency and the buttons that will either make for a great future or not.

Don’t be shy and don’t be hasty. Hiring the right branding and creative agency is important work and should be done with diligence. But, just like when hiring for a key staff member, you want to do it with care and precision. And asking the right questions, and then listening for the right answers, can lead to amazing outcomes.

Contact Charlie today for a free consultation on your branding and creative projects.

Branding, Design Industry

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