Agency-client relationships are an exciting start of a creative and business collaboration together. Instead of viewing this relationship as short-term project-based engagement, view this relationship as a team – an extension of your internal team. Adopting this perspective enables a seamless and natural process when inquiry and obstacles arise throughout the scope of work and beyond. Choosing an agency based on surface levels or based on their specialization may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s usually not (quite) that simple. It is important to dig deeper than reviews and graphics and learn about agency culture talent and past projects to have a full perception of the agency (and the people doing the work) as a whole.

Identify Alignment: Culture and Portfolio 

Each individual agency has its own culture and focus, whether a creative team focused on brand strategy or web design, from the core mission to the approach and the talent. Looking inward to discover if a brand has similar or aligned visions or ways they approach work, can be beneficial down the line. Research and gather questions that are important to a working relationship together. Work ethic is important, and partnering with like-minded peers, will enable the project to run smoother due to common ground and shared vision.

Goal Setting: Scope and Expectations

From the start, setting an internal list of goals, expectations, and standards that will be expected from a working partnership help guide the outcome. There is a saying, that brands hire an agency for the culture, not the name. It is important that the brand and agency culture have similarities. Questions to explore would include; budget, overall goal, expectations, and timeline. It can be a common mistake to just assume these things, even if there are similar mindsets about the way things are done. Just in any relationship, laying everything out on the table and being upfront, makes an ideal partnership run smooth. 

Getting to Know You

Once there has been an evaluation of an agency, the talent, the portfolio work and it looks like this agency can be a good fit, it’s time to ask the right questions. This might be the first time working with an agency, so be prepared when you schedule a meeting is extremely beneficial. Get familiar with their work and be sure to strategically ask questions on what the agency has learned from these projects and how they can impact similar projects in the future. 

Process: A Roadmap for Success 

When there are top agencies that are a good fit for the project, at this point in the process it is time to decide what information is needed from them. This comes in many forms, such as an RFQ (Request For Quotation, RFP, (Request For Proposal) and RFI (Request For Information). Depending on where in the process a brand might be, correlates with what information there needs to be answered. If a project is on a strict budget and timeline, an RFP with this information might be the best fit so there is a quicker process in making a decision and starting a project. If still in the discovery phase, an RFI might assist in narrowing down agency options to request a proposal. 

However a business goes about selecting a creative team, not only is it important to investigate their history and culture, but also schedule a discovery session either in person or via phone and/or video conference to ask questions and get a feel for the team. A brand that is prepared and has direction on the end goal, paired with proper expectations, will find success in this partnership.