How To Conduct An Agency Review.


I have conducted agency reviews for a number of great companies.

I have read that 80% of clients conduct their own agency reviews and don’t use a consultant.  Most agencies think that the process is flawed.  Most clients don’t get that because they aren’t pitching New Business all the time and they have never responded to an RFP. It’s Showtime.

So here is some advice on how to conduct an agency review or search.

First don’t do it on your own.  When companies conduct an agency review there are problems in the house. Sales are probably suffering.  There could be other marketing and relationship issues.

An agency review is the first line of defense and one of the easiest things to do.  If you end up picking the wrong agency and things don’t improve then the next thing that could change could be you.  The person walking down the hall to your office is going to want to see you on a Friday at 3PM and you don’t want to be there.

Staff reorganizations often work that way in the New Normal.

If you are doing a review because it is mandated then mention that in the RFP.  Doing a mandated review is like dating when you are married.  Being forthright is good policy in a social media world. People don’t buy from companies that use them.  We all know about the power of word of mouth advertising.

Visualize your outcomes.  What are going to be the end outcomes of the review?  Who is going to be on the review committee?  If it is a committee, the process is bound to be a goat rodeo.  Reviews should be conducted by the Marketing Department leadership only.

If any C Suite Leadership is going to attend the final presentation make sure that you align their objectives to theirs from the beginning and reflect that in your RFP.  Do this first, not the day before the finals when you brief them to refresh their memories on why you are doing a review and who is in the finals.

They may bring up last minute needs that your didn’t ask for from the outset in the RFP and that is going to create major do-do’s.  Last minute phone calls to the finalists telling them to stress capabilities that they might not have is not a good thing.

The RFP or RFI designs your selection path.  It needs to be short and concise and focused.  You don’t find great agencies by asking them what type of insurance coverage they carry. That is a way to find lawyers.

Revealing your budget is essential.   If you aren’t forthright and upfront and take the approach of how much will it cost you could end up lost.  What if they give you a figure that is outside of your budget?  You have wasted their time and yours and you will be out of time.

Defining the scope of services they will need to execute is also vital.  The problem today for many clients is that they have too many agency touch points because with the proliferation of social media, search, automated marketing, mobile, and apps they work with too many partners of excellence.  Many marketers now spend the majority of their time not on marketing but managing relationships instead of their brands and business.

Then who are you going to invite to the party?  I can guarantee you that if you haven’t done any agency dating in the last ten years you don’t know who is out there.  You will start with a Google search but that is just a lie.  Most agencies don’t market themselves and don’t appear anywhere.  I can find lists of agencies on Google.  Many of them are no longer in town or half their size.  But you can find them on the internet.

When I started my own business over a decade ago some people would come to me and say you can create your own website site and save money.  I always told them that I have my own scissors at home and could cut my own hair.

Finding your agency partner shouldn’t be left to, your friends or yourself.  You might end up lonely or without the right date.

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WATCH: Why Agencies Shouldn’t Respond to Client RFP’s.

You may also enjoy this article on Why Finding An Agency is Not an Easy Task.


2 thoughts on “How To Conduct An Agency Review.

  1. Bill Crandall

    “How to conduct an agency review” is a great subject, but the first question is “Why conduct an agency review?”

    If you’re on the client side and it’s required at the end of an expiring current contract, by all means. If you’re a new CMO and want to pick your own poison for the next 2-3 years, fair enough. It’s your funeral and you should be allowed to make your own arrangements. If you’re just looking to cut costs on agency comp, just remember that you usually get what you pay for. If you have isolated agency under-performance as the cause for a review, tell your incumbent agency that you’re not happy and why. Give them a chance to respond and remediate before embarrassing them in the trades and sullying their reputation. And if brand sales and market share have been going down for too long, make sure that the problem isn’t you; a shifting marketplace; or some other aspect of your marketing plan having little to do with the agency.

    As a highly experienced agency new biz exec, I’ve learned to ask two questions right upfront: 1) “Why are you having a review?”, and 2) “What would you like to see your current agency do better?”

    Of course we’d all like to know the budget first and foremost, but this is like asking a man or woman how much money they make before accepting or declining an invitation or dinner date. If it’s an AOR opportunity from a reputable company or brand, the answer is an unequivocal yes, and thank you very much! If for a project assignment only, probably the same answer. If from an unknown of any kind, further clarification certainly would be warranted and well-advised.

    In any case, one should always know “why” they’re doing something! Bill Crandall

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