Hello there, my name is Laura, head of brand strategy at underscore. Today I’m talking about tendering process and how to select the right creative agency for both you and your organisation.
I was sitting with a client the other day, having a chat about how we first started working together. Before they had settled on underscore, they had gone through a marathon tendering process with 8 other agencies – none of which “felt right”. He explained that the most difficult part of the entire process was knowing what to actually look for. Being an operations director in a very niche industry, he had never worked with a branding agency before. He had identified that the organisation had a brand problem, he knew exactly what to expect in terms of deliverables, he knew how to write a very clear brief, but when pitch day rolled around he did not have a criteria he could judge against.
Demand energy and enthusiasm
Tendering can be a bit like dating, particularly if you are looking for a long-term relationship with an agency. Ask yourself; do the people pitching speak the same language as you and would you enjoy working with them over an extended period of time? In addition, are they genuinely passionate about what they do? Engaged people will deliver better results.
Even more importantly, are they genuinely interested in what YOU do? Have they done the appropriate levels of due diligence and research? How much effort has gone into understanding your needs, requirements and current situation? Don’t be fooled by jazzy creative that lacks substance or relevance. First impressions do count. Trust your instinct.
Clarify roles and responsibilities upfront
Enquire as to who exactly will be looking after your account on the spot. The last thing you want is to buy into the enthusiastic business development duo and driven director, only to be passed on to a Junior PM with limited experience once you have signed up. Subsequently, don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way. If you’re not quite sure of the exact deliverables being promised, just ask.
Tick the box in terms of track record
One of the best ways to identify if an agency is able to deliver on their promises is by exploring their existing work to date. It’s important to select an organisation who has gone through this process before, whether by themselves or by engaging the support of external partnerships.
BUT! Be wary not to get too specific in your demands. For example, sometimes a lack of experience in your exact industry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Creativity is about drawing on influences from here, there and everywhere and fresh eyes may bring fresh insights and a fresh approach. The last thing you want is to end up with the same strategy as your competition.
Ask for evidence
If an agency claims to be the most commercial, creative or cutting edge kid on the block, ask them to demonstrate how. The tendering process should feel similar to the recruitment process; both parties are looking to see if they are a good fit for each other.
But before you go there, you need to take a good look at your organisational culture and seek to define what will work best for you.
Do you want to be told what to do, or do you want to be educated? Do you want a partner-in-crime or do you want a provider? Is what you want really what you need? Likewise, think about your own motivations and how they align to those of your company.
You might have a strong appetite for repositioning, although your CEO may not, but the right agency should be able to deliver against a host of requirements and satisfy a range of stakeholders, no matter where they sit in your organisation.