June 5, 2023Comments are off for this post.

Don’t do this alone. Why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

Marketing and Procurement teams have been running agency searches for a long, long time. You have navigated these choppy waters the best you can based on past experiences and leveraging whatever materials you can from research and peers, without the support you have truly needed.

At first glance, running an agency search seems simple enough, right? Your marketing team, or your partners in procurement, craft a lengthy questionnaire and send it to a short list of agencies you’ve worked with in the past, found in an online search, or were referred to by a friend. Based on some hard-to-define criteria (and often without stakeholder alignment), you then decide which agencies to invite in for meetings, where they present their credentials in what usually amounts to a slightly customized sales pitch. From there, a winner is chosen, a deal is struck, and the partnership begins. The complexities of an agency search are reduced to a fairly simplistic, but very unrefined exercise.

If you’ve been through that process, we suspect you were left disappointed. The truth is, when run correctly, the agency search process is much more intricate than that and requires guidance from knowledgeable experts in order to achieve long-term success. Make no mistake, achieving success in this process is vital, now more than ever. Few things are more disruptive to a company than choosing the wrong agency partner, leading to unreached departmental and business goals and having to endure yet another agency search.

Marketers are great at marketing. You should not be expected to be an expert at running a robust agency search process as well. The good news is: Expert help is available.

Let’s examine the ways working with an Agency Search Consultancy will help take this heavy burden off of your team and also create a more successful long-term partnership.

Internal stakeholder alignment.

A recent Forrester Report states that marketers often show up to the search process “unprepared and lacking intentionality.” (Forrester, 2023). That’s a harsh critique, but also very accurate in our experience. Internal misalignment and haphazard preplanning for the agency search is all too common and leads to a disjointed, inefficient process that fails to deliver success.

Think about it: If you don’t have internal agreement on what you are solving for, how will you pick the right partner to help you solve your challenges?

This is why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

As an objective, third-party expert that is not hampered by internal politics, we bring clarity and cohesion to marketing organizations. We give teams across the organization (and the globe) a voice in the process; guiding you to roll up your personal or departmental goals into organizational goals. This ensures that everyone is aligned on the key goals of the partnership from the start and reduces friction later on.

Understanding the agency landscape.

As a marketer, you don’t have time to keep up with all the additions and changes to the agency landscape. There are currently over 428,000 advertising agencies globally! (IBIS World, 2023) While you certainly don’t need to know all of them, chances are you’ve missed several that could be a great fit for your business. And, while you might know some agencies from previous roles or organizations, there might be other agencies better suited for your current role and current organization. Ensuring that all participating agencies are fundamentally the right fit for your business is a vital piece of the search process that is often overlooked or skipped.

This is why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

Honestly, we can’t possibly get to know 428,000 agencies either, but we cover a lot of ground. We have a proven methodology for identifying and vetting agencies that are the right fit for our clients and your unique needs. Including only agencies in your review process that have been properly vetted for fit will set both your brand and the agency up for success. The agencies appreciate this too, as it saves them a ton of time and money participating in a review process that wasn’t right for them to begin with.

The heavy lifting of the agency search process.

When done properly, it takes a lot of focused time and energy for an organization to evaluate, select, and then onboard an agency partner. As a marketer, we doubt you will have the luxury of setting aside all of your other mission-critical priorities to plan out and manage a comprehensive and complex agency partner search.

If you try to do it yourself, two things are likely to happen:

  1. The partner search will drag on for a long time, at a slow and organized pace, as other priorities interfere with the process and delay the timelines.
  1. Corners will be cut in the process and quality will be compromised (e.g., Not vetting new potential partners and only calling up the partner you know from the past, not having a thorough RFP and Review, not taking the time to properly negotiate scope and contracts, etc.).

This is why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

We run a very thorough process that makes life dramatically easier for our clients so you can stay focused on your other strategic priorities, making sure every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted along the way. We manage project timelines and take the heavy lifting (and time burden) off of marketing teams. We are deeply experienced in running agency searches, helping our clients to avoid common (and not so common) RFP pitfalls and ensuring thoughtful coordination every step of the way.

Asking the right questions.

We can’t count how many times over the years we’ve seen agency RFPs that looked like an IRS audit. They have mountains of irrelevant questions, sometimes contradictory or redundant, and very little that gets to the root of what you really need to understand about the agency. Unfortunately, agencies have come to expect these sorts of uninspired RFPs over the years.

This clumsy approach to RFP brief writing encourages generic responses from agencies (cut and paste from their last RFP) and gives you very little insight into if that agency is a good fit for your company. If the brief isn’t specifically outlining your challenges and asking the agencies to provide thoughtful responses to relevant questions that will reveal how the agency really thinks and operates, then you will not have the right information to judge them. The questions asked shape the conversation.

This is why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

We know what questions to ask the agencies because we used to have their job. We know how they work, how they think and how to get them to reveal themselves to you in an authentic and useful way. We ensure that all questions asked actually align with your business needs and that the process allows you to focus on identifying the right agency fit. We get agencies out of the canned sales pitch and into a relevant conversation that helps you determine which is the right agency partner for you.

Avoiding Procurement led reviews and searches.

Of course, procurement has a role to play in most agency reviews (and we love partnering with them in the right way). But we can say with confidence that it is not a good idea to have your procurement team run an agency search.

Here’s why: Procurement teams aren’t marketers. They are very skilled at what they do, but they don’t have the context for what you need in a partner, don’t understand the landscape of potential partners, and they certainly don’t know what questions to ask. So, when it comes to running an agency review, they are not the right people to task with this assignment without expert help.

Procurement-driven reviews prioritize cost savings above identifying the right partners (Forrester, 2023). When they run the process, cost savings or other less critical data points too often become the key metrics. The partnership is complex and should be evaluated across various nuanced criteria; not only through any single lens, especially not only pricing.

This is why you need an Agency Search Consultancy.

Pricing is important, but should not be your primary evaluation criteria. We help our clients evaluate partnership fit across a spectrum of highly relevant criteria, including budget and pricing. When we do our initial agency vetting, we identify agencies that will be the right fit for the services required and that there is also appropriate budget alignment. Since we start from a place of ensuring that our client’s budget is the right fit for the agency, this allows you to keep the search focused on the other critical evaluation criteria.

We use our deep agency experience, proprietary database of market pricing data, and relationships to ensure you get exactly the right services included in the contract at the most competitive price. We used to write these contracts on the agency side, so we know what to look for and how to negotiate a fair agreement for both the brand and the agency. Ensuring the relationship is financially viable for both parties is cornerstone of long-term successful partnerships. We remove the bloat and hidden fees that are all too common in agency contracts and ultimately save our clients a significant amount of money. Cumulatively, we’ve saved our clients millions in unnecessary agency fees.

This means that procurement can feel confident that by partnering with Tenx4, your company will get all the benefits of doing a proper agency search based on the most important evaluation criteria and that the price paid for the partnership will also be the right fit for your organization.

So, why do you need an Agency Search Consultancy?

We are experts at aligning teams, vetting agencies, saving our clients hundreds of hours, asking agencies the right questions to shape the right conversation, ensuring partnership hygiene across the spectrum, securing significant cost savings, and, ultimately, facilitating the creation of long-term and successful partnerships. The cost of getting your partnerships wrong is too high. Don’t do this alone, let Tenx4 help you. You’ll be glad you did.

March 29, 2023Comments are off for this post.

Why brands shouldn’t just hire an agency you’ve worked with before

We know… We know… This may be an unpopular opinion, but hear us out. Both brands and agencies should be focused on making sure the relationship is the right fit for your current organization. The cost of getting this relationship wrong is too significant for both brands and agencies. Doing a thorough vetting process allows for the insights needed to make this big decision.

Maybe an old agency is actually the right fit, or maybe you will be surprised by what else is possible. There’s only one way to know for sure.

Why brands should take the time to make sure you have the right partnerships in place:

Most marketers have worked with previous agencies at some point in their career and may have even worked at agencies themselves. It is really easy to go back to who and what you know. Of course, there are circumstances when repeat business relationships work. Often times, this is not the case.

Here is why:

  1. Your business needs at your new company are likely different than the business needs of your previous company. Even if you’re in a similar industry or are going after a similar audience, your company and your team may have different strategic, global support, operating, services and expertise needs
  2. The agency team will likely not be the same team. So much about what makes a successful agency/client relationship is about the actual people on your team. You may not get to work with the same team, as they may not have the bandwidth or may no longer be at that specific agency
  3. Budget misalignment. Your account might not be the right fit for the agency from a budget perspective. If you’re too big or too small for the agency, it can create an imbalanced relationship from the start

The truth is, running a thorough RFP takes time and energy, but it is worth it. As marketers, you have so much on your plate to begin with – wearing multiple hats across your organization, many goals and internal stakeholders, and so much that needs to be done. You’re under more pressure than ever to show the effectiveness of your marketing investments and how your programs impact business growth. Your current role may depend on this.

You need to be able to rely on your agency to be your true partner.

Cutting corners in the RFP process will likely result in having to run it again (and again), wasting much more of your valuable time and much more of your company’s valuable money. Not to mention, onboarding a new agency is no easy feat.

Aligning your business needs with an agency that truly excels in the services you require is the

foundation for establishing a true partnership. From there, trust and chemistry can be built. Allow yourself the opportunity to properly assess the agency landscape to find their right partner for your current business. You may be pleasantly surprised and learn a great deal of valuable information. The time spent during the RFP process is worth the headaches it will save you in the long run.

Take the time to get this big decision right. You’ll be glad you did.

To our agency friends:

We understand that agencies organically grow your business through repeat customers and referrals. We are not intending to take away from this. That said, if the agency is also focused on making sure the client is the right fit for your organization, you should be cautious about soiling a long-term relationship for a short-term win.

We also understand that the RFP process is a significant time investment for agencies. This is why agencies should be declining to participate in an RFP that doesn’t fit the core expertise of your agency. You should be very picky about the type of business you are choosing to pursue and only go after business that fundamentally matches the expertise of your team and your global operating model.

You should ask yourselves these questions before deciding to participate:

  • Is the scope the right match for the services you provide?
  • Is the budget appropriate for your agency?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to properly service this scope/account?
  • Is this the right type of client for your agency?

If the answer is no to any of the above, consider walking away from the business.

If the answer is yes to the above, the RFP process is most thorough way for both the client and the agency to truly assess if this is the right relationship. In this spirit, agencies should (dare we say) welcome the RFP process. This way, you can also determine if the client needs and temperament match your agency.

While in theory it is great to win business, winning business that isn’t a fit for your agency causes a great deal of pain, low morale, burnt out teams and turnover. An agency’s people are your greatest resource. You shouldn’t risk losing your team for the wrong type of client.

Protect your people the integrity of your agency. This will bring the right types of brands and partnerships into your business.

Do you agree yet?

Before entering into any long term committed relationship (especially one that involves a great deal of time, money and energy), both brands and agencies should make sure that this is the right fit for all parties. Even if prior relationships exist, making sure that this scope (at this current moment) is the right fit is worth it. The RFP process is a fair way to level the playing field so that both sides can truly assess if this is currently the right partnership.

The focus for all relationships should be about the fit, rather than the win.