We’ve heard many clients say, “they pitched us with the ‘A Team’, then we got the ‘C Team’.” This is an ongoing issue that can be avoided.

An example is during the pitch process, you get to know an agency and try to evaluate them to see if they are a good fit for your company based on their expertise and experience. You meet many senior agency members and start to establish rapport and trust. Once you start working with the agency, you realize that your assigned team wasn’t part of the initial pitch and may not have the same level of knowledge, experience, and passion.

How do you avoid feeling bait and switched?

After you have vetted your agency list, narrow the list down to the final 2 -3 agencies and insist on getting to know your potential agency team. This request is always hard for agencies since they may not have talent assigned to your business, in the event they win the pitch.  However, think of it this way:  If you were using a recruiter to find your next employee, you wouldn’t simply trust the person they found is the right fit. You would want to interview them as well. Interview each agency’s non-pitch team to understand how the agency operates and to get a better feel for their culture. This is how you will be able to determine if the non-pitch team is a reflection of the things you liked about the senior agency pitch team.

If you’ve made it this far narrowing down the lists of agencies, you should already know that they have the right expertise and experience for your business. Below are some suggestions to consider when it comes to vetting the final list of agencies so that you avoid the ever looming “bait and switch”:

  • Have a video call with individual members of each agency’s team without the presence of senior leadership. This isn’t to exclude senior agency leadership. Rather, to get a more natural and honest read from someone without their boss listening in
  • Meet each “potential” agency team in-person, outside of the formal pitch for lunch or have a mock working/briefing session to get a better idea of how they think, as well as getting an impression of their personalities and work ethic
  • Ask them questions about their working styles: how are they strategically thinking about your brand? How can they add value through new ideas? Make sure to cover anything that is important to you based on any pain-points from your previous/current agency relationships
  • Ask questions about agency retention rates. While this is tough and not completely fair to the agency, it is important for you to know how often people are leaving the agency and the agency’s plan for back-filling vacant roles. This will help you understand the potential risk for having to reeducate and restart relationships with newly assigned members to your team
  • Trust your gut. So much of the agency/client relationship comes down to chemistry. Pay attention to how you feel when you are with the agency team

Slowing down your agency RFP process to include this vital step is imperative for selecting the right partner. Doing your due diligence will save you and your team from avoidable post-pitch relationship frustrations. In the long run, this will save you time, money and lots of headaches. Ultimately, this will save you from the immeasurable toll that a bad agency partnership will have on your brand.