The following is a post I published on the blog for RSW/AgencySearch.  In addition to marketers reading it, we had a few agencies read it that felt it was helpful content for them as well.  So consequently, I decided to post it here, in the hopes of helping make your next agency’s pitch as productive as possible.  Hope it proves helpful!

agency's pitchA marketing agency’s pitch can be a tough thing to pick apart.  There’s so much to evaluate, so many agencies to review, so much emotion and pressure (and sometimes, politics) making the process an unnerving one.

Not to mention, you probably like all of the agencies you’re looking at.  Presumably you’ve talked with them.  Maybe you’ve met them.  So there’s a bit of a personal relationship thing going on as well.

And if you’re a person with a heart and a soul, you know how much effort these agencies have put into their presentations (or one certainly hopes), so leaving two or three in the dust and having to only select one – you know is tough on the other teams.

But all that aside, you need to make a selection and you need to do it in a smart, well-organized way.   Here are six things you should look for when evaluating an agency’s final pitch presentation.  Jot these six down prior the presentations and take notes as you listen to each agency strut their stuff.  Hopefully dialing it down to these three areas will help simplify the process and make for a better decision all around.

Who is presenting?  Who is present?  Are they the team that will work on your account, or just some “maybe” team?  If the team isn’t there, and you can’t look at them in the eye and you can’t judge their experience (which better be good), strike 1.

Assuming the assignment is one that justifies this kind of thinking, if the agency isn’t presenting their ideas or strategies in the context of looking at your world from an integrated vantage point, you need to think again.  Every platform (social, digital, traditional) all play off of each other.  What you do in digital should influence what occurs in your social platforms, and visa versa.  What you do in your traditional media platforms should feed your presence socially and digitally.  If they don’t talk in this fashion, strike 2.

How well organized is the presentation?  I view the presentation as a microcosm of how the team will operate when they become your team, supporting your business.  If they aren’t well-oiled.  If they don’t flow well from one presenter to the next, if they don’t build off of each other and don’t talk about the things others have said previously in the presentation or reference things to come…they’re either too busy to pull this effort together, or they don’t care much, or they themselves don’t work well together.  Regardless, strike 3.

How much do they talk about you?  How much time do they seem to have taken to learn about your market, your competition, your company, your brand?  Have they done enough to make you feel like they’re nearly ramped up on your business?  If not, strike 4.

Are their ideas grounded in insights and/or facts?  Have they presented what seems like an emotionally charged campaign, one everyone seems to like, but underneath it all, there’s little to suggest it has any strategic grounding?  Why did they choose the direction they did?  Who is the strategic lead on this account?  What consumer nuggets have they unearthed to support their proposed direction?  If all you get are blank stares or what seems like a seat of the pants response, strike 5.

Do they seem to understand and articulate through their thoughts and words and ideas the root of the troubles your business faces.  Or do they not call out your concerns, and seem to ignore the fundamentals of why they are even there to begin with?  If so, strike 6, yer out!

Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.