Selecting a branding agency can be one of the toughest decisions you make - it’s almost like dating! You want to really take the time to make sure you’re compatible before you make a commitment. That means asking the right questions and meeting your branding team to confirm they’re not just technically competent (they can create a logo), but can also bring that added “wow” factor that will turn heads. To make sure you find that right fit, ask these three questions:
1. How well do you know our specific market?
You want an agency to be a good fit for your company and the key to that relationship is the team being intimately familiar with your product/services, market, buyers and competitors. This is vital because you want to ensure they create your brand knowing what will resonate with your buyer personas but also stand out from the crowd. Learning on the job is a recipe for disaster!
By selecting a firm that grasps the ins and outs of your space, you can feel more comfortable knowing they understand the unique challenges you’re facing, the right language required to have your message resonate in the market and how to differentiate your brand. For example, branding for a cybersecurity company is radically different than a government contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask for work samples directly relevant to your company to validate the agency’s work, discuss how the concept came to be, the steps involved in creative decisions and how the brand was then executed internally and externally.
2. What does your strategic process look like?
To continue the thread from the previous point, you don’t want a brand generalist that will apply the same cookie-cutter strategies to any company that comes their way. Ensure the agency is working with your brand, not just a brand. You deserve a custom approach that captures the essence of your story - that’s why you hired an agency!
Ask to see the agency’s process in action. Have them run you through the steps of a typical project and what sort of key milestones will be accomplished when. They should be able to provide a detailed branding process that showcases previous experience with building a custom brand and validates they know how to clearly align their strategy and creative work. A lot of branding work can be “fluffy” and time-consuming. Look for an agency that will get you no-nonsense, bottom-line results, quickly.
Also, any informed strategy should be based on research coupled with deep market expertise. Find out how the agency conducts that research, what they analyze and how that informs the next steps in the process. If the agency claims to have the most creative staff around with the biggest ideas, ask how those concepts will be presented and how a campaign would come to life. And lastly, determine what guidelines will be developed to ensure brand consistency once it’s transitioned in your organization’s hands to execute, live and breathe.
3. How will you be a partner in the process?
Your agency should be asking a lot of questions at every stage. If they are a true partner, they should want your involvement at every step and seek to include you in their process. It should never feel like the agency goes off and works in a vacuum to create a product for you.
At the end of the day, a lot of it boils down to chemistry - if you don’t like the team you’re working with, don’t bother! Make sure you meet every person on the account and get a sense for their personalities and working style - and how it will mesh with those of you and your team’s.
Are you comfortable being pushed by new ideas? Will the project manager be able to keep reviews manageable for you and your busy schedule? Be honest with yourself, trust your gut and make sure your agency of choice checks all of these boxes:
- Knows your market and buyer
- Has strong case studies and references
- Is strategic and creative
- Comes with solutions, not problems
- Matching workstyles
- Communicates collaboratively and transparently
- Effectively measures their work
- Fits within your budget parameters
- Team members pass the “elevator test”