Agency selection process learnings and framework

This post wants to address an agency selection process of any kind, and how to make it fast, effortless and fair to make the best choice for you or your company

I was doing this document for internal purposes at Adevinta and thought it would be nice to open source it. This is the learnings of working for a year at a media agency, hiring agencies in-house and working as a consultant/agency for big brands and startups.

You may want to read this in Spanish

Briefing

  • Keep it short (max 2 pages) unless completely necessary. Add annexes at the end but try to keep the main messages short and clear.
  • Same information for all providers, look for symmetry of information to not have biased proposals.
  • Be clear on your goals, your needs and how you will evaluate them.
  • If you have budget limits, be clear before-hand.
  • Use Loom to send the brief, this can save you easily 5–10h work of calls with providers.

Picking providers

  • Picking the providers that will be in the pitch process is equally important or even more important that the entire framework and process. If you want to cook a nice meal with shit food, the food will taste like shit anyway.
  • Do your own research about the best providers in town. Google them, reach out in your network and ask colleagues. Don’t hesitate to reach out to providers that look too expensive, sometimes they want to work with you for less money as we are a cool brand.
  • Try to not have too many providers in the pitch process. Generally the recommendation is between 2 and 4. More than that becomes unmanageable.
  • Trim providers before the pitch process. Pricing, background and previous work might be worth checking in a quick call.
  • Ask for references and previous work as a good indicator of quality.

Pitch / Get to know time

  • Keep the committee small unless completely necessary
  • Schedule pitches in different days so that people are not tired of listening to pitches
  • Give same amount of presentation time to each provider
  • Don’t take calls from providers to ask for too much detail, provide it as systematically symmetric information or they have an advantage.
  • Always save time for Q&A
  • Value the proposition, framework and approach more than the actual content (mockups or stuff). The process > the content in a pitch, as it defines the way of working
  • Value deep knowledge and expertise
  • Value the team that will execute, not the one presenting. Ask for detail around it

Decision-making

  • Build a shared document with matrix style so that everyone can express their opinions
  • Not too many people on decision-making, keep it to relevant people
  • Add people that will be working on the operations of the project, don’t make it a high level decision only
  • Agree on the process beforehand with all stakeholders
  • Base it in pro’s and con’s about each provider
  • See if there are any blockers or red flags for a provider in the matrix
  • Don’t decide based on friendship or favours
  • Don’t be biased by that, and if you can’t be unbiased, don’t vote
  • Make the final decision over a call, some things can’t be expressed in a document

Onboarding process

  • A good provider without a good onboarding process is a wasted provider. This is key to a fruitful collaboration
  • Be aware of contracts, and clauses that we want to include, trial period or notice period if it doesn’t work.
  • Create shared Slack channel and facilitate communication between team members
  • Create a plan to onboard the provider, stakeholders, relevant information, etc.
  • Don’t share too many information from previous provider if any, unless necessary, to not be biased
  • Let internal people know about the provider and what to expect from them in short and long term (integration, deliverables, etc).
  • Ramp up period is expected to be 1–3 months depending on the type

Picking an agency is more of an art than a science. Good luck!

Global Growth, SEO & Tech

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