Engaging a marketing agency is a gargantuan decision; it’s the equivalent of adding a whole new division to your company.

No small hire.

This isn’t just about money. If it were that simple, the decision would be a straightforward ROI analysis. But marketing has never been a mere accounting problem. Decision makers who think so need to plant their feet on terra firma. Self-absorbed cloud-thinkers are not the right point of the spear on this.

No, this choice involves all the nuanced intricacies of relationship and collaboration. Two teams. Two sources of ideas. Two levels of motivation. Two creative entities. Two sets of values.

Melding into one.

Anything short of that is inefficient, frustrating, and potentially -- a complete disaster.

All three of those cost real money in terms of spent budget. And when true unity of purpose lives at a low level, future earnings don’t have a chance.

So the approach to engaging a marketing agency requires -- with great understatement -- care. Not indecision, but certainly not carelessness either. You are not just filling a marketing hole here. This kind of care demands real focus.

First, don’t let this decision be a distraction to your goals. See it as a potential for serendipity. The team you successfully hire may end up finding the Post-It Formula for your marketing needs. A Grand Slam. That’s not something you can reasonably demand, but the hope is there. Make sure you’re hoping hard.

Attitude. That’s your primary point of focus.

Secondary point? More on this some other day, but make sure you task this project to the right person. Or, if this falls on you, be the caring person that will get this right.

This needs someone with a big heartbeat. Ice Maidens and Iron Men need not apply. No, you want your sharpest, most sanguine relator running point. Go ahead, include a numbers person on the team -- but make sure they know how to smile.
Having reached that level of care and focus, you or your proxy will avoid the following counter-productive approaches to your new marketing division of Acme Zero-In-On-Success Corporation.

6 Tactics to Avoid Because They Do Carry a Plague

1. Let’s Find All Their Weaknesses.

This is driven by what I like to call, “Stink-Eye Motivation.”

Defined? The ugly tendency to engage interviews from the standpoint of finding reasons not to hire someone. That’s a win-lose from the outset. Attitude is everything here.

Highly prevalent in the HR hiring practices of the world, this tactic just doesn’t get it. It’s a bottom-feeder mentality that drives the best prospects to another employer.

One abusive question, and they’re gone. They can afford to disappear. They’re so good, alignment with healthy humanity is something they can politely demand.

2. Let’s Send Them Some Kind of Stress Test

A more twisted version of the above, this is an actual fabrication of adversity -- just to see how the worm wiggles under the magnifying glass.

Whether it’s good cop/bad cop manipulation, or the late-for-our-meeting-so-terribly-sorry head game, this tactic instantly mirrors one’s true colors to any discerning eye. This may have worked when the masses were naive. But no longer.

The playing field is far flatter. People, savvier.

Especially when you’re dealing with a marketing agency. These gals and guys are sharp entrepreneurs. They have acumen. When they read someone, they do so at a thousand words a minute -- and with high comprehension.

And they’re looking for clients who don’t play games.

3. Let’s Soften Them Up for a Low Bid

Do corporate types really think they can pull this and not come off foul?

These kind of negotiations are easily compared to the uncomfortable proximity of a fully packed elevator. You can smell everything.

Does anyone really want to enter an elevator while struggling with intestinal issues?

The elevator metaphor is unavoidable. Any marketing agency worth its salt knows a few things about its own value proposition -- and how to negotiate for it. They will smell you long before you step inside those doors.

And they’ll be sniffing for a cologne called Fair Recompense.

4. Let’s Get These Guys on a Tether Until We Really Need Them

Again, the elevator.

Unethical HR departments use this tactic on people who desperately need jobs. Time is not on the side of the unemployed. The corporate heartlessness that leverages such knows no bounds. Failure and insolvency are their worthy end.

But to think it is no longer apples and apples when we deal with agencies who have other clients to feed their families -- that’s a bit of a mistake.

Agencies need work, obviously. But even though they can still buy Purina for their cat, they also have time constraints. The second they sense you’re wasting it, you’ll be staring at warm but vacated chairs.

5. Let’s Ask How Many Hours This Project Will Take Them

The only informed answer to this question is, “Whatever time it takes.” The question is a bumbling attempt to count ROI from an incredibly uninformed direction.

Where is this heading, anyway? Hourly wages? Low bid? Oh, that again.

You want results. Period. You don’t want those results to punch a timeclock. Or even think about a clock.

Best results always come from maximum motivation. You want to be finding ways to turn that on.

6. Let’s Hold Them at Arm’s Length Until We’re Sure We Like Them

It’s hard to imagine someone consciously using this as a negotiation tactic. If you’re out there, I hope I never meet you.

But this is an unconscious default attitude for us all. For people whose middle name is Scrooge, the arm’s length phase could last years. We simply don’t understand the possibilities of actually being proactive in getting to the I-like-this-person level. With alacrity.

Again, this is a whole other blog, but let me say this much: You’ll want to play with this idea. The default tactic of our sometimes-miserly hearts has not served us well.

Good agencies are always motivated by more than money. And they don’t have the inclination to wait forever for the flow of full acceptance. Again, they don’t have the time or energy.

Come to think of it, neither do you.

Where to From Here?

All right. Hopefully you’re three quarters of the way toward a healthy interview mindset. Here are some quick thoughts to take you the rest of the way.

  • Careful with the weakness queries. Make sure they’re absolutely necessary, with one soft-handed focus: To assess genuineness. Genuineness discovered will lead to fast likeability. That’s a positive motive for a tough question.
  • Dispense entirely with manipulation. Anyone who still derives their wins on this level will get caught by the vacuousness of their own success. Think Howard Hughes here. None of us wants to be that person. 
  • If your budget can handle it, surprise them. You want creative motivation to be enhanced, not muzzled. If budget constraints are real, be transparent. Ask how you can save costs by doing some of the work. Either way, don’t come off like a chiseler.
  • No secret tethers. Ever. If tethering is where you’re at, say so. A nice retainer would sweeten the pill swallow.
  • Focus on real ROI issues. Without stink-eye. Everyone wants to dig up the glittering diamond of a 10x campaign. Work together to mine for it. Maybe even offer a doable success percentage to leverage engagement. That engagement is competing with all the other clients your prospective agency already works with. Elbow your way in with a generous spirit.
  • Aim for uncovering respect. “Are they competent?” is more to the point than, “Are they Packer fans?” If you accurately assess the competency as solid, the likeability will follow. And if you really want to speed up the know-like-trust factor, get creative. An evening together in a Packer’s luxury box may be the solution. Competency is always maximized by solid relationships.

Lots to think about. Big potentials stand waiting with great expectancy but little patience. Here’s hoping you care.


We know that finding the best agency for your marketing project can be difficult. Hundreds of agencies. Dozens of disciplines. Good versus great. The considerations are many. Rnked can help. Our broker team intelligently matches growing businesses and marketing agencies. We give you choice, freedom, and zero obligation in the process. Using smart data and years of experience, we take an important marketing decision -- and simply make it less difficult. You're still at the helm, but we're here, aiding along the way. And we do it without cost to you.

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Manfred Koehler

Manfred Koehler is Rnked Marketing Broker's Chief Content Creator. As a speaker, writer, and photographer, he is an addicted creative. Stick-ability is his favorite word. And Rnked is Manfred's favorite place to work.